The woes of climate change… and the silver lining

With preservation and protection of the environment now being a focus area of Rotary, global climate change meetings are getting active participation from top Rotary leadership. Last year, at the COP26 meet, the then RI President Shekhar Mehta had participated and this year, at the COP27 held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Jennifer Jones is passionately expressing Rotary’s concerns on the fast-increasing ecological degradation that we, the earth’s inhabitants, are subjecting our planet to.

But what causes concern is that at several global meets, as the world’s politicians express concern about the environment, and make tall promises that they cannot keep, environmental activists who are waging a passionate battle to preserve Mother Earth’s degradation, barely make it to the centre stage. Or even the venue.

Take the case of Egypt’s human rights and environmental activists, who have been exiled from their country and are watching protests from afar, missing the rare opportunity to discuss civil rights, as that would put at risk any chance of returning to their country. The marches to protest against Egypt’s clampdown on human and civil liberties have cast a shadow over COP27.

American President Joe Biden delivered a tough address at the climate summit, warned about the dangers to our planet and has promised to lead and fund the fight against climate change. “The climate crisis is about human, economic, environmental and national security, and the very life of the planet,” he stated.

But Egypt is no exception when it comes to such vital issues. In the final days of the campaigning for Malaysia’s general elections, economic issues took precedence over environmental ones, and the severe destruction caused by a wave of flash floods around the country, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes, matters pertaining to climate change and the environment were largely absent in the campaigns and speeches of leading candidates in the November election.

And we in India have nothing to preen about. How many times do you hear our politicians talk about environmental degradation that is taking place in India? All they do is make false and fairy tale promises on creating jobs, reviving the economy, and of course cursing and abusing their political opponents.

When it comes to climate change, Africa is most affected and yet least responsible. We can even say there is much less awareness there, perhaps due to poverty, ignorance and illiteracy, just as in India. And this despite first-hand experience on the devastating impact of climate change and global warming leading to natural disasters in both Africa and India. But as environmental experts point out, Africa is also blessed with abundant renewable energy, making it well-placed to show the world the potential of clean energy growth leading to better lives and livelihoods for its people. Power Shift Africa (PSA) is a think tank providing cutting-edge analysis, solution-focused policy ideas, and up-to-the-minute media engagement from an African perspective, both within the continent and internationally. Those interested in climate change would do well to read up more on PSA, whose mission is to “mobilise climate action in Africa, amplify African voices through increased visibility in media and public communications, and leveraging this voice internationally.”

But is it all bad and negative? No. Read our cover story to know the tiny dents that Rotary — in this case RC Bombay — is making to arrest environmental degradation. And look at the number of Miyawaki forests that Rotarians are developing all over India. Enough to generate a smile… as we from Rotary News wish you a great 2023!

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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