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Part 2: Hit by the Corona-Climate Storm

Today, we start with our inter­view of the series on Covid-19 and cli­mate change in coun­tries of the Glob­al South. We start the first part of this series in the Caribbean with Rubén Her­rera and Daniela Lar­ios from Cuba and Hon­duras. They tell us how their coun­tries are suf­fer­ing from the cli­mate cri­sis and how they have been affect­ed by the clo­sure of Europe’s borders.

Ruben, from Cuba, was lit­er­al­ly hit by the Coro­na-Cli­mate Storm

Daniela from Hon­duras meets coro­na relat­ed chal­lenges in run­ning her own business

Situation before Corona

Kli­madel­e­ga­tion e.V.: What was the sit­u­a­tion in your country/region in terms of cli­mate change  before the Coro­na pandemic? 

Rubén Her­rera: “I live on an island in the mid­dle of the Caribbean, due to our geo­graph­ic loca­tion we are reg­u­lar­ly hit by hur­ri­canes and heavy storms, espe­cial­ly in the sea­son (from June to Novem­ber), and since the aver­age glob­al tem­per­a­tures have been ris­ing in the last decade, hur­ri­canes are stronger and more destruc­tive every sea­son. This affects our infra­struc­ture and our econ­o­my as well as our agri­cul­ture.
The oth­er impor­tant issue relat­ed to the cli­mate cri­sis is ris­ing sea lev­els. This has a direct impact on com­mu­ni­ties that live close to the shore, which makes them very vul­ner­a­ble and they will even­tu­al­ly have to move far away from the coast­line.
Since I live in the coun­try­side, me and my fam­i­ly have always been impact­ed by the hur­ri­canes. My grand­par­ents are farm­ers and when­ev­er we are hit by a strong hur­ri­cane our crops suf­fer the con­se­quences and we and all the farmer fam­i­lies around lose all their crops.”

Hur­ri­canes have the poten­tial to destroy the entire crop yield of farm­ers in Cuba

Daniela Lar­ios: “Climate change is a rel­a­tive­ly new issue in Hon­duras, we suf­fer from great peri­ods of drought and as a result crops are lost and there is much ratio­nal­iza­tion of water.
We also suf­fer a lot from large for­est fires and defor­esta­tion that are destroy­ing our forests, all because of the con­ver­sion of forests into agri­cul­tur­al or res­i­den­tial areas.
Also the increase of the lev­el of the oceans is caus­ing dis­place­ment and pover­ty, with­out leav­ing aside the loss of bio­di­ver­si­ty and the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion by plas­tic that affects us greatly”.

Defor­esta­tion is a big issue in Honduras.

Kli­madel­e­ga­tion e.V: What about the political/societal situation?

Rubén Her­rera: For­tu­nate­ly, the gov­ern­ment has a nation­al pro­gram called “Tarea Vida” (Project Life) which is focussed on imple­ment­ing changes and reg­u­la­tions across Cuba to mit­i­gate the effects of the cli­mate cri­sis, to do more invest­ments in clean ener­gies, sus­tain­able agriculture…etc. How­ev­er, we are still using a lot of fos­sil fuel ener­gy due to our sta­tus as a devel­op­ing coun­try, which makes it real­ly dif­fi­cult to com­plete­ly change our entire infra­struc­ture.
Since I have lived all my short life in the coun­try­side, I have always felt some sort of con­nec­tion to the nat­ur­al world and this has been impact­ing my per­cep­tion of things. When I read the news or watch doc­u­men­taries about glob­al warm­ing and how it’s impact­ing our plan­et, I get very over­whelmed and this affects my men­tal health, that’s why I always try to use my plat­form and my resources to cre­ate change and inspire oth­er young peo­ple to cre­ate a pos­i­tive impact.” 

Daniela Lar­ios: “Hon­duras is a beau­ti­ful coun­try, with a great nat­ur­al wealth and peo­ple of great heart. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, because of cor­rup­tion and impuni­ty, Hon­duras has suf­fered great blows. The socio-eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion is very unjust, with the major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion being poor. Our health and edu­ca­tion sys­tem is destroyed, because of the great cor­rup­tion that pre­vails in the country.”

Situation during Corona:

Kli­madel­e­ga­tion e.V.: How did Coro­na affect you and your family? 

Rubén Her­rera: “Dur­ing my trav­el back to Cuba from Bermu­da where I was sail­ing with a group of envi­ron­men­tal­ists from Latin Amer­i­ca and Europe, I got COVID19. I got test­ed and stayed in a hos­pi­tal for almost a month. I was real­ly over­whelmed emo­tion­al­ly because a few days back I was sail­ing to attend the Unit­ed Nations Con­fer­ence in Bonn and then I was lay­ing on a hos­pi­tal bed with the coro­n­avirus, I was by myself and no one was able to vis­it me.”

Daniela Lar­ios: “It’s been dif­fi­cult for my fam­i­ly since we’re entre­pre­neurs. My mom has her busi­ness and I have mine, so we have strug­gled to keep them active in this health cri­sis. For­tu­nate­ly, through dig­i­tal media we have man­aged to keep the com­pa­nies active, although not with the same income as before. In addi­tion to my com­pa­ny I also work in marine con­ser­va­tion, and I have man­aged to con­tin­ue my work from home.”

Kli­madel­e­ga­tion e.V.: How did you deal with the sit­u­a­tion emotionally? 

Rubén Her­rera: “When I got back home, I had to keep social dis­tance like every­one else and this expe­ri­ence taught me to appre­ci­ate even more the nat­ur­al world. I was emo­tion­al­ly over­whelmed but I tried to use this time to be more com­fort­able with myself, to med­i­tate more and to acknowl­edge life more.” 

Daniela Lar­ios: “Per­son­al­ly, it has been dif­fi­cult to keep my spir­its up. My father died from health com­pli­ca­tions on the day they announced the quar­an­tine in Hon­duras (he did not die from COVID-19), but keep­ing in touch with my friends at Sail For Cli­mate ACtion, attend­ing online work­shops, cours­es, etc. has helped me a lot to cope with every­thing that is hap­pen­ing.
One pos­i­tive thing about the sit­u­a­tion is that my fam­i­ly has become more unit­ed, we all try to sup­port each oth­er in our work to get ahead and spend­ing so much time togeth­er has helped us as a family.”

Lessons from Corona — Messages for the Future

Kli­madel­e­ga­tion e.V: What lessons should we learn from the Coro­na Cri­sis for fight­ing the Cli­mate Cri­sis  (col­lec­tive­ly and individually)?

Rubén Her­rera: “This health cri­sis has impact­ed us dif­fer­ent­ly but there is one sin­gle mes­sage that we have to learn from it: we have to uni­fy to fight the cli­mate cri­sis. We saw how gov­ern­ments and politi­cians around the world acknowl­edged the pan­dem­ic and pri­or­i­tized solu­tions towards a bet­ter future and we need to do the same with the cli­mate crisis.”

Daniela Lar­ios: “A very impor­tant les­son we must learn is that human health and the health of the plan­et is one. We are not immor­tal to the cli­mate cri­sis, it is real, it is hap­pen­ing now, and we are already liv­ing its effects. I hope that soci­ety will wake up, be more sup­port­ive, take action, and real­ize that as quick­ly as we react to COVID-19 we must react to the cli­mate cri­sis.
I think that the future is very uncer­tain, and it is scary. See­ing our­selves as vul­ner­a­ble as human­i­ty real­ly opens our eyes and incites the need for change, urgently.”

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