During the High Level Meeting on Water, organized by the United Nations to motivate the collective contribution to the implementation of goals related to this resource, the Ambassador of Concausa, Catalina Silva (20), from Chilean Patagonia, presented a moving and powerful speech focused on the water crisis, climate change and the drought that afflicts different areas of the world.
Read Catalina’s full speech, here ↓
I come from the land of ice in Patagonia; lands that have undergone geological transformation for thousands of years and in which we experience uncertainty on a daily basis. I am from Villa O’Higgins, a small Chilean town located between the southern Andes mountains, where Campo de Hielo Patagónico is located, the third solid freshwater reserve in the world, after Antarctica and Greenland.
I was eight years old and the tree above my head seems to have no end towards the sky, when this vast and sparsely populated territory gave me the opportunity to participate in a series of scientific investigations that sought to decipher the biodiversity of different bodies of water. They spent five years studying Lake O’Higgins, the deepest lake in America and the fifth in the world, about which not much was known until two teenagers arrived and we decided to investigate the richness and abundance of different microalgae that abounded in this lake.
I come from a land where boys and girls decided to discover the secrets that inhabited our feet, and along the way, share all that knowledge that inhabited the end of the world through documentaries, educational capsules, and at the same time, alerting the community about the biggest threats.
At the age of seven, I experienced from the territory what it is like to fight against a hydroelectric mega project that wanted to stop the water from our flows and restrict access to our community.
When I was ten years old, I walked for the first time on a glacier. Its cracks generated some fear in me; it was a fragile and unknown terrain that opened before my eyes. I returned four years later to that mountain. Unfortunately I found a very different panorama: those glaciers, which in my childhood covered large slopes, had receded, leaving modified ecosystems in their wake. But this time it was not the product of a transnational company, it was the effects of a silent pandemic that today attacks our entire planet: it is the effects of climate change.
The glaciers of Patagonia are a reservoir of water for humanity; we live in a privileged place where the essential liquid is abundant. And here, in the land of ice, we know we have a responsibility to protect them. A responsibility that is shared with all humanity; reduce the carbon footprint and take care of this natural treasure.
Have you been thirsty?
The United Nations recognizes 2.2 billion people living without access to clean water. And 450 million children living in areas of high or extremely high vulnerability to it.
Have you been thirsty? I want water, I turn on the tap, pour myself a glass. In the worst case, I go, buy myself a bottle and figure it out. But there are people in the world who cannot quench their thirst. Probably one of the worst sensations in the world. That is why I want that the next time you want water, not drink it. Think of all those children, adolescents, people in the world who cannot quench their thirst and do not drink water. Perhaps this way we can move forward with solutions in a faster way.
Water is worth more than gold: the value it has for our homes, for culture and education, the economy and the integrity of our natural environment, is immeasurable. If the public policies of our nations did not incorporate these values, we could not achieve sustainable management to overcome poverty, to achieve economic growth or to begin to generate real care for the environment.
Today, in my 20s, I continue to mobilize, I continue to generate strategies, I continue to generate alliances, and making a call to everyone so that we begin to take care of this reserve of water, of life for humanity and thus also begin to value access to water in the most disadvantaged communities.
This is because I do not want to reach my 50 years, and realize that in my youth I did not give up the impossible so that the governments of our nations listen and manage the necessary measures to be able to stop or manage this crisis.
Faced with this scenario, despite the few opportunities for participation that exist to make decisions in public policies, young people have organized ourselves; I’m not alone.
Today we young people begin to recognize ourselves as actors, and no longer as spectators of this changing reality. We understood that if we propose it, together we can generate incidence and transformation in our communities.
Today we continue to raise our voices to pressure those who make decisions, but at the same time, we have become direct agents of change, because we know that no one is going to give us the future we dream of.
We understood that activism is a very certain way to reach the top of the steepest mountain. Because we yearn for global goals and solutions, we act locally in our communities.
Franco, Viviana and Melany from Argentina are living proof of what I am telling you: they generated a project using a native seed to generate sanitation in the water of their community. They are agents of change in their territory.
And just like them, there are a million adolescents throughout the world generating seeds of action. Personally, I am from a network called Concausa of adolescents from Latin America and the Caribbean, which in aid and cooperation with América Solidaria, UNICEF and ECLAC have generated a new model of cooperation organization. We understood that working in an intergenerational, interdisciplinary and intercultural way we can find the goal, find the solution, reach the top of the steepest mountain where the great rivers are born.
Because we understood that this rope work will help us to reach the goal, to reach a global goal for which all of us in this session are mobilizing.
As adolescents and young people we no longer want to be treated as objects but as subjects of law, because we want to be linked to the decisions that involve our present, but also our future.
I come from the land of ice, Patagonia, land of storms; and after the storm, calm always comes, here we know it very well.
I call on everyone to start taking care of this reservoir of water, of life for humanity and thus also begin to value access to water in the most disadvantaged communities.
But how do we end this storm?
In the great mountains that defy climbers, the camps are set up by people who sacrifice themselves for others to reach the summit.
Societies facing the water crisis need commitment, action, and global solidarity from the most favored in order to achieve the sustainable development goals.
From the southernmost lands, we are committed to conserving this territory for humanity, this treasure that we have here in Patagonia.
But we need everyone to reach the top, in our case water as an essential right for humanity.
If you would like, you can watch Catalina’s speech here.