By Rowan Wolf of Uncommon Thought Journal
Africa, the home of the human race. Science indicates she birthed us. She nurtured our infancy. Some went out from her to spread across the Earth. Others stayed and continued an unbroken relationship with our birthplace. Africa was, and is, rich. It holds a wealth of resources and of species – including our own. Africa has seen wave after wave of colonization and exploitation. It has suffered under the heel of its progeny who left, but then return over and over to take and then leave again. Meanwhile, those who did not abandon Mother Africa have suffered along with the land and it other inhabitants. Now Africa faces the same twin threats as the rest of the planet – resource exploitation and global warming. Those children who left are bringing a brutal havoc on the home of us all, and our siblings who live there.
With the meeting of the Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, the bad news of climate and its impact on Africa once again became headline news. Africa, and other developing nations, are dramatically at risk from the physical and economic impacts of climate change. Climate change that is fueled, not by the developing nations, but by the developed world which seems incapable of making the sacrifices necessary to save the planet.
Back in May of 2006, Philip Thornton of the Independent wrote “West’s Failure over Climate Change ‘Will Kill 182m Africans’.” He states:
The poorest people in the world will be the chief victims of the West’s failure to tackle global warning, with millions of Africans forecast to die by the end of the century, Christian Aid says in a report out today.
The potential ravages of climate change are so severe that they could nullify the efforts to end the legacy of poverty and disease across developing countries, the charity says.
The report highlights the fact that, despite hand-wringing in the West about the threat to its coastlines from rising temperatures, it is the poorest who are likely to suffer most. It estimates that a “staggering” 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by 2100. Many millions more face death and devastation from climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.
Those with the least are at the greatest risk. The plight of Kenyan nomads has been highlighted for their vulnerability.
“They are dubbed the ‘climate canaries’ – the people destined to become the first victims of world climate change.” (Beaumont)
“Climate canaries.” Those who perish first, not because of anything inherent to themselves or their cultures, but because they have been forced to live on the marginalized fringes of a voracious “developing” world. These are the people who live with the land and depend on it. They aren’t “worth” anything in the developed world’s eyes. They are at best seen as “quaint,” and at worst seen as impediments to development. The canaries that went into the mines were used as warnings of bad air because of their physical susceptibility to carbon monoxide and gas. They were expendable creatures. How would you like to be labeled a “climate canary?” What would that indicate to you about your overall importance in the broader “scheme” of things?
It is estimated that billions of dollars will be needed to save Africa. That aid, like the aid for poverty, the drugs necessary to fight AIDS, and the donations needed to stave off starvation, are unlikely to ever arrive. The “developed” world cannot even generate the will to save itself from the consequences of its profligate use of resources and destructive impacts of its “quality of life.” It cannot muster the will to even meet the very low bar specified in the Kyoto Agreement, and the worst of the bunch – the United States – still won’t even sign that agreement. In fact, it took until 2006 for President Bush to even acknowledge that global warming was happening. He still remains unconvinced that humans have anything to do with it.
Meanwhile the resources of Africa (oil, natural gas, coltan, tin, gold, etc) are exploited by nations and transnational corporations while the people starve and die. It was with anger that I read the headline “NGOs warn Africa is squandering oil windfall.” Africa is “squandering” its wealth? The article points to “corrupt” governments. Who are they being “corrupt” with? Certainly not with themselves. No their “corruption” ties to China and Britain; to the U.S. and France; to Shell Oil and the friendly “Beyond Petroleum” BP. Of course, we won’t mention the exploitation of resources which both past and present flows out of Africa to the so called “developed” world.
So the conflicts erupt – Somalia, Nigeria, Darfur, Ethiopia. They are written about as if they are disconnected from everything else, ora as if they are about something else. Many are wars for resources. They are not, at heart, “tribal conflicts,” nor “religious” conflicts. They are struggles for water (in some cases) which is an increasingly scarce resource in a desert environment. They are struggles to move people off the lands under which oil and gas lies. They are struggles over who mines the coltan for the cell phone industry. Sometimes (as in Somalia) they are framed as part of the “war on terrorism.” With funds flowing from the U.S., China, and elsewhere to support the “Islamists” or others, in bloody struggles for who gets to be in a position to be “corrupted” by the big money of a corporatized and globalized world.
In the larger scheme of business as usual, the corrupt leaders are small fry compared to those who truly gain. The people are simply “canaries” – collateral damage – in a process which devalues their lives and the land which birthed us all. If the cradle of the human race is not to fall, it will need to be the people – not the leaders – who must make their will felt. It is the people – particularly those of us in the “developed” world – who must show the will to change that our “leaders” (and their puppet masters) do not have.
Africa may seem far away and of little concern to many. However, she is in our blood and imprinted on our DNA. As goes Africa so goes the rest of the world. It is in our hands whether the cradle shall fall.
People always ask “what can we do? There are endless things starting with holding our own leaders accountable. However, given that what we do to save ourselves will also likely improve survival in Africa and around the world, we can:
1) Consume less – use what we have longer, and demand durability of manufacturers. Force them to provide upgrade paths, and to recycle what they produce;
2) Stop electronic dumping – it is poisoning the planet and creating a constant demand for new resources;
3) Decrease consumption – we cannot continue to be a “throw away” society;
4) Support global environmental organizations working to save habitat and species;
5) Give gifts that give to others. Make donations to organizations and movements that are doing good things – Habitat for Humanity, . Christian Aid, World Wildlife Fund, Heifer International, do the free click donations every day, pick a People’s Movement. Follow your heart with this, but do investigate where your donation is going.
6) Support peace movements and organizations;
7) Be informed and share your information.
There are so many things that we can do, that if each of us just did a little it really can save the world and Africa.
Reports & Articles
Christian Aid. Nov. 2006. Life on the edge of climate change: the plight of pastoralists in Northern Kenya
Christian Aid. May 2006. The climate of poverty: facts fears and hope
The International News. 11/19/06. Impoverished Africa shudders under global warming threat
Joyce Mulama, 11/19/06 IPS. Changing Climate, Changing Lives
Al Jazeera. 5/29/06. Climate warning for Africa