Climate Change Politics & the Problem of Overdetermination, Lake Poopo, Bolivia


I would like to welcome you all today thank you
very much for taking the time to come and attend Dr. Tom Perreault talk there are
unfortunately a number of other activities scheduled for the afternoon
that are involved in our community kind of also draw some people away but
I’m glad to see all of you here today so thanks very much my name is Joel Correia
I’m an assistant professor in the Center for Latin American Studies for those
who don’t know and this is part of a series of talks that fits into the
Masters in Latin American Studies Indigenous Studies Specialization so
last year we had a couple speakers who were talking about other issues in
Bolivia as well Dr. Tom Perreault’s work today will be addressing issues in Bolivia
extending those conversations but also tying them into broader initiatives with
indigenous studies in the master’s program and then also playing in quite
well with our 2020 conference which will be in March if you’re not aware of that
we have the “Being on Earth: Territorios, Soundscapes, Biocultural Diversity and Relationships” conference wich will be in March 20th through the 22nd here we would love
to see you get involved in one way shape or another so you’re welcome to do
so if you have questions about that and there will be another
set of talks as well that follow from Tom’s later and after the comments as
well so keep an eye out for more information about those things but in
the meantime I’d like to introduce Dr. Tom Perreault who is a professor of
Geography and also the department chair of Geography at Syracuse University in
New York State he is also the DellPlain professor of Latin American
Geography Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence at Syracuse University . Dr. Tom Perreault’s research focuses broadly on
political ecology environmental and resource governance agrarian political
economy and rural livelihoods indigeneity and indigenous politics and
Latin America broadly but also the specific attention to mining
extractivism, resource nationalism and climate catastrophe in the Bolivian
Andes with over a decade of previous work in Equadorenian Amazon as well,
he is a prolific scholar has written and published over 60 peer-reviewed journal
articles and book chapters with a English in Spanish and they appear in
leading geographies and interdisciplinary journals that include the
annals of the American Association of Geographers, Antipode, Environment and
Planning A and D, Human Organization, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean
Anthropology, Water Alternatives, among others including Geoform, which he was
the editor of four or five years so thank you very much for taking time out of
your very busy schedule to be here in addition to those things he is also in
the co-editor of some path-breaking books edited volumes recently with the 2015
Routledge Handbook on Global Ecology and Water Justice in 2018 as well so his
monograph “Movilización Política e Identidad Indígena en el Alto Napo, Quito” published in 2002 with Ediciones Abya-Ayala in Quito Ecuador
so the talk title today is living with the dying lake climate change politics and the problem of overdetermination, Lake Poopo, Bolivia And before I pass the mike over to Dr. Tom Perreault, I would whant to say that despite all those achievements is a real honor to have you here today He is a very generous person and scholar so if you have the
opportunity at the end please take the chance to say hello he is one of the most generous scholars that I have the opportunity to know, I appreciate you take the time to be here and share your work with us today, so thank you very much. Lets give him a warm welcome Thank you Joel, Ill slip you twenty bucks My mom wrote the introduction for him, she would be so proud So there’s some empty seats over
unfortunately, you guys have to sit in the front, so thank you for coming out I know that the
there’s a lot else going on plus it’s a really nice day outside
so I appreciate your coming inside spending some of the day with me to
listen to my this kind of experimental talk I’m going to try to stay
back I I’m one of those people that when I talk I like to walk around but I was
told to stay back because they’re filming this but I’m sort of insisted
that we didn’t have the lights completely off because I have lots of pictures
and I want people to be able to see the pictures so this is, I guess what Well let me just kind of lunch you to the talk, it’s gonna look a little
bit like this, introduction I can talk a little bit about climate,
commons, social vulnerability sort of a conceptual framing, the environment setting
I want to talk a little bit about the Altiplano in Bolivia and then the Uru people of Poopo, talk
a little bit about the drying of Lake Poopo and the implications for Urus
communities and then I’m going to wrap it up so let me just start with a few
introductions and caveats to tell you a little bit about this project as
Joel said I’ve been working in Bolivia now for a long time I started working in
Bolivia initially in 2002 which is by now that’s a long time ago and so it’s been
an interesting period to work in Bolivia prior to that I worked in
Ecuador most of my work in Bolivia has been focused on resource governance first on
water, the Cochabamba area and the wake of the famous Cochabamba water war
more recently I’ve been working on mining, I did some work in natural gas so
I’m sort of doing the Grand Tour of resource sectors in Bolivia, this
particular project that I’m going to present now, first of all this is my most
recent work, it’s new it’s sort of ongoing it’s a little bit half-baked
because it is something that kind of came about almost by accident
I never went down intending to study the drying of Lake Poopo because I didn’t
know that the Lake Popoo was going to dry up, this is the area
that I’ve been working in, and as I’m going to talk about it rather suddenly
dried up it has since returned partially and so there’s been, you know was one of
these issues that made a lot of international press, made a little bit
of splash a few years ago there’s was a lot of talk about it, haven’t heard
much about it recently one of the things that I was interested in doing is sort
of understanding, you know partly what are the causes and partly what are the
ramifications and partly in what ways do we think about the discourse of climate
change what is the political work that’s made to do within particular
settings in Latin America and elsewhere so a lot of this work I was doing
sort of on the side while I was doing other work on mining and extractive
industries in Bolivia and which involved sort of a broadly ethnographic approach
working in communities The valley* in the area around Ouru
the central Altiplano in Bolivia and then linking that to some quantitative
studies of sort of water chemistry and things like that I was doing to kind of
understand the environmental impact As I said I want to talk a little bit about the policies
of climate discourse as one aspect of this broader project and part of where that comes from is, I was at a meeting not this meeting, this one I just
happen to be in the back, took a picture, but it was a meeting that looked like this I was
actually presenting I was asked by In Bolivia I affiliated with a small
Bolivian NGO called CEPA wich is the Centro de Ecología y Pueblos Andinos, so is the Center for Ecology and Andian People which is based in the city of Oruru at the Altiplano and they do a
lot of work with indigenous groups they also do a lot of work on mining
communities that are affected by mining contamination and they had asked me in
one of my recent trips to present my sort of results from my ongoing research
and they have sort of what they call Esculea de Lideres So is this school for high school kids
college kids just anybody else who wants to come and
take classes and they get a certificate at the end and so every time I’m there
they ask me to give a lecture I’m happy to do so so I’m giving this lecture, sort
of about the results of my research on mining contamination in these
communities and this was in 2016, Lake Poopo had just disappeared or just dried
up and and I think sort of an offhand comment in as part of my remarks about
how people in the in the area are faced with multiple environmental challenges
some of it is in mining waste and then I said but also climate change and
look at what happened recently lake Poopo from my perspective that was a
non-controversial remark, seems pretty self-evident that climate change played
a role in this seemed pretty evident that people were affected by it and it
was just sort of an aside comment well after the after my presentation one of the campesinos in the audience raised his hands that will thank you
very much for your talk, really enjoyed it however please don’t blame Lake Poopo drying on climate change because that’s what the politicians do and when
politicians do that it allows them to ignore all the other effects, and a light bowl went on, this is interesting so not only is this going on but people
are very aware that it’s going on and are upset about so this is sort of the
opening that I had for looking at these things I wanted to understand how is it
that different forces environmental and political and economic come together
in this particular place to affect people’s livelihoods and
well-being so let’s talk a little bit about those things so first of all you
may have read about this it actually made the cover in the Guardian it
made the cover of The New York Times it actually got covered quite a lot this is
the article that was from The Times it was on the Weather Channel and so a lot
of the international attention that was paid to the drying of Lake Poopo really
put it within the context of climate change and reasonably enough,
I don’t think that there’s any question that climate change at least
plays a role in this but it was kind of framed internationally as sort of really
just an issue of climate change and it got me thinking about how do we
understand when multiple forces come to play or come together to drive
environmental change in particularly impacts or social impacts, some
of you may be familiar with this book by Robin Leichenko and Karen O’Brien he
came out in 2006 2007 I believe “Environmental Change and Globalization
Double Exposure” so the idea that they had was that people, particularly in the
global South but elsewhere as well are sort of caught in this sort of pincers
maneuver of globalization, neoliberal globalization on the one hand and
climate change on the other and that these two broad forces work together to
drive marginalization and displacement and things like that, which is
important and was a real contribution the problem is that, first
of all, if our focus is on neoliberalization and on climate change
we’re looking at kind of global-scale processes these broad forces, which sort
of directs our attention to these really important processes, but at the same time
sort of diverts attention away from a lot of place specific and maybe
historically rooted other kinds of processes that don’t necessarily map on
to neoliberalization or climate change and so, what I would say is you know, just
to put in a shameless plug for my book I do my work from a political ecology perspective
which I think allows me to look a little bit more in detail at the sort of place
based processes these historically rooted dynamics where political economy
and environmental transformation sort of come together and with a particular
focus on marginalization and vulnerability as part of that, so this
is not my area, I don’t do work on climate or I hadn’t until this, so it was
sort of new literature for me So I thought, okay I need to start
reading into reading other kinds of what other people written about
this and so you know I think the double-exposure framework is a good
starting point but I also think that looking at other work that’s been done
on sort of multiple vectors of environmental change, Dispossession and
the Depletion of Social Reproduction this is a really nice article by Bina Fernandez
came out Antipode a few years ago and then work by people like Mara Goldman
all Matthew Turner on human dimensions of climate change,
looking at the multiple factors, the ways in which climate change intersects with
overlaps of these other processes and how do we make sense of that, and
importantly, how do the people who are affected makes sense of that so that’s
where I’m coming from and just as a quick schematic way that I’m sort of
thinking about these sort of end results of dispossession, displacement, etc, is
that you have multiple forces mining on one hand climate change to be sure, water
diversions which we’ll talk a little bit about some water diversions for
urbanization, all of these things kind of overlapping and working together to
result in dispossession and displacement the depletion of the
capacity for production social reproduction, so production
meaning basic agricultural production people lose their ability to make a
livelihood, which then affects their ability for social reproduction the
ability to reproduce themselves, care for their families and take care of those
basic biological and social needs and then finally particularly for the Uru’s
people on cultural and ethics dissimulation, that comes with being
displaced from their ancestral territory, ancestral communities which itself is
an ongoing process that goes back a long time so the guiding questions that I have for this project are three, number one
the deceptively simple question or the seemingly simple question of what caused
the Lake Popo to disappear spoiler alert, not so simple, number two what are the implications of this indigenous Campesinos livelihoods and we can talk about this term indigenous Campesinos you know if
you like, in the Q&A people in this area are in the area where I’m working which
is in their area around in the central Altiplano tend to self-identify as
Campesino Campesino original they are Aymara or Quechua speaking depending on the community depending on which side of the
lake you’re in more or less traditional in the sense that Aymara
tend to live in ** Quechua communities not so much although
increasingly they are before make*** but they also very much self-identify as
Campesino and very often use the term Campesino Originario Originario is a term that is less common in English this sort of is
like First Nations and so indigenous is a more common term in the US and
Anglophone Academy so I tend to use that Indigenous Campesinos, we can talk about
that more if you want so those are the two first basic questions and the third
one is what is the political work that’s done by climate change discourse in
explaining the disappearance of Lake PooPo so the climate change discourse is,
and we can talk about what I mean by that but it’s the way that the change is
actually talked about within the context of climate change and my argument
is this is not a neutral objective scientific discourse there’s actually a
political content and that is actually doing some political work so let me tell
you a little bit about Bolivia about the Altiplano for those of you
who haven’t been there how many of you actually spend time on the Altiplano Bolivia here is Bolivia the area that I’m
talking about is right in here this is Lake Popoo this is the city
Oururu the capital La Paz The Altiplano goes from basically this area
the Lake Titicaca down to the southern area where it meets with Chile and
Argentina so it’s this area is the Altiplano and
we’re talking about the central Altiplano which is up in here when I talk
about mining that’s gonna be in these hills over here and then
yeah Chilean borders right there So just identify where we are this is part of Titicaca, Desguadero river, Popoo , Lake Popoo, Salares basically What you have down here are big salt flat or salares, the biggest one is the salar
de Uyuni but there’s also de salar de Coipasa which is actually the technically
the terminus for this watershed it is in the riot basin so here it is this
lake Titicaca the salares Lake Popoo right there, the Desaguadero
river flows like that okay let me just conclude right there this basin Titicaca, Desaguadero, Popoo, salares basin is in the raiot Is a close basin it doesn’t drain out to the sea so
it’s all the water that flows in flows into the basin and then it
basically disappears in the salt flats and actually most years the
terminus for it is lake Popoo it’s it’s been since the 1980s that it
actually was enough water that it flowed into the * La Aquira* River and after
this salar de Coipasa so most years for the last hundred years at
least as if in keeping records Popoo has been the terminus of that so this is
sort of like the Great Salt Lake imagine the Great Salt Lake in Uthah if you ever been out there okay and
just to kind of set the setting a little bit it’s an area of Campesinos Originarios
communities this is on the western side of the lake in the direction of the
Chilean border Aymara speaking communitites that live in they tend to
live in ##** which is a traditional territorial and social form of
organization that pre-dates the arrival of the Inca , ## ** itself has been
transformed dramatically through colonization stuff but it still is
intact in one form or another on the eastern side of the lake away from the
Chilean border tend to be Quechua speaking communities that were
former workers on the Hacienda so they were bongos or bonded labor in the
Hacienda system and had much more contact with the mining economy so the
Quechua speaking communities that are all of those are more semi subsistence small holder
farming communities it’s also a landscape which is marked by mining
there’s a lot of mining there’s been mining in this area since at least the
1500s there’s been large-scale mining since at least the late 1800s Oururu
itself as a city was founded in the 1600 as a mining center, and there are mines in the
city of Oururu that have been in continual operation or more or less
continual operation since the 1600s so it’s an area where there’s an old old
mining economy and right now one of the things to keep in mind is that there are
sort of three broad categories of mine so there’s transnational mines this is a
relatively small transnational owned mine open hit mine this is the key
bleaching pad right here evaporation ponds and the pit this is a part of it that
you see right here so there’s transnational mining this is ##****
a mine owned by Comibol which is the state
mining firm so this is a huge player in this area Comibol no longer operates
very many mines but it operates this one and this is the single largest source of
contamination mining waste that goes into the Lake Popoo watershed and then you
also have a large number of small-scale mining cooperatives that work the old
abandoned mines that have been closed down they work the tailings that are
left by Comibol and In some cases have contracts where they work
directly with the mining firms and so that’s a whole other issue that people
are interested in that economy these are relatively small-scale but there’s lots
of them and they tend to be dispersed in the watershed so that’s one feature
in this area urbanization like so much of Latin America
Bolivia has urbanized fairly rapidly over the last 20, 25 years
this is sort of the outskirts of the city of Oururu, and I like this picture
because you can kind of see the sprawl out into the Altiplano it’s very
flat so theres a lot of room to spread out and that’s exactly what’s
happened in the last 25 years or so Oururu has grown from about 80,000 to now it’s
over up on 300,000 so it’s more than tripled in size, like three and a half
times growth and a lot of that is rural to urban migration of course to work in
the mines the metallurgy industry and send children to school and to do lots
of other things that you do in cities that you don’t do that in the rural
areas you also get a lot of circular migration so you get a lot of people who
maintain their land and their household in their community and they might plant
potatoes and quinoa there participate in festivals it might take leadership
positions in the community but they live most of their life in in and around
Oururu so there’s a lot of that sort of dual household phenomena as well and with you this
kind of rapid urbanization in Oururu you have a lot of basic infrastructure
problems I’ve said in Joel’s seminar yesterday on infraestrecture this is a
good example of the lack of adequate infraestructure Oururu doesn’t have
functional water treatment and so a lot of most of its waste, most of it
sewage goes into the **Tacarete ** canal this is the city of Oururu and is
coming right down south into lake Uru-uru which is a northern extension of Lake
Popoo so it gets a lot of basically residuos solidos a lot of trash a lot of sewage and the occasional dead body comes floating down there you think I’m kidding but I’m not then another feature in this area which
is worth noting is that there’s been its decline now but during sort of the mid-2000s
liked about 2005 to 2012 in that area they experience the quinoa boom right now
many of you how many of you eat quinoa on a semi-regular basis all right so if
you buy quinoa you go to the Publix so you go to Publix you buy quinoa it comes from basically either Bolivia
or Peru for the most part, although now we’re beginning to grow it in other
parts of the world including the United States but most quinoa sold in
the United States comes from Bolivia or Peru but if comes from Bolivia it
comes from this part of Bolivia and it’s grown by a Campesino cooperatives buying
it from indigenous Campesinos who are growing it in that area but there’s
you know all of a sudden the prices for this traditionally indigenous crop went
through the roof and people were making a lot of money so what one of the things
that happened with that was this transformation of land use in that area
and I’m going to talk a little bit about that a little bit later one thing to pay
attention to in this slide here is this interface right here, this is the natural
vegetation and then she’s standing on a hillside so a couple things to note
traditionally quinoa was growing on hillsides not very desirable land quinoa does pretty well on there with absolutely no impacts no tractors no
fertilizers no pesticides, dryland agriculture you plant the crops there
you basically plow up the hillside and you harvest your quinoa later on so
this is the natural vegetation whats happened is that they moved down in the
flat areas they’ve started using tractors fertilizers in some
cases pesticides in some cases and you have a lot of soil loss because you’re
acquiring out that native vegetation alright so let’s talk a little bit about
the Uru’s of Popoo the Urus, the first thing you know about the Urus is a small very marginalized indigenous group that predates the arrival of the Aymara and the Inca into this area they it is said that they trace
their residents in this area back 10,000 years I can’t verify that but
that’s the sort of the common number of people talk about there’s no question
that they predate their arrival of the Incas it predate the arrival of the Aymara in this area and at the time of the arrival of the Spanish it was estimated
that they accounted for about 60% of the population in this area they now account
for just a few small communities and what’s happened is that progressively
through colonization through the arrival of sort of empire the Urus have lost
land and they become progressively marginalized and when we talk about
colonization I’m not only talking about the Spanish I am talking about the
Spanish but also talking about the Aymara and also talking about the Inca
so a successive waves of colonization in this area that displaced and
dispossessed the Urus to the point where they exist really just along in Lake
Titicaca and the Desaguadero River and Lake Popoo and have really no land
base of their own for many many years they lived and so maybe some of you have
been in Peru where they have Urus live on floating mats of it’s this kind
of bizarre tourist attraction the reason that they live on floating mats, mats in
the lake Titicaca is because they have no land of their own and they
have no land of their own they can’t do agriculture and they’re entirely
dependent on fishing and hunting in the Lake and gathering in Bolivia on Lake Popoo
there are three communities of Urus Urus Murato
who live on one of them Punaka Tinta Maria is on the Desaguadero river at the mouth of that where it feeds into
lake Popoo and then you have Villa Mieke** right here and the Liapallapani they’ve been granted land by the government that purchased it from
surrounding Aymara and Quechua communities but the land that they have
is really just enough for the houses and school and like a “cancha desportiva” sort of like a soccer field but not enough to actually grow crops on,
so they’re still really reliant on hunting and fishing in this area okay so
this are folks outside Punaka Tinta Maria
communitie there and there have been some development projects in that area so this is the sign “Dialogando acerca de nuestros conocimientos sobre totora y paja” totora is the reed that grows that people make
boats our of it totora reed boats its also used for people use it for in some
cases for clothing and in paja basically grass that’s used
for traditional thatching roofs but what’s interesting is that there’s no
paja here this is obviously a Zinc corrugated Zinc roof on these kind of new house supplied by the government So there’s been, that’s a more traditional, that’s paja this is the totora
right here and sort of folks in traditional dress now, this is for
tourist consumption with a loss of the lake and the river and you can see right
here from the community that was, would have been the mouth of the river into the lake you can
see that that’s dried up and so people are looking for other ways to make a
living in to do things and part of what they’re trying to do is foster some
lowball kind of cultural tourism and I went on a tour with folks from Oururu it was
sort of middle-class people from the city Oururu we took a bus I was the
only gringo there and we went to Punaka Tinta Maria, visited the Liapallapani
and they sort of put on this show and one of the things that the children of
the community are demonstrating is their subjugation by the Aymaras so these
kids are Uru children but that they’re dressed as Aymara so that the skirts and that
this sort of blanket old things over the shoulders so they are dressing Aymara and these kids represent the Ururs who
wear more traditional Totora clothing and so their subjugation, this
is Liapallapani going out to see a cemetery de barcos basically
where people abandoned their ships abandoned their boats, their fishing boats
because the lake and dried up and so they’re just sort of sitting out there now okay so let me just tell a little bit about the sort of the disappearance of
the Lake how to trace this this process it happened one thing
that’s interesting is it happened really pretty quickly by mid-2015 it was more
or less at its regular extent but in that second half of the 2015 it went
down to it was really just little patches in a few of the deeper spots and
disappeared quite quickly so you can see this is the extent in April 2013 and by
January of 2016 it had disappeared almost completely in 2014 prior to the
actual drawing you have this warming event that raised the temperature of the
Lake one thing to know about the Lake it’s very shallow and very
saling * if you get a warming event it warms the water quickly
right you don’t have this kind of deep in a deep lake, the water
at depth is gonna remain cold and so then you could get this mixing you don’t
have that here so it’s always been pretty shallow even when it’s at its
full extent and so what happened is you have this warming event they killed a
lot of the fish you also had a lot of birds dying of and that was sort of the
signal that something was going on that was the end of 2014 and then by mid-2015
that all started to disappear one of the things to keep in mind is that
the lake level had always historically fluctuated so it’s not that this is a
one-time event that’s unprecedented in the history of this area, so you know
records going back to sort of the early 20th century these are not actual
numbers, this is just a schematic but I wanted to show sort of the high-water
mark in the low-water mark and once you have more or less is in every 10 to 20
years you have this kind of fluctuation 2000, sorry 1986, was the highest water
recorded and that was the one year that it flowed out the outlet of Lake Popo
into the Lacauaquira*** river and then out the salar de Coipasa
that’s the only year that that’s been recorded when that’s that has been the
case and so you have this sort of natural fluctuation in the Lake this is from an article by Arson et al looking at the water level the
volume and variation in the water level and I’m not going to go into this I’m
not a physical geographer I can’t talk about this very knowledgeably, but
what I can say is that you have this fluctuation over time even over the last
since that decade from 2000, 2012 a fair amount of fluctuation, this is a really
high-level satellite image from 86 so whats going on in terms of climate how do we
understand the climate change and the effects of climate variation, variability, one you know just a basic information it’s a you know semi-arid
area 350 to 400 millimeters a year of precipitation that all comes in about
three to four months from November through February so it’s very seasonally
marked the recipe here you get almost no precipitation and there are months of
the year when there’s no there’s never been recorded precipitation in some months
precipitation is seasonal so the ENSO phenomenon so this is the basically the El Nino
Southern Oscillation phenomenon is a really important factor in precipitation
in the lake variability one thing to keep in mind is that El Nino years are
dry in the Altiplano they are wet along the coast but they’re dry in the Altiplano and you get the reverse so La Nina years tend to be wet and so the
lake level does absolutely respond to precipitation that’s what people expected
however the period from 2013 and 2015 just prior to the drawing was actually
higher than average rainfall and yet you how to decline in water level and so
you there’s something going on we need to look at some other
factors one is climate change right there is a reported increase in
temperature between 1965 and 2012 so there’s a stady increase of 0.15 0.25
degrees Celsius per decade and then between 2000 2014 you have an increase
along with that of the evapotranspiration rate basically how
much water is with the increase in temperature not
surprisingly you have an increase in evaporation transpiration from plants
right but this has been measured so one of the things that has been
argued by these authors here is that the reduction in Lake Popoo has less to
do with precipitation than it does with evapotranspiration the past 15 years it’s related more to an increase in evaporation rates than it
is to changes in precipitation or temperature temperature has been
measured to be going up in this area precipitation is it’s been more or less
stady it’s been variable but there haven’t been measurable increases or
decreases in precipitation itself temperature however and
evapotranspiration have been measured to be increasing so what’s going on with
the evapotranspiration, well one of the things and there’s been some
measured hot spots of evapotranspiration that are associated with expanding
agricultural frontier and in this area the big crop, because keep in mind the
Altiplano is about three to four thousand meters in southern part of it
is lower the higher part near La Paz and **** is the highest part
the area around Oururu is 3,800 meters so that’s about 12,000 feet elevation so
it’s high which means you’re really limited
in terms of what you can grow with agriculture nights are cold you get
frost most nights throughout the year it’s you know it’s a harsh climate
there’s strong solar radiation and things like that so you’re not gonna be
able to grow corn, so you grow a lot of potatoes you grow a lot of quinoa and a
few other things depending on your location so what’s happened is that
quinoa has expanded with the quinoa boom so that you have this expansion into the
native vegetation this is what I was talking about as people started to make
money off of quinoa what happened is all of a sudden they start to replace
other crops and also pasture land and also expand into the Altiplano
and replacing native vegetation so they’re using tractors to plow up native
vegetation out of the flat areas and that’s unheard rigth this has
always been a subsistence crop low value crop it’s coded as indigenous which
means it’s also a low status crop and the idea that people are using
tractors to grow quinoa is I mean I knew it’s sound weard but this is sort of mind blounig this
never happened you know prior to this so this is a huge
transformation and it means that it allows people to plow up more of
the native vegetation and expand this frontier and also people are using
irrigation so you’re extracting water from the watershed, you’re irrigating
some of these lands and you’re expanding that frontier
and what you have that is increasing evapotransparation particularly
from better soil in the area before the quinoa begins to grow right so you plow that up and plant it you’ve got bare soil and so you have increased
evapotranspiration during those periods so that’s sort of the a lot of
these changes transformations that are happening that are affecting the
evapotranspiration and water level the other sort of tangential thing that
I wanted to talk a little bit about is is this discourse of climate change I
mentioned at the outset that there was you know the Campesino at the audience who
had said you know please don’t say that this is a result of climate change
because that’s what the politicians do and when he was talking about the
politicians, he is referring particularly to Evo Morales the president I think
still president will see they are having election the other day I think results
are being disputed as we speak and then Hugo Vasquez Mamani who is the
governor, governador, of Oururu they’re both from the same party, from the MAS party,
the Movement Toward Socialism party, and they both happen to be from the same
community of Orinoca which is on the southern end of Lake Popoo so
they both grew up on Lake Popoo so they are both from this area and you know they both came
out right away said well this is people were really upset
about the drying of Lake Popoo they said well this is the fault of climate change this
is a result of climate change right so you know this is something that on one
hand makes a lot of sense there’s a logic to it, it’s not not
because of climate change so it’s at least partially true but this is not a
neutral statement it’s not an innocent statement And I’ll say that for a couple
reasons one as the Campesino that I was talking about the outset was
mentioning this allows Evo Morales Hugo Vasquez, to sort of deflect
attention away from other policy decisions and other practices that are
happening most notably from the perspective of those Campesinos
is mining, mining is very water-intensive the mining the act of mining itself but
mostly in the processing of minerals takes a lot of water out of the
watershed and then evaporates off or it’s used and then it also contributes
in this doesn’t have anything to do with the water level but it has a lot to do
with water quality it’s very the water coming out of those areas is extremely
polluted so high heavy metal content very acidic and with other lots of other
chemical compounds that get into the water as a result so there’s many major
impacts in terms of water quality that are associated with that in addition to water level drops because of water use but the other thing that I think is worth knowing about this is that
Evo Moralles has been talking about climate change for a long time so
this is a conference that they held in not too long after he was elected
president which he was elected in 2005 assumed office in January 2006 I think
this conference in Chochabamba in 2007-2008 and he brought together a lot
of social movements and it was a statement about climate change and he’s
got a lot of good press in the international arena, international
press about his statements on climate change and here he is speaking at the Paris
conference in 2015, for Evo and for a lot of the people from the MAS,
climate change is very tightly connected to a politics of anti-colonialism
anti-imperialism and a critique of capitalism
particularly from the industrialized global north all of which is to be good
and I’m not critiquing that ending of itself but what happens then for Evo to
to kind of make this statement is that when he said well this is all the
climate change he’s either explicitly or implicitly
sometimes it’s explicitly sometimes it’s implicitly, blaming those problems with
in Bolivia on things that are happening here in the United States or in Europe
or Japan or in other places mostly in the United States fair enough right we have by
far more than our share of contributions to climate change so I’m not critiquing
that part of it but what that allows Evo to do and this is what was
picked up by the Campesino meeting was it allows them to deflect attention from
these other things like mining policy that are happening elsewhere that are a
result of things that are very much in his control and then in fact not only or
in his control but they’ve been promoted by his government, and one of those and
there’s another point recently you may have heard about the recent fires in
Chiquitania the dry forests in eastern Bolivia there been massive forest fires in that
area just as they’re happening in the Brazilian Amazon in parts of Peru and
elsewhere and you know here’s a nice photo that’s Evo himself out there
spraying I’m not sure what he’s gonna do with this little stream of water but
he’s out there with this garden hose, you know kind of spraying water and working
with the firefighters so if you go to Google if you google images of Evo Morales forest fires you come up with a whole bunch of these kind of photos
he went out on a few different days is wearing different outfits, and he made
very similar statements about the fires in the Chiquitania, about being the fault of
climate change and the global north but of course the it’s a lot more
complicated than that and part of this as a result of policies that he has
promoting facilitating the expansion of the soy and catle frontier and
colonization down into this area at the expense of indigenous peoples who live in the
region so it’s a freight** discourse right and I want to be clear
here I’m not arguing about a climate change denier I’m not arguing sort of a
climate change denying perspective that this is not you know the problems of
Lake Popoo are not climate change I’m also not critiquing, Evo Morales is
critiquing and saying, well you know don’t blame us blame yourself right because
the US and global north has contribuited way more than its share of climate
change and it is primarily our fault but the fact remains that there are
particular policies that get hidden under this discourse and I’ve seen this
elsewhere in Latin America And been interested to hear from other folks
if you know of this one of my doctoral students worked he did his PhD research
in the Colombian Caribbean and he was saying that Colombian government have
very similar discourse regarding flooding and basicaly blaming flooding on climate change but that allowed the government to enact certain kinds of
laws that displaced peasants in that area as part of a redevelopment project
which then opened up the way for large-scale agriculture things like that So what are implicatoins of all of this for Urus for the communities this is a picture of Lake Uru-Uru which is this northern extension of of Lake Popoo which still has water in it as a
at least last year when I was there I’ll be back in a couple of weeks
so we’ll see and this is what the landscape would have looked like this is
what it looks like today or at least as of a couple of years ago a dried area
with the boats sort of middle of the dry lake bed and there been some efforts
when I was there last year there were efforts or in 2018, the lake had returned about 60 percent of its surface area not its
volume but at surface area and they’ve begun to stock it with these hatchlings
of these fish which is it’s not a native species but it’s a
commercially valuable species and this is what that the fishery was based on
and so they’re trying to recover this so that people can make a livelihood there
there are some funny *** in terms of how they’re doing it one of
those is that there are something like 14 different municipios or
municipalities that share on the lake around and every one of them wanted to
have their share of that but of course these are not the environmental conditions are
not equal it’s deeper over here let’s deeper over here unfortunately this
is the area where the Ururs communities are this is the Aymara communities so
the conditions are best where it’s deep where waters deepest not so good where
it’s not and in some areas, there’s no water at all and so the Urus, the area
where the Urus are didnt get any of the hatchlings some of the Aymara communitites got their share so one of the implications one is that one of the
reason this is such a big deal for the Urus communities themselves is that
fishing cooperatives that they fished in there are fishing cooperatives all
around the lake so most of them are Aymara or Quechua fishing cooperatives,
each of the Urus communities have their own fishing cooperatives, that was
the primary source of income they didn’t really have a lot of other income that
was generated within the community itself a lot of Uru people have been
especially men had been migrating out temporarily for work in surrounding
towns, so not international migration but down to Uyuni, down to
various other places for work and so the other thing that’s interesting come just
socially is that fishing is one of the few things that Urus communities do as a
community, because they didn’t form a cooperative is one of the things that
they did as a community unlike the Aymara communities and the Quechua
communities they tend to organize themselves primarily on family mods and
that’s sort of the way that they get things done, and when you take away
the fishing cooperative, is sort of contributes to the erosion of this community cohesion
you add to that this enhanced or increased migration there’s a real issue
of are these canoes actually going to be able to continue and
the fishing not only the commercial fishing but also just fishing for
subsistence and hunting community birds and gathering things like eggs from
waterfowl and gathering edible plants and these were really important for
culturing and subsistence and so these things are no longer possible in this
area either and so that’s led to all of these things
have led to a fairly large scale out migration when I visited Punaka Tinta Maria
last year, we talked to one of the people in the community who still lives there
he’s one of four families is in one of four families, the other, I
think it was 44 families had all left so there’s hardly anybody who still lives
permanently in the community and they are just kind of be scraping by they do a
little bit of artesanias a labor for Aymara families nearby, but everybody
else is left either permanently or temporarily now if the water returns if
the fishery returns they may be able to recover in the communities but that’s at
this point still very much an open question I’m gonna skip down, let’s just
go straight to the conclusions, we are almost out of time so just to recap Lake Popoo dried in the past, so what’s different this time I think there’s a number of things that
are different this time one is the mining economy I didn’t talk a lot about
the mining economy but there’s been this big commodity boom as many of you know
and so increase in mining over the last 20 years it’s been a mining region for
centuries so mining itself is not an issue, but there’s
been an intensification of mining which is increased water withdrawal
especially along among the large scale mines the quinoa boom okay quinoa by
itself is probably not the main driver but it contributes to this through
enhanced evapotranspiration in areas where you have the expansion of that
other than increased urbanization as relatively new, and so increase in water
withdrawals one of, there’s water withdrawals also that have been mentioned on
the Peruvian side so one of the main tributaries has been mostly diverted
to bring water to the city of Tacna which is near the coast in Peru and so
it’s water withdrawals for urbanization on both sides of the border and then of
course you have increased evapotranspiration increased
temperatures as a result of climate change during that period, so one of the
things you know that Urus has been around for 10,000 years so I don’t
want to be overly alarmist right, maybe they’ll be fine I mean they’ve faced
adversity before but they’re really arguing we’re talking about a population
of just a few hundred, if that, and pretty dire circumstances and so there’s an
erosion of production and social reproduction the ability to produce for
themselves or may produce themselves and a lot of this is coming through
migration and essentially through processes of assimilation so that kind
of a broader outcomes of this I’m thinking, and these are still a little
bit preliminary the marginalization and social vulnerability that are associated with
this are multiform and historically rooted then we can’t
say that these are just a factor of climate change or neoliberalization or
even the two of those together there’s a lot of processes beginning with the, you
know the migration of the expansion of the Aymara kingdoms
brought prior to the arrival of the Incas so there’s a lot of kind of
historically rooted place specific causes in conjunction with climate
change and these other process so the governments climate change discourse
tends to deflect attention away from its own policies and practices and its own
frankly politics of neglect there have been some development projects in these
communities but very little that has provided a
sustainable way for people to make a living and so I think some of it is kind
of what the government has done or what the government hasn’t done but what
could have had it been interested and so these tend to be
climate change explanations I think in that regard tend to be somewhat
disempower when proactive measures could be taken
to protect the lakes environment to blade it’s only on climate change is to
say it’s somebody else’s fault and to throw up your hands and I think this is
exactly what that Campesino where’s getting at the beginning in that conference so thanks very much!




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