Africa: Refusing to sink like the titanic!

Africa: Refusing to sink like the titanic!

Date: November 28, 2011
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The world and its inhabitants are like the gigantic Titanic ship and its passengers on that fateful night on 15 April 1912. Due to human error and miscalculation on that night, the “ship of dreams” accidentally hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean leading to its sinking and leaving thousands dead and a handful alive.

On that fateful night, small ships had warned that all ships had to sail with extreme caution due frozen blocks in the water. But according to its makers, the ship could sustain any amount of damage and still remain afloat. They labelled it “unsinkable”.

Slowly but surely, the world is sinking today due to the rise of sea levels emanating from change of weather. This is largely due to human error and miscalculation. After the Second World War in the 1940s most countries in the world were industrialised or industrialising. Such activity requires burning of carbon such as coal, fuels, and oil to sustain production. The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and cutting down of trees for timber and wood eats on the ozone layer that controls the balance of temperature between the earth and the sun.

Trees play an important role in the cleaning of the atmosphere. However, in Southern Africa people are busy cutting down trees for various uses but they forget to replant them.

Take the case of Zimbabwe. The land reform programme claimed millions of trees as “new” farmers built new homes and created virgin land. Zimbabwe is also an agro-based economy whose number one foreign currency earner is tobacco. But tobacco has to be cured. The process requires the burning of coal to dry the crop. As most farmers cannot afford coal they have resorted to cutting down trees for firewood which in turn exacerbates deforestation and air pollution. When deforestation increases there are fewer trees to absorb the carbon dioxide. This causes climate change.

Women constitute 52% of the population and a large number of these women reside in semi-urban or rural areas. They often have very limited access to information about many issues including climate change.

The additional time that women spend fetching firewood and water, caring for the sick and maintaining the home is not quantified in monetary value. This explains why most women remain poor and economically disempowered in Southern Africa.

The effects of climate change are going to make their situation worse. They may have to travel further to fetch water and firewood. The land will no longer be as productive due to shortages in rainfall. These women have to be informed about the changes in the climate. If information is imparted to them, then they can make decisions about what to plant and when. This is what climate change adaptation and mitigation should be about.

Women and men alike should be responsible and give back to the environment that is a major source of livelihood in Southern Africa. This can be done through good farming practices, planting trees and finding alternative sources of energy. Nothing is wrong in creating a “new” farm but there is need to replace trees by planting more trees to strike a balance. Nothing is also wrong with men to take a leading role in caring for the environment. The war on climate change cannot be left to chance.

This is why we support an addendum to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development on gender and climate change. The instrument is in itself progressive in that it sets targets and timelines for attaining gender equality in the region.

Crafted before the dangers of climate change and their implications for the fragile gains made by women hit home, the SADC Gender Protocol now needs to be strengthened to include specific targets on sustainable development as well.

For as the late Kenyan Nobel laureate, gender and climate change campaigner Wangari Maathai put it: ” In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.”
She also said: “African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”

We have vast natural resources and we should protect them from climate change hazards. The signs and warnings that we are unfriendly to the environment are there, but we can save our region from sinking due to human error like the Titanic. One step made is one step forward.

Thabani Dube is a Zimbabwean-based freelance journalist and Saeanna Chingamuka is the Gender and Media Diversity Centre Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference.


0 thoughts on “Africa: Refusing to sink like the titanic!”

Jackson Mwalundange says:

Climate has always been changing, sometimes abrubtly or dramatically and taking species that could not manage the change into extinct. When change is gradual, species have time to adapt and, therefore, survive. Ours is not abrupt, but is too fast to allow our bodsies adapt, thus taking us to the ‘Titanic sink’. Good news is that life will not come to an end on earth, and, most likely human species will not extinct like the dinosaurs.

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