When asking people about Lima, the capital of Peru, they are most likely going to mention the gastronomic experiences, the nightlife, the traffic chaos and the never disappearing fog that covers the city from March-December.
The dark clouds over Lima were present also this morning in December 2014 when the world leaders woke up for the UN Climate Change Conference. The world was watching them, and people were asking whether there would be an actual agreement or if (also this time) there would be a lot of talking, but insignificant actions taken.
However some of the people that should have been to the conference, but unfortunately did not receive an invitation were not there. They were living their normal everyday life just a couple of kilometers outside of the city. They had little knowledge of what was going on in Lima this day and, more importantly, the effects on how their future may look like.
The people I am talking about are the citizens of the slums of Lima.
So close, but yet so far away from what was going on inside the closed conference room this week in December, were they having a normal week trying to make a living one day at a time.
Climate changes often affect the poorest of the society, forcing them to leave their homes on the countryside and to move outside the bigger cities. The life and environment that is waiting for them here is a life of illnesses, unemployment, begging, criminality, pollution and limited access to water. 825 million people live in slum areas around the world and it is estimated to increase to 3 billions by 2050.
Poorer societies are the one affected first and the most of changes in the environment. They can’t afford valuable protection and suffer from water shortage and disappointing food crops.
Today 3 out of Lima’s 9 million inhabitants lives in slum areas outside the city. People have arrived from the Andes mountains, the Amazon rain forest and the countryside of this diverse country.
Climate changes create substantial problems for farmers and indigenous people living on the countryside of Peru. The glacial ice in the Andes mountains is melting and an important water source of the country is disappearing. This threatens the agriculture and makes it difficult to grow food. The summers are getting hotter and the winters colder. Further one the rainforest is affected by the dry seasons, the changing environment, oil extraction and deforestation.
Over the past years, Peru has had a huge economic growth, helping hundreds of thousands out of poverty. In 2012 it was one of the world’s fastest-growing countries. The future has seemed bright and the positive changes have also led to an increase in foreign investment and tourism.
In Peru 70% of the world’s tropical glacial ice are to be found. However the last decades more than 40% of the ice in Peru’s biggest mountains has melted and the water supply of the country is threatened. In other words a crisis so serious that the positive development might be reversed, leaving the country worse off than it has been for decades.
According to the UN, Peru is (after Bangladesh and Honduras) the country that will be affected the most of climate changes the next following years.
Time will show the consequences for the people living by the Andes mountains and in the rainforest and whether Peru’s positive development can continue. As for now, the forecast seems pretty dark.