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A placard at the march for climate justice in Glasgow on November 6. Picture by Albin Hillert for LWF
A placard at the march for climate justice in Glasgow on November 6. Picture by Albin Hillert for LWF

Climate Justice Diaries: A Form of Violence

Wednesday November 17

Keith and Ida Waddell highlight how those least to blame are most at risk in the climate emergency


On Saturday, November 6 we were only able to watch the march in Glasgow, which was part of the World Day of Action for Climate Justice, on television, as we were on Day 2 of self-isolation in Edinburgh.

The UK Government does not recognise vaccinations from Zambia which come through the WHO supported Covax Programme. We were unable to join the 100,000-plus people who braved the rain and  took to the streets to protest about the lack of progress being made on the threats to life on earth being posed by world climate changes.

We are back in Scotland on furlough after two years' Mission Partner service in Zambia, much of it spent at UCZ Mwandi Mission, a village on the  banks of the Zambezi,  in Western Province, one of the driest, most impoverished and most under-developed parts of Zambia.

Chronic droughts and malnutrition are part of the way of life here. The droughts and resulting food insecurity have been regular occurrences for the past 20 years. The rise in sea temperatures and the El Nino effect has wreaked havoc on the resilience of 85% of the 900,000 population of Western Province who are rain-reliant, subsistence farmers and seasonal fishers. They are living testimony to the fact that those who have done the least to cause climate change suffer most.

We personally know under-fives who have failed to thrive because of poor nutrition, and children who do not attend school because of crop failure and because there is no money for school fees. The father, leaving home and being pushed to look for a poorly-paid job in the urban areas, the young woman brewing beer and selling herself to feed her child. We see the deforestation from charcoal-burning as an alternative source of income. The over-fishing and resultant small fish for sale. The loss of livestock from grazing and selling them at a pittance to feed the family.

The loss of livelihood and the world’s apparent indifference is a form of violence and a clear injustice towards these vulnerable people who are unable to cope with the new reality they find themselves in.

In the more developed parts of the Earth the wealthy, industrialised nations enrich themselves and impoverish the rest of the world with their continued use of fossil fuels, developing new oil-fields and failing to invest substantially in low carbon technologies. The table below provides a useful comparison between Zambia and the UK. I have included Malawi and the USA as further information.

 

Country Food Vulnerability Ranking

Co2 Emissions Tonnes per capita

Co2 Ranking (world) Equivalent emissions per person
Zambia 9 0.29 97 1
UK 110 5.729 9 54
Malawi 7 0.116 107 1
USA 110 15.741 37 136

 

The tables highlight how much Co2 emission each country produces compared to how vulnerable they are to food insecurity. It shows that a person in Britain produces the equivalent Co2 of 54 Zambians and a person in the US produces the equivalent amount as 136 Malawians. It seems the more food insecure you are, the less carbon you emit! The 10 most vulnerable countries account for less than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions.

There is a limit to what can be done at a local level to mitigate the effects of climate change and that these vulnerable communities can do to protect themselves. What they try to do will be ineffective if radical steps are not taken by the more developed world to address global warming and climate change and the present political and economic system that is built on inequality and injustice.


Keith and Ida Waddell are Church of Scotland mission partners. Read their Coronavirus Diaries here and here.


Climate Justice Diaries: a new series in which Church of Scotland partners from around the world explore the impact of climate change, and what can be done to help. 

Joel Hafvenstein explains how climate change is impacting farming communities in Nepal.
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