The effects of climate change are here. Weather patterns are drastically changing, with natural disasters being felt to extreme and unusual degrees and the worst predictions about the consequences of climate change manifesting in our lifetime.
‘When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’. An African proverb from which a parallel can be drawn in relation to the industrial growth (predominantly) of the developed world and the resulting alteration in weather patterns. These effects are being felt in all corners of the world, including the less developed countries whose carbon footprint is minute in comparison. Extreme flooding; acute variations in temperature highs and lows; heavy rains; and the incidence of tornados such as recently reported in neighbouring South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal, are but a few examples of the radical changes in weather formations.
A country’s carbon footprint refers to the release of carbon dioxide that occurs naturally, but this is amplified in highly industrialised countries. The emission of harmful gases and chemicals into the air, and toxic waste discharged in rivers and oceans, is an alarming source of pollution. Carbon emissions stemming from commercial development, and exacerbated by deforestation, have led to pollution levels that over decades have aggravated the steady heating of the globe. The resultant temperature changes are the root of the extreme weather conditions the world is undergoing today. In the present tense, we can feel the physical change. Our biggest responsibility now is to work to keep our world alive for those who are coming next. Future generations deserve a better chance at life than what is predicted in current forecasts.
Lesotho’s lands are also illustrating the effects of shifts in climate. The rhythm of her seasons is not as predictable or reliable as in yesteryears. Lesotho is prone to periods of drought that cause bare lands and low harvest turnovers, for both subsistence and commercial scale agriculture. As a third world country dependent on our agricultural sector, Lesotho’s capacity to feed her people to offset the food deficit falls short, leading to food scarcities especially in the rural areas where farming is also a core means of livelihood. Food aid from local and international partners becomes critical in ensuring that no Mosotho sleeps hungry.
Beyond our own borders as well, the prospect that planet Earth will not have the capacity to sustain life is becoming an all too real possibility. Past calls for an emphasis on ecologically friendly development methods unfortunately fell on seemingly deaf ears and were shelved in favour of processes that brought fast returns at little short-term cost, regardless of the associated long-term environmental impacts.
Disaster management capacity building is essential. Accurate climatological reports are imperative, where familiar weather activity becomes null and void when faced with the realisation that there is little certainty about how bad things may get. An undeniable fact is that we must all brace ourselves for the changes to come.
The heavens are taking on new hues of grey and we are experiencing weather conditions which we have little expertise and capability to control. In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining; there is still a significant chance to alter the fate of our planet. Innovative methods for renewable energy use are more necessary than ever. The adoption and adaptation of ecologically friendly practices of other countries, such as with Ethiopia’s Waste Power plant, where electric power is generated from waste materials, is a blueprint that other countries can follow. The enormous contribution of actions such as planting trees, implementing recyclable and renewable energy, and migrating to eco-friendly lifestyles, is vital to combat climate transformation.
The United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit was this year held on the 23rd September 2019. Hosted at the UN headquarters in New York, this summit saw the meeting of stakeholders pledging commitments regarding countries’ gas emissions, to ensure the world does not suffer irreversibly from the adverse effects caused by pollution. The youth had an impassioned voice in Greta Thunberg, who at sixteen years old, is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her work in environmental awareness. This world will be handed down to the youth and it must be something worth inheriting. On the other end of the age spectrum, Pope Francis has also been vocal in stressing the ever-growing relevance of environmental consciousness. His 2015 book “Laudato Si” is indicative of the Vatican’s continuing strong stance on this crisis (as evidenced in the annual Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa – IMBISA).
The issue of climate change supersedes all the disparities of humanity. The often divisive and prejudicial human constructs that are walls between us become reduced to nothing when compared to a dying planet; a world without clean air or water. The opportunity for change is still within reach, and these dark clouds too shall pass. We need to hold hands in exercising conscientious, ecologically friendly business and industrial practices, and ground level efforts to protect the environment, as this is crucial in taking us forward in the preservation of this planet we all call home.