Last week, when my Chilean family went on a hike with other families from the church, they turned it into a learning experience for everyone about caring for the environment. It was so sweet how my Chilean parents took it upon themselves to educate people on how to “cuidar la tierra.”
One woman, Gloria, who organized the trip, was also very passionate about environmental issues. I overheard her talking to my little brother, Camilo: “What is this stuff on the side of the road? It’s trash. Camilo, say ‘basura’.”
“Tasuta,” he said back in his baby talk.
“And is it supposed to be here?”
“That’s right, Camilo. Basura is bad for the planet. But we have to cuidar la tierra. We don’t leave trash everywhere.”
And there was more. She talked with Camilo for a while, holding him on her hip, teaching him ways to take care of the earth, and telling him why. This was my favorite part. Gloria told him that God made the earth and entrusted it to us. She said it was a gift, but also a responsibility. In order to be obedient, faithful followers of Christ, we can’t forget about cuidar la tierra.
As we wrapped up the hike, Rocío (mi mamá) and Gloria gave us a little lecture on cuidar la tierra, and they mentioned the responsibility and opportunity we have to make positive changes that protect natural spaces like the one we just enjoyed. I understood and deeply resonated with what they were saying, but as we turned to go I made eye contact with another American girl who had come on the trip with us. Her face looked puzzled.
“They mentioned pizza, science, trash, and God. Then we prayed. What just happened?” she asked.
I laughed, because those things really are connected. But not everyone I talk to sees it that way. I’m really grateful that I’m part of a family (and church family) here that shares my interests and worldview.
In my time in Chile, I’ve met many more people who are interested in preserving and caring for the environment. My lab partner brought in a collection of glass jars he had been saving to recycle, and yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about alternative energy in Chile. Additionally, cuidar la tierra seems to be a theme of national conversation. There are political parties devoted to “green legislation,” and I’ve seen commercials on tv advertising the environmentally-friendly aspects of their products.
Despite this seemingly high level of public awareness, many Chileans I’ve spoken to want to see more.
My host mom, as well as two of my professors, have lamented the lack of environmental education in the school system. So Chileans are making efforts to change that. This weekend, I went to a museum exhibit in the Parque Cultural de Valparaiso focused on environmental issues and innovative ways to cuidar la tierra.
The exhibit touched on themes ranging from biodiversity to pollution to consumerism, and displayed a variety of mediums, including film, false advertisements, and styrofoam cutouts. It was really cool to see artists creating such remarkable pieces for the purpose of raising public awareness of environmental issues.
I think my favorite piece was a digital creation by a Scandinavian artist. He combined a futuristic-looking technology with a beautifully peaceful nature scene. To me, the result is a striking commentary on the interconnectedness of people and the land, and our need for preservation/conservation. But what I liked most about this piece was that it was another conversation-starter on the topic of how best to cuidar la tierra.
Everybody has different ideas on what the best way to cuidar la tierra is, and why (or if) it’s important. I’m just grateful to be participating in the conversation here in Chile. And I hope it’s continuing back home too. I’m excited to bring my new perspectives back to the US in a few months — maybe this blog post can serve as the first link 😉