Africa – climate change


Photograph Martin Goowin [Guardian Online 30th May 2009]

I don’t profess to know much about Climate Change [CC] which is one reason why I am writing this piece — to inform myself as much as anyone else. What I do know is CC is possibly the most important yet one of the least understood issues we as global citizens now face. I am particularly interested in trying to understand how CC will impact on Africa and how the West’s relationship with the continent is being framed with CC in mind. In a recent article in the Guardian John Vidal reports on an interview with Kenyan Noble Prize winner, Wangari Maathai in which she speaks about CC and why Africans need to wake up and take the issue on board

of the nine billion people expected to be on the planet in 2050, eight billion will be in what are now developing countries. “Climate change is life or death. …….Climate change and global warming is the new global battlefield. It is being presented is as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it’s the developed world that has precipitated global warming. There will be a much greater negative impact on Africa because of its geography. But instead of adapting we are scraping the land, removing the vegetation and losing the soil. We are doing things to make it worse.

Maathai also makes the link with preserving the land with preserving African resources and languages. In terms of resources it is there is the new colonisation through the land grab of African agricultural land by Middle and Far Eastern countries, China and some Corporations, in order to secure land for food for THEIR citizens. Last month environment ministers from across the continent met to discuss global warming. They demanded the West fund projects to counter the effects of CC. Yet at the same time many of these African leaders are selling our ecological future and few of us are even aware of the scale or damage which is being done. Why are huge tracts of land being sold when they could be used by local farmers to grow food to be sold to local people and exported within the continent. Trade between ourselves makes so much more sense than trading with the West and receiving little in return. What a revolutionary policy — Africans trading with other Africans!

Another impact of CC is the rise in numbers of “environmental refugees” fleeing from the increase in “natural” disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Other disasters which are termed “natural” such as landslides, flooding and desertification are a direct result of human interference with the land on a grand scale. A report in 2006 by “Government Economic Policy” highlights the dangers and urgency of addressing CC on the continent… Temperature rises, changes in rainfall, increase in desertification, falling yields in crops, death and injury from heat waves, increase in water and Vector related diseases.

All of the above represent new challenges for Africans — not an easy task when still having to struggle against old and existing challenges of poor corrupt and inept leadership, the aid question and increasing poverty. Wangari Maathai latest project is to save the Congo forest, noting that if the Congo goes it would be a catastrophe not only in Africa but well beyond and all the other challenges Africa’s faces won’t mean anything as there won’t be much left to mean!