Pablo Quintanilla: Climate Justice

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The people who will suffer most from climate change and are those least responsible for it. What do we owe them? Pablo Quintanilla has this Perspective.

Over the summer our family traveled to Girón, Ecuador to visit my wife’s home town. Girón is a community of five thousand nestled in the Andes mountains.

Some things were the same: The fog came and went each day. A waterfall called “El Chorro” flowed down the mountainside.

But unlike past visits in the summer, this time the surrounding mountains were lush. Uncle Segundo, a 78-year-old farmer who plants and harvests his crops on the side of a mountain high above Girón, hosted us one afternoon for a lunch of rice, potatoes, and Guinea pig. He explained the phenomenon, which started two years ago. “The heavy rains that came unexpectedly in the dry season ruined my corn, wheat and barley crops. In all my years of farming, I have never seen this happen. Today, I make a living selling milk and cheese in Girón’s market.”

At home in California we’re leading the charge on climate. We’re updating public transportation to be more green, powering industries with cleaner fuels, and turning to solar to power cars and homes. Those efforts are necessary.

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But our focus seems to be on addressing our needs here and now. What about all the CO2 the U.S. has emitted and continues to emit that harms millions of people like Tío Segundo? Ecuador’s share of CO2 emissions since 1751 is likely less than 0.1%, whereas the U.S.'s is 25% according to Our World in Data.org. Why should those who bear least responsibility for the climate crisis have to experience so much harm to their way of life?

That summer afternoon high in the Andes mountains, I tucked my head under my raincoat and embraced Tío Segundo. We thanked him for his hospitality. If only we could make it rain a little less.

With a Perspective, I’m Pablo Quintanilla.

Pablo Quintanilla is the responsible innovation manager for a major tech company.