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Climate Change is sucking the life out of Guatemala

IMG-20140807-03212Those people who have encountered Climate Stew podcast correspondent, Marvin Bloom, know he has a complicated past. Little did we know that his involvement in a Christian church led him to Guatemala some years ago.

In fact, Marvin points out a fact that many climate activists rarely consider, Christian missionaries from North America and Europe are often eyewitnesses to climate change.

In addition to the drought that has gone on for over five years, El Niño is making things even more complicated.

Marvin helps us better understand the drought that has hit Guatemala hard. He gets beyond politics to consider the people he met and his concerns for their rapidly changing world.

Have a listen (4 minutes. transcript below)

Marvin and Sucking the Life out of Guatemala 

A man picks up oranges at the garbage dump of the La Terminal food centre, one of the largest food markets in Guatemala City February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

A man picks up oranges at the garbage dump of the La Terminal food centre, one of the largest food markets in Guatemala City February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

TThis is Marvin, Marvin Bloom with this Climate News story. Drought Drought Drought. That’s all I am hearing about these days. Well, except for the floods in some places, but mostly drought. No doubt you have heard of the drought that is sucking the life out of California, where we get 40% of our agriculture. Yeah, California but I only just learned that the Central American country of Guatemala has been in a severe drought for the past three years. They say that up to one million people face a severe food emergency. And thanks to that nasty brat, El Nino, the dry spell is not expected to ease up anytime soon.

Now I I have a personal relationship with the country of Guatemala. About 10 years ago I took a weird turn in my life where I tried to de-gay myself with the help of a church in Long Island, or as my pastor at the time called it, The Lord’s Island. It’s a long story but I’m okay now and happily gay married. But during my time in the church I was exposed to an on-going church mission project right outside of Guatemala City. I even went for a short trip myself in 2006.

For like 25 years the church has sent short-term missionaries to help with medical needs and building projects (although to be honest most of the schools the teens in our church youth group helped construct ended up collapsing. Thank God no one was hurt.) Anyway in addition to hearing a lot about Jesus and my sinful lifestyle, I also picked up of information about Guatemala and developed a soft spot for this country and the Guatemalans I’ve met. 15 million people live in Guatemala and half of those live in poverty. They have the world’s fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition, affecting mostly children under five. And now this drought.

Coffee Leaf Rust not affects coffee lovers AND coffee growers.

Coffee Leaf Rust affects coffee lovers AND coffee growers.

It’s bad. I mean the El Nino weather pattern comes around in cycles, but because of climate change it’s stronger than ever. But also because of the warming temperatures in the mountainous coffee growing regions of Central America, there’s an awful fungus spreading like wild fire, attacking coffee plants. Even part time many Guatemalans work in the coffee industry. But because of coffee leaf rust there are few shifts and they are getting paid only 3 to 4 dollars a day, half of what they got last year. And then there is the corn, a staple in Guatemala.

We we learned from Yuri in episode 32 of Climate Stew, corn production, or maize, is threatened by drought. Most farming families in Guatemala will loss half or even all of their corn production this year. Because of the poverty and now the drought many indigenous families are only eating one or at the most only two meals a day.

The drought in California is awful, no question. but since it is a rich place, globally speaking, they can adapt, irrigate, even take the salt out of seawater in a pinch. But I think of Alma and Jose Flores, there in Guatemala and their children, Ana, Carlos, Maria, and little Sebastian. I think of the amazing spicy hen stew Alma made and the night we sat around the table talking. Si halblo un poco de Espanol. I wonder, How are they coping? They were living on the edge then, what about now? Because for me this isn’t just about a drought or poverty in Guatemala, it’s about people I know who might be suffering right now. Alright I’m going to find out.


Art credit: Kevin Miller


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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