Leading the Fight Against Climate Change in Cartagena de Indias | Education & Leadership - Waterkeeper

Leading the Fight Against Climate Change in Cartagena de Indias | Education & Leadership

By: Rafaela Iturralde

By Rafaela Iturralde & Elizabeth Ramirez, photos by Mariam Rangel 

Cartagena Baykeeper is stepping up to protect against climate change in Colombia. Extreme weather conditions, such as torrential rains, floods, high tides, and intense summer weather are just a few of the new realities facing Cartagena de Indias. Historically, these events have been destructive enough, often causing damage to the economy and heritage of coastal communities surrounding Cartagena. However, with rising sea levels on the horizon, and the intensity and frequency of extreme weather poised to increase, the city must take protective measures soon or face significantly worse consequences tomorrow.   

Joining in the effort to protect the area is the District Mayor of Cartagena, who released a public policy in 2014, called the 4C Plan: A Competitive and Climate Compatible Cartagena, which endeavors to make the city more resilient against the impacts of climate change.

“This is a great opportunity for Cartagena Baykeeper, in association with the Universidad Libre, the Fundación Universitaria Antonio de Arévalo UNITECNAR, and both public and private entities as well as civil society, to act early on the challenges of climate change, transforming it into opportunities for development, innovation and competitiveness,” said Elizabeth Ramirez, executive director and Baykeeper at Cartagena Baykeeper.

One of those opportunities is the International Congress on Climate Change in the Coasts and Mountains of Latin America, the first of which was held on Sept. 19 and 20, 2019 in the auditorium of Universidad Libre in Cartagena. 

“This event symbolizes the union of efforts between the public and private sectors to promote the productive hubs of the city — like industries, ports, and tourism — as compatible with the climate of the future. The challenge is to achieve a greener Cartagena that is more efficient in its use of resources, and is in symbiosis with our beaches, mangroves, and swamps,” said Ramirez. “By adapting to the climate of the future, more tourists will appreciate Cartagena’s beauty and quality of life, ensuring jobs for the next generation and a more sustainable and equitable future for all.”

The work of Cartagena Baykeeper doesn’t end there. The organization is also focusing on creating two ambitious leadership schools: the Leadership Training School to Prevent Climate Change and the Community School for Sustainable Fishing. These schools aim to create opportunities for communities in and around Cartagena to engage in climate action efforts and adapt to local threats. Since 2016, Cartagena Baykeeper has carried out three workshops in different localities near Cartagena, training a total of 62 people. 

The Leadership Training School works with the community to promote social development and create community leaders. The program also teaches about the benefits of mangrove forests and the effects of deforestation on sea level rise. On the other hand, the Sustainable Fishing School teaches communities near the coast to implement practices such as rotational fishing, where the community fishes for six months and lives off agriculture the other six months.

A healthy and habitable future for the Cartagena area depends on these types of collaboration and innovative solutions. There is no time to spare in confronting these new climate realities. But, luckily, there is no shortage of enthusiasm and effort from Cartagena Baykeeper.