I crossed a lake in the middle of a desert. I never thought I would say that sentence, but it happened. I am in Trujillo, Pero, volunteering for a NGO called WindAid that builds and donates wind turbines for the purposes of rural electrification. WindAid is entirely volunteer-based, as we the volunteers make up a large majority of the labor source and funding. On the first day of the program, our director Nick Warren took us to the coastal neighborhood of Buenos Aires to show us first-hand the effects of climate change.
Twenty years ago, Buenos Aires was a thriving beach neighborhood. Now, it is struggling to stay afloat. Where once you could find smiling faces from every corner, you now avoid venturing there alone. This is because there is no longer a beach to attract tourists to its Pacific shores. Rising sea levels and sand erosion have devastated this beach community. There are a variety of reasons for this demise.
To the south, you can find the port city of Salaverry. This port attracts both cruises and cargo tankers, but due to the turbulent waters common along the Pacific coast, a large breakwater was constructed perpendicular to the shore to shepherd these vessels safely into the port. However, this breakwater has virtually destroyed the beaches to the north because it prevents sand from being replenished to the shores, leaving them even more vulnerable to erosion.
Throw in globally rising sea levels, this port made the perfect recipe for disaster. Nick took us to its shores to witness first-hand the effects that climate change could have with added human impact.
This year, El Niño devastated Peru. Floods raced through the streets of Trujillo and washed away many roads throughout the countryside. There was so much rain, in fact, that a lake formed in the middle of the desert that is found between Trujillo and the coastal town of Playa Blanca. Playa Blanca is where we installed the turbine we made, but to get there we had to take a van as far as the road would take us, then transfer to a little boat to carry all our equipment across, where we then transferred to another van to finish our trek to Playa Blanca.
Seeing a vast body of water sprawled out in front of us like an ocean where there was once a desert only a couple of months ago opened my eyes to the severity of climate change and natural disasters. If actions are not taken to limit human impact on climate change, we may experience more events like this and entire ecosystems will be restructured before our very eyes.