Monday, May 5, 2014

Mexico experiments with adapting to climate change naturally — and on the cheap

Jason Margolis in When we hear about climate change, “adaptation" is one word that usually finds its way into the conversation. But it's a term that means different things in different parts of the world.

For southern Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, adaptation means experimenting with the best and most cost-effective ways to prepare for stronger tropical storms and hurricanes. The area has long been one of the most susceptible spots on the planet and, as ocean temperatures rise, climate scientists predict storms will grow more intense. In fact, there are indications that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes is already increasing.

Residents from the small community of Valdivia — in the southernmost Mexican state of Chiapas along the Guatemalan border — know all too well about the destructive potential of intense storms. All that’s left today of the town are shells of concrete buildings amidst the weeds. In 1998, Tropical Storm Javier swept across Chiapas and literally wiped the community of 4,000 off the map.

I met Joel Garcia Vasquez grazing his cows in front of the ruins of a church. He said the church served as a refuge during the storm. He and others huddled on the rooftop when the river, about a mile away, flooded. Garcia said the water was about 10 feet high for 10 days. Thirty residents died and another 50 or so bodies floated by from upstream, by his rough count.

When it was all over, rather than rebuild the town, the government helped the people of Valdivia start over on higher ground. They named the town Nuevo Valdivia, or New Valdivia. I asked Vasquez how he feels grazing his cows among the ruins of his childhood home. His answer took me by surprise.   “The new town is a little better because we’re getting more help from the government,” he said....

A river ferry in Valdivia, 2012, shot by CristianDiaz, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

No comments: