Alejandro’s Climate Story


Alejandro Delgado Ortega


Bogotá, Colombia

How are you sensing climate change?

Bogotá used to be much colder, and with constant rain (volume and frequency). The rainy/dry seasons have changed since a big drought in 1999. I remember it because the water supply was cut for months, becoming intermittent. Last decade it has become clear that periodic phenomena as El Niño and La Niña have begun to affect us more. The exosystem of ‘páramos’ has started to recede to upper heights, and snowcaps have begun to disappear (when I was a kid you could see three snowy mountains from the top of a neiborghood called Suba, now they are gone). The air has grown still (also helped by pollution), floods have become more common to the south and west, and since the rivers are polluted the water mixes with clean lakes (humedales) and the whole drainage system is in danger. Bird species have become less common, especially a little bird that used to be everywhere called ‘copetón’; but gauzes, mirlas, ducks, sparrows, have decreased in number as well. Bogotá has always had a ‘moody’ weather, which means days with frost episodes at 3:00 am, a sunny morning and heavy rains in the afternoon, but their frequency and disposition was more predictable before. Nowadays, having studied anthropology, I also know that most of the forests nearby have been replaced in the XIX and XXth century by foreign species (Pinus and Eucalyptus mostly), which were added to dry the swampy areas, and now climate change has reminded us of where the swamps were located (they are the areas that flood nowadays) and of their importance for the well-being of the city. The smell in the suburbs has also changed, it used to smell like wet black soil and grass when it rained, but now it smells like still water. Temperature has also increased, mostly the afternoons reach well above 25° C in a city where the mean stayed in 14 to 18 ° tops (we are 2600 msl). I believe climate change will (or should) force my city to develop a new landscape. The drainage patterns must be restored, the invasive species replaced with native ones (my grandmother used to say that you could see deer and foxes at the mountainrange), and the city descentralized (to avoid excesive energy consumption and lower air and land pollution). The sudden rainfall and increasing droughts will also force us to change the use of water and avoid wasting it.

How do these changes make you feel?

Concerned, but since more people have noticed it around me, I am certain that new policies will be easier to implement in the future. I have also integrated in my profession, looking at landscape management with ancient communities (I am adding one example of such structures) that may help the city for flood control and even sediment redistribution (from the archaeological point of view).

geological map of bogota colombia




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