Issue - March 2008

March 2008

In this edition Eva Biard writes her interesting interview with Teresa Laredo; Charlotte Mayhew tell us a little of Amanecer Foundation; Gaia Pacha speaks with Heather Dieguez about a trip they are organizing with research and adventure; Walter Sanchez tells us more about Incan more...

March 2008

A Large Journey for
a Larger Cause

Four members of environmental foundation Gaia Pacha talk to Heather Dieguez about their upcoming voyage across South America to study the effects of climate change.

Heather Dieguez
Volunteer Projects Abroad
New York, United States

There is no manner of travel that appeals to the romantic quite as much as the road trip. Driving down a windy road, wind rushing in through the open windows, melodies floating in from the radio, the purring of the engine lulling its passengers to sleep, the feeling that, as the numbers on the odometer continue to rise, you are exploring uncharted land, venturing into the unknown with only as much as you could cram into the trunk of your car.

To make such a trip across country is exhilarating; to make it across a continent could only be life-changing. For anyone who has ever felt that itch to travel, such a trip would sound like a dream come true. For four young environmental engineers, it will soon be a reality.

Four members of the environmental foundation Gaia Pacha are preparing to travel across South America, through such countries as Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, in order to research how people are adapting to the effects of climate change in their daily lives.

Prior to the foundation’s birth, the members of Gaia Pacha had worked together on environmental issues for a number of years. Their previous efforts include work as firefighters and in environmental education, as well as participation in the project Salvemos al Madidi. “We saw that this thing was working,” explains Gaia Pacha member Horacio Augstburger, “so we decided to make something a little bit bigger.” The result was the creation of Gaia Pacha, a foundation through which its members can witness the realization of all their ideas and dreams.

Horacio proposed the idea for this cross-continental study. “I think it’s a personal dream of traveling that I’ve always had,” he explains, “I didn’t feel good just traveling, just going around and looking and visiting. It wasn’t enough.” The upcoming journey provides him with an opportunity to combine this desire to travel with his concern for environmental issues.

Horacio will be joined by fellow Gaia Pacha members Rodrigo Lopez, Noelia Cerruto, and Helga Grueberg on this ambitious project. Visiting mainly the countryside, where the relationship between people and the environment is most pronounced, they plan to observe the various ways in which people in these areas are both effected by and adapting to climate change.

In addition to what people are doing in response to climate change, the members are interested in observing how people are viewing these changes. Gaia Pacha member Noelia Cerruto explains, “It is interesting to perceive what people think about climate change in different contexts, not only in the productive but also in the cultural, the social, the political, and the religious.”

However, the members of Gaia Pacha want to do more than observe the relation between people and climate change, they want to help people in dealing with these effects. By the end of their study, they hope to produce a document that can provide the public with effective means of adapting to the effects of climate change.

In order to do this, they plan to collect testimonies from the public as well as make their own observations of the landscape. With the help of specialists ranging from ecologists to anthropologists, they plan to synthesize the data collected from these two sources to create a single cohesive document.

In addition to a written document detailing the findings of their research, they intend to create a documentary film and photographic registry of their excursion. Altogether they anticipate their project to take about three years to complete.

The members of Gaia Pacha expect to produce a study of climate change that is easier for the general public to understand than the current body of information available on the subject. They explain that this information is often presented scientifically, with numbers and charts, rather than discussed in terms of how people are actually experiencing these effects. Alejandra Kolbe explains, “You don’t see people think, ok, I used to grow this kind of vegetables but now it’s too hot, now it’s too dry.” By carrying out a project that focuses on the ways in which people are experiencing the effects of climate change in their day-to-day lives, the members of Gaia Pacha hope to produce a document that is more accessible to the general public. Horacio explains, “If you’re used to numbers, you can understand very quickly, but if you’re not used to it you have to get some other kind of information. So we want to help. It’s information easy to assimilate, easy to understand.”

Despite their young age, they believe that they have both the experience and the commitment to take on such a large project, having worked on environmental issues for about five years. The four professionals who will make the journey across South America each have experience in different fields relating to their research: natural succession, environmental education, environmental services, and ecological agriculture.

Together they believe they can each offer a different perspective on the same problem, thus providing a richer and fuller analysis of the issue.

Funding such an ambitious project has been no easy feat. While at the time of the interview most of the project had been self-funded, the members of Gaia Pacha were also appealing to environmental NGOs for support as well as seeking out help in specific aspects of the trip from related institutions. In addition, they were planning to sell advertising space on the car they will be taking across the continent. Of course, anyone is free to contribute to the group’s efforts, and all contributors will be thanked on the foundation’s website.

For more information on the project and the foundation,
visit Gaia Pacha’s website:

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