Keeping Faith When All Hope Is Lost

Willemien Calitz | December 10, 2011.

Dear Minister Mashabane This morning a Namibian radio station, Kosmos Radio, phoned me to ask how the negotiations were going. “Any news?” they asked excitedly. No, I thought. At least not any good news. I thought about desert – like Namibia and how she is being impacted by climate change. Less water, food insecurity, and insufficient infrastructure to deal with extreme weather events. A similar fate most countries across the continent are suffering. “The negotiations are going well, even though Russia, Japan and Canada might pull out of the Kyoto Protocol and the US doesn’t plan on ratifying the protocol. We are very excited to see the new ideas China are bringing to the table, and the negotiations aren’t over, so anything can still happen,” I said. I chose to offer the Namibians hope, even though I’ve been feeling uneasy all week about what will come of COP17 today. Minister Mashabane, I am asking you to be honest with us. Is there still hope? If there is no second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, what can we hope for? As a young South African woman I am concerned about the impact of climate change on my life, and the lives of my friends and family. South Africa is a water-scarce country. Climate change is responsible for the decline of the few fresh water resources that we have. 85 per cent of the country relies on agriculture – we can’t provide food without water. Within the next twenty years when climate change is at its worst we will barely be able to feed our own people. Only the rich will be able to afford moving to areas with natural resources. The poor will suffer, and possibly die. All the ‘development’ in my South Africa is nothing without food and water. Do the negotiators grasp that they are leaving us with a mess? Every facet of our lives will be affected by climate change. The science has warned us that as things stand, the future will be catastrophic – conflict over water and land, mass migration and mass starvation. The contrast between our current way of living and the survival-of the future is stark. Traumatic to be precise. One of the very first ideas guardians teach children is to trust. We have always put our trust in ministers, governments and negotiators. They have, unfortunately, repeatedly disappointed us. Let’s be frank, someone up there doesn’t care about us. Whether a group or an individual, someone among the negotiators is not concerned about the future I’m faced with. Ms Mashabane why are you not responding. I can’t report back to my community that the ‘African COP’ doesn’t provide us with the best possible deal. We ask that you give us a glimmer of hope at this COP17. Give us climate justice. Not just because we are entitled to it, but because we can simply not survive without it.

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