Álvaro Colom Caballeros, president of the Republic of Guatemala, delivered a public lecture at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo on Thursday, 21 October. In his lecture, entitled “Climate Change and the Mayan Vision”, President Colom explained how climate change has increased Guatemala’s vulnerability to natural disasters such as droughts and severe storms. In response, the country has developed a holistic and innovative national climate change policy based on the Mayan worldview. The policy seeks to both adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change in pursuit of social and environmental welfare.
President Colom presented an optimistic vision of December’s COP 16 climate summit in Cancún and for the development of human civilization in the next decades, drawing his message from the wisdom of the Mayan calendar (which will start over in 2012 and predicts a change towards a more anthropocentric civilization). From this perspective, climate change and the recent financial and energy crises are symptoms of a wider crisis of civilization requiring the restoration of values such as respect and discipline.
President Colom praised Japan’s commitment to these values and its concrete achievements in emissions reduction and recycling. He also highlighted Guatemala’s own achievements in education, specifically environmental education in schools and universities. In his view, governments have the responsibility to empower society to value and appreciate the role that the environment plays in our lives. The president concluded by expressing his hope that these lessons will provide guidance to the world as it begins to deal with the emerging consequences of climate change.
A video of President Colom’s lecture, including the question and answer session that followed, can be viewed on UNU’s video portal.