Postcards from Peru, Part 1

20, the twentieth meeting of the UN “Conference of the Parties,” to clarify 
worldwide agreements for action against climate change, occurred in Lima, Peru
the first half of December
. There a proposal was drafted to be filled in by
each nation and then ratified at COP 21 in Paris next year. This sounds, like
most UN work, incredibly bureaucratic. But underlying the tedium is the alarming
and indisputable (yet still disputed) threat that climate change poses to human
civilization, which this meeting was meant to address. (Even more alarming is
that most U.S. citizens were not even aware, much less supporting or praying
for its leaders.)

The fact that every nation is committing to cut
greenhouse gas emissions is promising. We can be proud that the meeting’s
success came at least partly from the
U.S.’s surprising greenhouse gas-curbing agreement with China this fall
. The catch is
that how and how much each nation cuts is to be self-determined and, as climate
scientists say, isn’t enough to prevent passing the 2 degree Celsius limit.

But halfway there is better than none. Here is a BBC story
detailing the conference’s results

with that meeting, the Presbyterian
Church (USA)’s Hunger Program
hosted a trip to Peru, in which I
participated. I’ve been back more than a week, but trying to write about it has
been overwhelming. I’ll just wade in, and continue the story in subsequent

I signed up knowing almost nothing about Peru. Our
friends Ruth and Hunter Farrell had spent ten important years in Lima, I knew
that. It’s Inca country on the west coast of South America. It’s one of the world’s
most biologically diverse countries, which also makes it one of the most
sensitive to climate disruption. Lima hugs the Pacific coast (in

the eastern
time zone), in a desert with almost zero rainfall. To its east, the stark Andes
mountains straddle the country, and even further east, the Amazon rain forest
begins that stretch through Brazil. Peru is bordered, moving clockwise from the
north, by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. In our hemisphere,
only Brazil has more borders.

The Presbyterian Church’s initiative in Peru and
nine other countries is called Joining
(in Spanish: Red Uniendo Manos, which has nothing to do with the
color red, or communists, just for the record, but means “network joining hands”).
Joining Hands partners with work around the world to help eradicate hunger by
addressing its causes. Mission Co-Workers Jed
Koball and Jenny Valles
were our in-country hosts, along with Young Adult
Volunteer Kyle Coombs, Andean regional liaison in ColumbiaSarah
, Bolivia Mission Co-WorkerChenoa
, and the knowledgeable and passionate Executive Director of Joining
Hands, Conrado Olivera,one
of whose articles about environmental impacts in Peru is here

Jed and Jenny

Six wonderful PCUSA Compassion, Peace, and Justice
folks traveled with us, as well as PCUSA moderator Heath Rada and his spouse
Peggy Rada. Fourteen more of us from around the U.S. landed in Lima’s airport
and were driven through the city’s vast congested maze of speed bumps, Spanish
colonial palaces, and concrete-and-rebar constructions to the Convent San Joséde Cluny.

There we
spent a day getting oriented before we rode almost straight up to Peru’s
continental divide at 16,000 feet. Two nights in the Andean city of Huancayo,
where traffic and music never never cease. Then back to Lima, to be joined by young
adults from Peru and Bolivia for three days of conferences, worship, vigil, and
a People’s
Climate March, Peru edition
. Though we saw and heard much, and covered hundreds
of bus and van miles (and had the nausea and giddiness to prove it), it wasn’t
a sightseeing trip and no, we didn’t visit Machu Picchu.

Jed had sent us a helpful preparation list, which
included the links below. The first video should be required viewing for everyone
who cares about children, and everyone who buys batteries, electronics, or any
other product involving mined metals. For every American who confuses Free
Trade with Fair Trade (which is about like confusing hell and heaven), the
videos on outsized investor rights are a must-see, showing how little even sovereign
nations can control the rising tide of corporate colonialism:

Degradation from the Extractive Industry

House of Lead: Story of Greed  (10 minute video, Joining Hands) 

Seeking Justice in Peru  (5 minute video, PC(USA)

Spirit of Power(6
minute video, CAMBIALO/Joining Hands)

Rights for Foreign Investors

Coup d´Etat to Trade
Seen in Billionaire Toxic Lead Fight
Bloomberg News)

Trade Agreements vs.
(article, Sojourners)

Global Investment Rules: Threat to Democracy and
(10  minute video)

Support Trade Reform  (webpage, JH campaign resources)  

Shedding Light on the
Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement
(50 minute JH webinar)

Climate Change

Climate Change, Peru: Retreating Glacier(5
minute video, World Bank)

Climate Change
Exacerbates the Impacts of Extractive Industries
 (article, JusticeUnbound)

Lead-polluted river Mantaro in La Oroya

I was watching House of Lead at the home of
my daughter-in-law in New York before going. Leyla, a middle school dean who was
born in Nicaragua, was working in another room. As she heard in Spanish the
interviews I was reading in translation—a woman lamenting her dead children; a
young boy deeply infected with lead poisoning but aspiring to be a lawyer and
doctor to stop the pollution—we were both left gasping for air. Like I said,
required viewing. Should be. For all. Details to follow. 

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