On Saturday, Christine and I had the chance to go to the weekly meeting of the Club de Jovenes Ambientalistas (Youth Environmentalist Club) in Managua. I learned about the club through Denis, another Action Parter I met at the Oxfam International Youth Partnership who has been involved with the Club for many years, and is interested in collaborating with us at the Center to help to educate people about protection of the environment (photo below, with myself and other Action Partners).
Christine and I were very excited to meet other members of the Club de Jovenes, and we hope to plan action with them in the future. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to Central American countries, including Nicaragua, which suffers from all major forms of natural disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, volcano eruptions, etc. In addition to these natural disasters, the daily environmental problems of air, water, and soil contamination have serious implications for Nicaraguans. The sector of society most impacted by these environmental issues are the poor, women, and indigenous groups.
I have included some photos from my trips to Nicaragua in November, 2006, with Sister Helen Prejean, and March 2007 with the Pedro Arrupe group from Boston College. La Chureca (left) is the trash dump of Managua, which is located on Lake Managua. La Chureca is dangerous because the trash burning there leads to air pollution, and the runoff from the dump goes directly into Lake Managua, the water source for most of the city. In addition, there are hundreds of people who survive by living in La Chureca, collecting tin or plastic, and eating the food they find there. This population faces innumerable health risks from the contaminated water, food, and air, and also face additional disease risks because the medical waste of the city is also dumped there.
The second photo (right) is of a camp of workers protesting the use of the chemical pesticides on the cane fields owned by Casa Pellas, the company that makes the rum Flor de Caña. The pesticides used are extremely toxic, and after a few years, workers on the plantation fall ill with renal failure (kidney failure), which is a terminal degenerative disease. Unable to work, they are fired without compensation or health care, and their families loose their livelihoods. Hundreds of these workers are currently living in tents in Managua in front of Casa Pellas in protest of their unjust treatment. The story of the workers and their currently legal battle was recounted by a representative of the workers (below).
There are many other similar stories of the negative use of chemical pesticides in Nicaragua. The urban neighborhood Cuidad Sandino is located on land that used to be owned by the Somoza family, but which was discarded because the heavy use of pesticides rendered the land unusable, and a squatter settlement developed there. Many who have moved to Cuidad Sandino came as refugees from natural disasters.
The banana workers are another group that has been negatively affected by pesticide use. Banana plantations use Nemagon, a chemical that has been banned for its toxicity in the U.S., but which continues to be exported to Nicaragua and other poor countries. Similar to the cane workers, the banana workers go into kidney failure due to the chemicals, and eventually die. Once workers are too sick to work, they are essentially discarded, without any help for their families or compensation.
Environmental problems disproportionally affect the poor and marginalized, and will be an increasing problem in the future. For this reason, Christine and I are hoping to educate ourselves about environmental issues that affect Batahola Norte, Nicaragua, and all regions of the world, and the measures we can take in our daily lives to reduce our environmental impact.