One of the great ironies, and challenges, of the 21st Century is that those most exposed to the crisis of climate change are those who are least responsible for it. Bolivia, a country whose resources were plundered over centuries to further the development of parts of the global North, sits precariously in a position of heightened vulnerability. As the Bolivian case highlights, that vulnerability really is a multifaceted concept – and not just a concept, but a harsh reality which millions are living with. The intersection of poverty, diminished government capacity, and lack of geopolitical influence in international policy debates on climate change combine to push Bolivia into a seemingly untenable position. Droughts in Pasorapa and the Chaco region will intensify in the future, forcing more and more people off their land in search of the opportunities that city life can provide. Meanwhile flooding in Quillacollo and other major urban centers will continue to put pressure on those recent migrants who have selected cheap but often precarious land to build a new life, as well as on other economically vulnerable groups. And the melting of the glaciers will continue to transform the water systems that have characterized the altiplano for generations, steadily retreating until they have disappeared entirely, and leaving huge question marks over the water security of some of Bolivia’s most populous areas.
As this multimedia report has sought to convey, in a more localized context the poorest Bolivians are and will continue to pay the price for failures to confront climate change by the developed and developing world. What are we to do? How as concerned citizens of the world do we change the current trajectory that we are on? The first step is one that many of us have already taken: to become aware of the problem, the severity of it, and to understand that climate change is not something to consider in the future – it is in the here and now. Engaging and educating others on the importance of the issue is the next step in this multigenerational fight, in order to grow and strengthen the movement to win it.
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We have created this microsite as an interactive alternative to producing a traditional written report. The advantage of having this format is that it allows us both to continue adding relevant material to enrich the content here, and it enables a dialogue between our readers, and between our readers and ourselves.
There is no one solution to the problems described here, which vulnerable Bolivians are at the rockface of. There are many solutions, and those engaged in finding and expediting them have much to learn from each other.
As we continue to build this site we are asking our readers, friends and allies to get involved. Use the comment space below, or write to email@example.com to let us know about links, resources, tools, organizations, campaigns, reports and stories that help illustrate how climate change is about water. In particular, please work with us to help find effective answers to the question, What is to be done?
What needs to be done in Bolivia?
Marcela Olivera of Food and Water Watch, and a long-term campaigner on water issues in Bolivia, talks here about how the issue of climate change intersects with and exacerbates the existing and ongoing problems around water access and water rights in Bolivia. The Andean nation has a well-known history of battles over the privatization of water resources. Olivera sees the solutions to water issues in Bolivia coming not from governments or the private sector, but rather from localized, grassroots organization.
René Orellana, Bolivia’s chief climate negotiator, emphasizes the importance of focusing on water in Bolivia’s adaptation plans, and the assistance required from (and owed by) developed countries in creating and carrying out those plans.