Climate Change Impacts Up Close

Meet Poncho (Angel Alfonso Quic). This 10-year-old scavenges for firewood in the canopy that rises above the coffee fields near his Tzutujil village in Guatemala. Poncho lives with his mother and 15 other people in a temporary plastic hut. His cinder block home was buried last year by a mud slide during Hurricane Stan.

This November, Poncho participated in an intercultural exchange between poor country and city kids I helped organize. It was a packed week during which kids got to teach each other how they worked and played. During the week, I got a few chances to talk with them about junk food packaging. I suggested that bananas were a better snack than chips because bananas grow all around them, are healthier and cheaper, and the package composts. I explained that packaging, which is beginning to litter their landscape, contributes to global warming.

During the week’s wrap-up, it was very satisfying when Poncho said that he learned it is his personal responsibility to keep his little village clean!

Satisfying, but also a bit sobering.

I wanted the kids to learn their power to improve their world. But the reality is that the increased intensity of hurricanes and deforestation that caused Poncho to lose his home have more to do with my decisions than his. He doesn’t have the option to over consume that I have.

Poncho’s commitment to keep his corner of our planet clean of litter made me renew my commitment to reduce my consumption that contributes to global environmental degradation.

Master Recyclers’ direct one-on-one teachings about how to reduce, reuse and recycle influence people to make similar commitments. Don’t underestimate the far-reaching impacts of your work!