Last Christmas I experienced the effects of global warming close up and first hand. I was a part of a group of four, and together, we made up our own little world of diversity.
Last Christmas I experienced the effects of global warming close up and first hand. I was a part of a group of four, and together, we made up our own little world of diversity. We spoke three languages: English, Spanish, and Guaraní. We represented four countries, three professions (with one college student), both genders, four different decades, and a wide variety of personal experiences, but we all had something in common: the dream of travelling down the Austral highway through the Chilean Patagonia. That is how Carolina, Mayito, Jonathan, and I ended up spending a chilly southern summertime Christmas together huddled in front of a fire in the Queulat forest nature center.
The first time we heard the noise, we asked each other why a dump truck was unloading a load of gravel along a back road inside the national park on Christmas Eve. Then we thought it was thunder. After a while we figured it out. All night long we listened to the rumbling tumble of rocks and ice rolling down from the park’s melting glacier. A large percentage of Chile’s fresh water comes from the slow melting of ancient ice accumulated in folds and ridges the Andes Mountains. This glacier used to end in the sea, a tongue of ice that spat out icebergs into the southern Pacific Ocean. In the past 20 years, the glacier has melted down to a thin fringe of ice at the tip of the mountains. The Chilean government calculates that given the current trends of global warming, within the next 50 years the country will be facing a serious water crisis as the glaciers, such as this one, disappear.
So when the Shalom Center was invited to be a part of World Wide Views on Global Warming (WWViews), Mayito (the person at the Shalom Center coordinating the environmental education projects) and I remembered our glacier Christmas. We knew it was time for the Shalom Center to do its part in inviting people to dialogue about Global Warming and how it already has begun to affect us and all life on our planet.
The World Wide Views project will take place on September 26, 2009 and will give citizens all over the world a possibility to define and communicate their positions on issues and questions central to the negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, starting two months later. WW Views will engage citizens and bring forward their views through citizen consultations in 46 countries all over the world. During these consultations citizens will deliberate and vote on some of the questions negotiated at the COP15.
The Shalom Center has partnered with the Regional Office of the National Commission of the Environment of the Chilean Government to gather 100 citizens who will represent the demographic diversity of our region, the Maule Region in a single event to take place in Talca, the regional capital. We will facilitate an open dialogue on Global Warming, and the results will be transmitted directly to Denmark and then compared with the responses in other countries and offered to the public via the Internet. We will also communicate the results to the local and national press and to the Chilean delegation travelling to the UN Summit. This is the first time ever that a simultaneous world wide citizen participation project has been programmed using the new technologies offered by the Internet.
As Mayito and I travel around the region and speak to citizens groups, local businesses, organizations and government officials, they often ask us why the Shalom Center of the Pentecostal Church of Chile has taken on this project. Pentecostals in Chile are known for not participating in political movements or community organizations. The World Wide Views project, however, ties into the mission that the Pentecostal Church of Chile envisioned when creating the Shalom Center. The Shalom Center’s mission is to form stewards through healing and education who, as agents of God’s Shalom, are committed to transforming, caring for, and respecting the relationships between God and each human being, of each person with him or herself, between people, and with all creation. What a better way to carry out this mission of shalom but to gather a diverse group of people to listen to each other with respect to all of the voices and to discern together how to best care for this planet, our home.
May we all consider, as one of the Shalom Center facilitators has said, how to carry out the responsibilities and privileges given to us not only as believers in Christ, but as we face the multifaceted challenges of globalization and seek to become responsible citizens of the world.
Elena Huegel is a missionary with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.