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After spending two weeks studying climate change, one can start to feel overwhelmed.
Climate Change is a huge problem without one common solution and every community
needs to combat climate change in a way that makes sense for them. The innovative
solutions to climate change that I was privileged to see on this trip (rain water gathering
devices on soccer pavilions, small scale, local farming, community hydroelectric power)
would not necessarily work in my community and vice versa. But there is a transferable
tool to combat the climate crisis and Bolivia can teach us a lot about this tool. Bolivians
are organized! Communities share power. In the discussions we had with communities
and youth, unions often came up and (with the exception of once when a politician
blamed teacher unions for poor learning conditions– which seems to happen in every
country I have visited regardless of the many other factors that influence schools) were
hailed as a positive force to improve quality of life. Communities mobilize to improve
irrigation systems, roads, hydropower, and more. Bolivians have crucial community
organizing skills for the climate crisis.
At Teatro Trono, young artists used interactive theater to show (and make us feel) the
pain of generations of exploited Bolivians and the horrors of mining conditions. But then
the actors erupted into a chant, improving conditions through organized unions. The
importance of organizing is even taught in schools. The Water Wars (when Bolivians
mobilized to stop the privatization of water) is part of the national curriculum. We met
with Oscar Oliveria, a lead organizer in the Water Wars. As we talked in a circle, he
said, “privatization does not just take away things– water, land, education, rights. It also
takes away history and culture.” And if there is one area where Bolivia excels, it is in the
way communities band together to protect their culture, their land, and the Pachamama
(Mother Earth).