I don’t know a person who doesn’t love being in the countryside or on the beach, taking pictures of tourist sites or the impressive landscapes of Guatemala. Why then do we continue to destroy the environment in which we as human beings feel at our most optimal?
The relationship between us and nature is a consequence of the development pattern of our society. Guatemala, with serious social and natural deterioration, has become a society that treats its natural resources from the logic of “me today instead of for everyone today and tomorrow”.
Urban areas throughout the country have grown in recent decades without strategic planning or urban/territorial planning, without sustainable and efficient transportation alternatives, without effective waste management or park systems that allow Guatemalans to have a dignified life. All this “growth” comes at the cost of destroying miles of local landscape with an extractive water system, which brings us to hydraulic stress in Guatemala City, where wells are advancing by leaps and bounds and shortages are just around the corner. In a country full of rivers, lakes, rains, the scarcity of the vital liquid speaks only of our mismanagement and lack of planning.
When I look at a city or town, I like to imagine what its original landscape was like. How many trees must they have cut down to build what is now Guatemala City? Do we know that in Valle de la Ermita several water bodies have dried up since the settlement of the capital? Water scarcity is no longer a future problem, but a present one.
The landscape is changing at a relentless pace, with no plans for sustainability because we don’t think about the consequences in the future. How did we get here? Who legally allows us to continue to destroy the environment and lose the balance that allows us to live?
We have a ministry that does: MARN. It seems that those who should in theory ensure the protection of our environment have as their highest priority the preservation of their personal economic gains in the short term at the expense of our natural heritage, and as if that were not enough, now we want them through the initiative of Law 6054 to monopolize and centralize all other entities that in one way or another seek to protect the natural heritage that we have. It is part of a package of laws that legalize the plundering of our wealth and that of our descendants.
In Guatemala we have come to see nature as a luxury when it could be what prevails the most if we had more respect and responsibility in the way we treat it. We are one of the 20 most biodiverse countries in the world and we have not realized that this diversity is our greatest asset, an asset that can give us life in abundance if and only if we protect and value it.
However, the package of laws 6054, 6055, 6021 and 5923 threatens to endanger our natural and cultural heritage. We cannot sit back and wait for someone else to act or speak. If we understand that biodiversity includes us, we will understand that the destruction of the environment destroys us and that its preservation is a responsibility that we all share. We have private property but shared natural resources. Water, air and biodiversity belong to all of us, even those who are not born.
We must not only oppose legislation that seeks to benefit only a small group in the short term, but also demand transparency and real strengthening of institutions through system restructuring. One that is respectful, with a long-term vision, that protects, mitigates, regenerates and legislates the rational use of our resources, adapting to the different regions, climates and cultures that make up a country as diverse as Guatemala.
It is time to protect our land, because you do not play with natural resources, nor with the country.