Astrid Puentes of AIDA
What have you found to be the most effective way to empower citizens around environmental issues?
It is hard to tell because there is not a single magic thing that will empower citizens. From our experience, it varies from country to country, and from region to another. In general, education, education, and education with good communications strategies are key. Being able to translate complicated environmental problems into daily life helps a lot. In addition, making a good balance between the bad picture and finding ways that show the light at the end of the tunnel. With this I mean that when citizens only see the bad picture, its very difficult for them to feel empowered and get involved. However, when you can communicate that among the bad news, there is actually hope and that their involvement can in fact make a difference, then the situation changes.
Also, working with younger people also can bring faster and more encouraging results that with older people. As humans are animals of habits, changing those habits can be really hard, though it is possible. Thus, educating and working with younger generations is also key.
What is your view on the efficacy of global climate conferences?
Interesting question. The first thing to have in mind is efficacy for what? If the objective is to solve all climate change global problems at once, clearly the conferences have been all but efficient. However, if we see them as a way to negotiate, educate decision makers, and bring very different positions closer, then the conferences have been effective in a way. Anyway, we consider that in particular regarding global climate change we—every single person in the planet—do not have time to spare and we need our governments to move way faster than they are. In order to do this, we as citizens are responsible for making this happen. While it is truth that governments face very difficult challenges, it is our responsibility to make them responsible and force them to act.
How do you provide individualized approaches to countries throughout Latin America?
Providing individualized approaches is always a challenge, that we face making sure we are considering particular priorities and needs in each country or region. For example, Central America is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes, increase of sea level, among others, so this is part of the priorities. While South America and in particular the Andean region is very vulnerable because of the disappearance of ice, as glaciers in the Andean region provide freshwater for about 70 million people from urban and rural areas. In fact, Ecuador and Bolivia in particular are already suffering from these impacts, thus this is part of the priorities.