Has the beat for action on climate change lost its impetus? Can we expect a fresh rhythm from world leaders after Cancun?
I am not, at core, an environmentalist. I have always been suspicious of '-isms', and this particular -ism is no exception. I am, however, and always have been, deeply moved by injustice be that at a global, local, or personal level. Since around the age of 7 when I first became aware of one of the first scandals in Africa to reach the British media - starvation in Biafra - I have been active in some campaign or other.
It should come as no surprise then, to find myself in areas which relate to what must be the biggest global justice issue of all time - climate change. Whilst oceanographers, meteorologists, statisticians, and computer modellers worry about the changing composition of our atmosphere and oceans (rightly), I worry about the composition of people who live on the edge of the Sahel, or the Bangla Desh floodplain ( that's most of the country), or the Maldive islands. The NGO aid agencies now estimate that there are 1.7 billion people in such places around the world where people are already being affected by climate change - through no fault of their own.
One of the most poignant realisations I came to - long after it had happened - was that the infamous Ethiopian famine of 1985 ( enter stage left Bob Geldof), and subsequent droughts in that region - has a direct correlation to carbon emissions from the rich countries. The dry season in the region is usually broken by a shift of a large bank of clouds that normally hover over the nothern tip of Africa, and move south to bring rains. This shift is decreasing in frequency, resulting in more frequent droughts.
So this week is all about climate change, and it is all about us. Nobody appears to have much expectation of anything specific coming out of the Cancun conference - we'll see. We can be specific, however, about what we are doing, what Norwich is doing, and what Norfolk is doing.
On Wednesday, our guest blogger for the week, County Councillor Andrew Boswell, will be writing about his work on the County Council in the area of low carbon development. He will show how the County Council seems to be trying to pull in two different directions at the same time! ( does this sound familiar?). Andrew and I were colleagues for 4 years on the Council, and I can vouch for his huge commitment to this area, and his significant impact on the Council, helping to set up and chair the 'climate impact working group', amongst many other things.
So lets see if, this week, we can locally make some noise and take action, collectively or personally or both.
Pictures: top - the magnificent Odaiko drum made in Norwich by my taiko teacher, Alice Kemp-Welch
middle - Villagers in Mali
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