From September 5-7, 2007, the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) held its annual conference for Non Government Organizations on the theme, “Global climate change, how it impacts us all?” Utilizing AFJN’s UN-DPI status, Executive Director Rocco Puopolo and Staff Member Bahati Jacques and members Sr. Maura Browne and Fr. Luigi Zanotto attended the conference to find out what AFJN may need to know in order to inform our advocacy on this issue.
Africa and Global Climate Change This year, heavy rain and flooding have been reported in 17 nations in Africa. Ghana and Uganda were the worst cases, though the detriment to countries like Chad who are already suffering from food shortages is important to note. Unfortunately, no African nation is well-prepared to cope with natural disasters.
Even if African countries were prepared, how good is good enough to deal with current and future natural disasters? They have no structures to deal with the results of global climate change, and no funds to improve or maintain what they have in place. Prior to addressing climate change, Africa must recover from the immense challenges of war, HIV/AIDS, political instability, and neocolonialism. African nations seek sustained development (and rightfully so) with little heed to the environmental impacts of such industrialization. Unfortunately, African forests, a true asset in regulating the global climate, are being exploited in very irresponsible ways. The Congo River Basin forest, the second largest in the world after the Amazon which spreads across the DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, is estimated to be loosing 1.5 million hectares of forest each year due to destructive and careless logging. At this rate, “two-thirds of the Congo Basin forest could be lost within 50 years,” says Constance Hegner, communication Officer of WWF-Denmark in her article “Congo Forest Company Goes ‘Green.’”
At this conference, the link between human activity and global climate change was emphasized by scientists who indicated that an increase in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere leads to an increase in the effects of climate change. Africa only emits 4% of the carbon but is adversely effected by the emissions of the rest of the world as well as the destruction of her forests.
Global Climate Change and Indigenous peoples Global climate change: Who created the problem? Have we not been doing our part? The consequences of climate change on indigenous people revives their painful experiences of oppression by both foreign and local powers. Once again, the poor are victims because they do not have the necessary structures to deal with the consequences of climate change. Indigenous contribution to the debate on climate change is not only scientific, economic and political, but also spiritual. They believe that we must live in harmony and unity with nature, something they have been doing for centuries and continue to do today. A change of heart, behavior, and a purposeful commitment to love our planet earth may help us achieve this harmonious life.
Act Now on Global Climate Change Poor nations are asking industrialized nations to repair the damage they have done to the Earth by their activities. Meanwhile, these nations lack the will to give up the economic and material benefits that come with a high level of development and industrialization. Despite knowing that people are dying and that human civilizations are threatened by extinction as a result of global climate change, some nations argue that they are waiting for adequate technology to reduce carbon emission. Those who find this issue urgent, call for international solidarity as well as individual responsibility for the harmful effects of such a large environmental footprint. The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of acting now. To be environmentally friendly in our activities, a lot of rethinking has to be done at the level of national and international policies, economies and spirituality. Individuals must also begin to think of the human community as a family whose common home needs greater respect and care. While we do still live in a world where oppression, exploitation and selfishness dominate many of our cross-cultural interactions and international relations, if we do not act now, the world will suffer serious consequences. To a global climate change crisis, AFJN calls for a global climate change solution. For the sake of our partners in Africa who are already confronted with the challenges that accompany poverty, it is imperative that we continue to advocate for just relations between our nation and theirs.
-Bahati Jacques