Did you know that while Colombia has only 0.8% of the planet’s terrestrial surface, yet it is still the country with the third greatest biodiversity in the world? That’s right! So, when thinking of Colombia, make sure you always picture a geographically and natural privileged territory, full of contrast.
Colombia’s unique mountain system -with plateaus, rainforests, plains, snowy mountains, valleys, and wetlands-, two oceans, extend and torrential rivers, and as part of the Amazon (the biggest lung of the world), determine the richness of our flora and fauna and a unique climatic variety.
Now, what do we do to protect our piece of paradise? Well, there are two different ways: the first are the national governmental efforts, and the second, the everyday duties performed (or not) by the regular citizens.
In general, Colombia is renowned for its successful work in terms of policies covering environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. Last year according to a report from Yale, called the Environmental Performance Index, Colombia ranked among the 10 best, from a total list of 163 countries, after tracking, analyzing and comparing 25 performance indicators in these regards.
The government’s greatest efforts focus on fighting global warming and the care of water and biodiversity. The Ministry in Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development is the institution in charge of determining the environmental penalties regime, and implementing other preventive and disciplinary measures.
Environmental groups would argue, however, that the Ministry is not always effective when developmental or economic interests interfere. Such is the case of the rainforests in Chocó (on the Pacific) being exploited by Canadian companies; the lack of control especially over oil and gold companies, among many other similar situations; and the projection of massive works of infrastructure, which many times disregard environmental implications.
Now, the environment is not doing very well either when it comes to what Colombians do during their daily life.
Even when society in general call for environmental vigilance and 97 percent of the population believes that global warming will affect their lives, only 33 percent recycle, most waste water and throw garbage in places where it is not allowed (1).
This paradox comes from lack of education. Many people really believe the pollution from chimneys, taxis and public service buses, and deforestation are just other people’s ‘crimes’. Many people in the main cities think that recycling is aimed at just helping financially to recyclers, or that the classification of waste only works in developed countries (2).
Only in recent years, classes on ecology and environment became a must for all types of education institutions, from elementary school to university level. This way people can understand that small actions do propitiate change. Also some cities are leading a change and campaigns are more common. Farmers also receive training in how to keep their products and the processes friendly to the environment.
So even when there has been a lag of 20 years, what Colombia is trying to do to stay green is to turn the page, and look ahead with education and authority.
1, 2. Gran Encuesta Nacional Ambiental. Reporte del Diario El Tiempo (Bogotá). <