Climate Emergency in Africa
The Congo rainforest is the heart of a continent where climate change has taken a terrible toll on human well-being. An imperative of ubuntu is to do all we can to alleviate this suffering and prevent more.
One of the places on Earth where people have contributed the least to the climate crisis is also among the places where people are suffering the most from climate disruption. The legacy of colonialism and exploitation leave the countries of sub-Saharan Africa ill-prepared to cope with catastrophes like cyclones, floods, and droughts. Ongoing bias and oppression make it very difficult for people in wealthier nations to hear what African activists have to say.
African Activists for Climate Justice
Vanessa Nakate of Uganda is one of the greatest advocates for global climate justice alive today. She is also a great champion of the Congo rainforest, the 2nd largest on Earth, which is in grave danger, like the Amazon, from those who see it only as a source of raw materials. Vanessa works to open our eyes to the staggering human toll of the climate crisis in Africa. She is the founder of the Rise Up Movement, and helped inspire the explosion of youth climate activism across the African continent.
Kaossara Sani of Togo is another towering figure in the movement for #GlobalClimateJustice. Like Vanessa, Kaossara is helping inspire a new generation of climate activists across Africa. Kaossara saw the need for a documentary about climate change in Africa that she and activists in Chad, Uganda, Cameroon and the DRC are collaborating on (with assistance from Novasutras Uplifter Paul Schaafsma). Kaossara told her Twitter followers, who include legions of European as well as African climate activists, “Life is more precious than money.” Those six words sum up what the climate crisis requires all of us to learn.
Kaossara’s intiatives include building handwashing stations and sharing public health information to help rural villages prevent Covid-19 infection and helping communities in Africa meet basic human needs using sustainable methods, on display here:
Kaossara also educates young people on the importance of sustainability:
Mulindwa Moses is a Ugandan climate activist who educates school children on the ecological crisis and the need to move rapidly toward a sustainable future. In a Guardian article this year, Mulindwa said:
“Being a climate activist in Uganda is very hard… You cannot hold a strike with large numbers to create awareness because the government [does not] allow it, and I have lost friends, who say they can no longer associate with me because I stand on the side of roads holding signs and spend most of my time planting trees.”Mulindwa Moses, Ugandan climate activist
Climate Shock: The Human Toll of the Climate Crisis
In Southern Africa, 5 years of severe drought have led to water supplies disappearing, massive levels of crop failure and 45 million human beings going hungry. Landslides and floods in East Africa impacted 3 million lives in just the last 3 months of 2019. The floods in turn helped spawn a plague of locusts, that are devouring what crops survived drought and flood, threatening the food supply of tens of millions. Back to back cyclones ravaged Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi last Spring, leaving 2.5 million in dire need of humanitarian relief in Mozambique alone.
The numbers are staggering, and yet they barely hint at the reality. We think of extreme weather disasters striking infrequently, followed by disaster relief, rebuilding, life returning to something like ‘normal.’
In Africa, the situation is very different.
“The climate crisis here is a permanent one, ripping away the coping mechanisms that people here have relied upon for generations to help see their communities and families through the lean times. This crisis is not an occasional headline – for the people of Southern Africa, it’s now a profound way of life.”Care International, February 2020
Most of Africa’s population gets its living from the land, in farming that is rainfall dependent. It is common now across Africa for record heat and drought to be followed by rainfall that comes all at once, bringing flash floods and landslides. There is no time to recover from one “climate shock” before another begins. Life is not just becoming harder, it’s becoming impossible.
The 54 countries of Africa together are responsible for just 5% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. By contrast, the United States emits 19% and accounts for the largest share of the CO2 now in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet it is Africa where climate catastrophe is not a future threat but a daily fact of life.
Why Don’t Citizens of the Wealthy Countries Know?
This is doubly true of the news media in the US, where 6 corporations control 90% of what Americans see, hear and read.
Earlier this year, Vanessa Nakate joined Greta Thunberg and three other white climate activists for a press conference at Davos. The Associated Press spoke to Vanessa and the others, and took a group photo of the five activists. When the story was published, Vanessa had been cropped out of the photo, her comments excised from the article. It was “as if I wasn’t there,” she told the Guardian.
When the AP’s story came out, Vanessa tried to express just how being erased from the AP’s story made her feel:
When Vanessa called the AP on this outrage, it turned into a scandal and ended up giving her a great deal MORE visibility. The media wall of silence around Africa’s climate crucible continues, but Vanessa’s courage proved it is possible to break through it.
It is essential that people in the world’s wealthier countries hear the stories of activists like Vanessa and learn about what is happening in Africa, so we can respond to the unfolding climate catastrophes and save lives.
Humanity’s Birthplace Is Also Humanity’s Future
Like the Arctic, Africa is warming at a much faster pace than the Earth as a whole. Southern Africa is “two degrees warmer already.” The result is a concentration of extreme weather disasters on the African continent that you almost have to see to believe. The BBC continues “So what you have here, essentially, is a glimpse into the future, and its not looking promising.”
Our Uplifter Paul Schaafsma wrote most of this page.
An earlier version was also published on the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network’s site.