The Amazonian and Andean regions of South America are home to some of the richest biodiversity on the planet. Of the top ten ‘megadiverse’ countries in the world, six are in Central/South America. Four of these countries house part of the Andes, and five house part of the Amazon rainforest (Hyatt 2014).
Early in the morning of April 1 in the town of Mocoa in southern Colombia, hundreds were killed in a landslide that swept away entire neighborhoods after a nearby river flooded due to unusually heavy rains. Officials say that climate change and deforestation played a role in the disaster, and tie it to other recent landslides in surrounding areas that have caused comparable casualties.
The Communications and Transport Secretary in Mexico has proposed a regional rail project, the Tren-Transpeninsular (TTP), to connect major beach resort areas and several major archeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. The capstone class is working with a local non-profit in Mexico, Foro para el Desarrollo Sustentable, who has been hired to conduct a preliminary assessment of the potential social impacts of the TTP.
Among the many controversial interactions the US has had with Latin American countries, perhaps one of the most dangerous is the US relationship with meat producers in South America. The US is the highest consumer of meat in the world, with the average American consuming 101 pounds of meat each year, a number which has quadrupled since the 1960s. While the US is still the largest producer of meat in the world, countries such as Argentina and Brazil are closing the gap.
Hurricane Patricia, a storm that formed off the western coast of Mexico, was the strongest recorded hurricane in history. Winds were recorded at 165 miles per hour while the storm was gaining strength at sea near the many resort towns on the western coast, such as Puerto Vallarta. Thanks to the the evacuations aided by the government, many people were spared from the storm when it touched down.
On November 5th, 2015, an unprecedented environmental disaster took place in the interior state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. Two dams containing runoff material from nearby mines, ruptured and sent a wave of chemically hazardous sludge throughout the nearby regions. The dams, located in the municipality of Mariana, covered entire towns and wildlife in a thick layer of sludge, and moved its way to the Rio Doce which now runs a deep orange color.
If you have heard anything about the Paris climate conference—formally known as the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21—then you know that lots of people seem very excited about the recently adopted 2 degrees Celsius agreement. “I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” said U.S. President Barack Obama. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared, “What was once unthinkable has now become unstoppable.”1,2 But what does this number mean?