Facing climate change, a social movement in El Salvador fights mass flooding and the toxic burning of cane fields.
While debate about whether climate change is real or not continues in the US, the world’s leading producer of CO2 emissions per capita, those already living with the effects, like Jose Domingo Cruz in El Salvador, don’t have time to debate.
“Our storms are increasing in number and intensity,” Cruz, a member of his community Civil Protection Committee that responds to community needs during natural disasters, told Al Jazeera while standing on a levy that ruptured during Tropical Storm Agatha last year. “All of us attribute this to climate change.”
The levy, originally constructed in the aftermath of devastating floods caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, now has two huge ruptures in need of repair before the next hurricane season that begins in roughly six months.
A severe drought in 2008 and 2009, and Hurricane Stan in 2005, also took a severe toll on both land and lives in the area. Increasing sea levels will also heavily impact this part of El Salvador, which is largely populated by people who had to flee the US-backed war that raged in the country from 1979 to 1992.
A 2007 climate change study conducted by El Salvador’s National Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources focused on the Lower Lempa River and Bay of Jiquilisco areas of the central Pacific coast.
The study found that this area can expect more of what it is already experiencing: increasing minimum and maximum temperatures, a shift in observed seasons, more frequent observations of extremely wet and extremely dry years, and intensified extreme event activity, including tropical storms and hurricanes.
Against the backdrop of these dire predictions, the people are, however, forming a movement that is learning to protect and sustain itself in the increasingly chaotic world of global climate change and its severe ramifications on people, the environment, and local economies.