Global Domino Effect
Whilst taking shelter from a tropical storm, which turned our rural Nicaraguan village into a series of rivers, I didn’t believe the locals when they said there’d soon be no rain at all. Up until then, the Nicaragua I had fallen in love with was rich and green; fields and mountains covered in trees, crops growing eight feet high spanning the horizon. With 150 villagers alongside me and thousands more in similar communities across the mountains, I wondered how they could possibly cope without rainfall when they rely on it so much.
After spending Christmas exploring Managua, the Caribbean and Costa Rica, I did indeed return to a contrast.
The crops had been harvested leaving grey, baron, cracked earth in its place. The once plush jicaro plantation now felt like an abandoned grave yard; its skeletal trees standing bare across yellow and brown, dried up, dying fields. Where plants once blossomed along the gateway into the community, now, wilted fragile twigs remained – waiting to be trampled on by passing herds of equally skeletal cows.
If Parcila was an oil canvas, when I first arrived it would have been the Mona Lisa; stunning, decadent. I could spend hours lying on the hammock admiring the beauty surrounding me. Now, it resembles the Scream; dark, intense. To the most recent batch of British volunteers, this is normal; probably what they expected of a tropical nation nestled between the Caribbean and the Pacific. For me though, it’s wrong, especially after seeing how it was previously, and indeed how it is for a few months every year.
Jose, the head of the family I live with, informs me that there was once two harvesting seasons each annum; that there would be two guaranteed periods of time for rainfall. Now there is only the one, meaning agricultural productivity has decreased by 50%. He goes on to show the army of pests which infest his few crops, made worse by the hotter-than-usual weather and lack of rainfall.
As I lie here in my hammock, I can’t help but argue with myself: Nicaragua’s not the only country on the planet to live through drought – and they won’t be the last.
What can any of us do?
(To be fair, there is plenty … I’ll leave it to your imagination – or Google.)
The more concerning attitude is ‘it doesn’t affect me’. Let me be blunt; Nothing ever affects you… Until it’s too late. Recent right-wing scaremongering won’t have affected many Brits directly. (Only immigrants might have been vulnerable to the consequences of that). However, us Brits could now leave the EU – with immigration resentment / inaccurate scaremongering statistics playing one part in the decision for some.
We’ve nott even explored the humanity in all of this; the ‘what if it were us’ element. If your city lost its water supply and there was no stock in the shops, would you not want others to help? Or would you understand if they said ‘it’s not my problem, it doesn’t affect me’? Lancashire and Cumbria businesses in the 2014 Somerset floods probably felt relieved that it wasn’t their businesses affected by the excessive rainfall. Fast forward to 2015 and suddenly Lancashire and Cumbria enterprises are front page news: swamped with flood water.
The fact is, whenever facing difficulties, of course you want help – and it’s naive to brush incidents off as never affecting us… U.S Gun laws affect us. The vulnerability of China’s economy affects us. We live in an interconnected world;
Back to your water: the UK is the fifth largest economy on the planet so of course we would have systems in place to alleviate the problem. In poorer countries where money isn’t so readily available, they don’t have the same luxury. They rely on each other and anyone offering help.
It’s only been a small step but my six months of building water tanks, eco-stoves and water filters are nearly up. For the volunteers replacing us, it’ll be small steps. For activists elsewhere it’ll be small steps. I’m confident that all these steps, from each of us, create a much larger, much more inspirational picture.
What step will I now take? In all honesty, I don’t know; on returning to the UK my life will be a blank canvas. I have no doubt that whether it’s fundraising or changing habits, I will do something worthwhile. I simply have to – otherwise, these last six months will have been for nothing.
I’ve now taken my first step, so I expect the next one to be easier. If the first step for you is switching Facebook for Google, to learn about what’s happening out there across the planet, then that’s a worthy first step indeed. Who knows, if there are enough of us, we might create a global domino effect of our own… albeit a wonderfully positive one.