Friday, January 21, 2011

Dora Byamukama on The Truth and Consequences of Climate Change in Africa, and what we can do

image of globe featuring Africa front and center is from here
To listen to women of color globally means you get how interconnected the following are: economics, environmental issues, men's violence against women, racism, and heterosexism.

What follows is from New Vision Online, except the small photograph, which is from *here*. Please click on the title below to link back.

Climate change is upon us

By Dora Byamukama


IN the recent past, it was possible to predict with some degree of certainty when the wet and dry seasons were expected. This made it relatively easy for farmers to plan for planting, weeding and harvesting. Currently, the weather is less predictable. All this goes to show that there is climate change.

Changing weather patterns spell doom for humanity because this, among other things, contributes to food insecurity and negatively impacts on economies which heavily rely on agriculture such as most of those on the African continent.

Climate change is defined as a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in the average weather conditions or in the distribution of weather events with respect to an average, for example, greater or fewer extreme weather events.

There are various causes of climate change which include greenhouse gas emissions, such as those emitted by the manufacturing and construction sector; generation of electricity and heating and the transport sector. There is burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas to support the various sectors. This burning of fossil fuels greatly increases the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, trapping more of the sun's energy near the Earth's surface. In response, our planet is warming at an unprecedented rate and ecosystems such as forests and swamps are changing. Forests are steadily disappearing and swamps drying up.

Many nations have adopted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but a comprehensive and effective international climate treaty remains part of a continuing debate.

Solutions to dealing with the challenge of climate change include activities aimed at mitigation or at adaptation, among others. Mitigation is human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to renewable energy such as solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other 'sinks' to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

It should be noted that even the most effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would not prevent further climate change impacts thus making the need for adaptation unavoidable. Adaptation is a response to climate change that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change effects. It is acknowledged that even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilised relatively soon, climate change and its effects will last many years, and adaptation will be necessary.

Communities I visited, such as those living in the Nandi hills of Kenya and the Mt. Elgon region have undertaken activities that promote environmental protection and improve livelihoods. These include beekeeping in forests; manufacture of bio-gas from cow dung which supplies homes with light and cooking fuel. The same cow dung is used to revitalise soil fertility. Replication and multiplication of such activities at each household level has capacity to gradually positively impact on climate change.

At an individual level, actions that can make a difference to climate change include:

--Changes in the way we produce and use energy as a starting point in trying to reduce emissions. Each individual needs to be frugal and thus deploy energy conservation measures such as use of energy-saving devices such as bulbs and renewable energy such as solar and bio-fuels.

--Promote purchase of energy-efficient appliances and construction of houses that allow maximum use of natural light and better insulation;

--Make it a goal to plant at least five trees near your homestead and two when one is cut. Plant trees specifically for fuel systematically in order to avert depletion of forests. Plant different crops taking into account the changing seasons;

--Promote soil conservation and environmental protection by farming methods such as terracing; growing of organic plants and use organic waste in order to maintain soil fertility;

--Reduce use of private cars in inner cities in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars. Activities which have multiple benefits such as walking and biking should be encouraged;

--Support industries that adopt mechanisms to mitigate carbon emissions such as planting of trees and proper waste management;

--Prepare for floods and landslides by, for example, setting up dikes or planning for retreat from areas prone to such occurrences;

--Adhere to environmental protection laws and support enforcement of such laws by reporting practices that destroy the environment;

--Support enactment of laws such as that on inheritance of land by women who are the majority of land users and therefore have a stake in its preservation and conservation.

--At every opportunity create awareness about environmental change and action that one can take to avert self-destruction;

We should realise that use fossil fuels such as petrol, paraffin and charcoal create vast quantities of carbon dioxide, which in turn cause global warming and will thus lead to self-destruction.

You and I have a legal and moral duty to act now in order to avert imminent disaster. Plant a tree today for starters.

Anti-Globalisation Film: "The Economics of Happiness", with Dr. Vandana Shiva


If you watch the video below, note who "we" are considered to be. Are "we" Indigenous people who have been battling for economic and environmental self-sufficiency and survival for centuries? Genocide is a known cause of unhappiness. Are "we" women, across region, race, and ethnicity, who have been resisting and fighting to end patriarchal atrocities, known to cause unhappiness? If "we" didn't include Western middle-class white het men and concern for their happiness, would this film have been funded? I wonder. My guess is no.

Since Dr. Vandana Shiva is featured in this film, I'm promoting it.

What follows is cross-posted from the Huffington Post. Please click on the title to link back.

Catherine Ingram

Catherine Ingram

Posted: January 19, 2011 05:39 PM
What An Inconvenient Truth did for understanding climate change, a new film, The Economics of Happiness, is sure to do for understanding localization versus globalization. Even for those who are well versed in the negative effects of globalization, this film will further expose the systemic structures that drive the machine. But the film also offers hope in examples of the ways that localization could save us. I know of no other film that so clearly explains both of these divergent paths into the future.
Interspersed with interviews with some of the leading ecologists and thinkers of our time (Bill McKibben, David Korten, Vandana Shiva, Richard Heinberg, U.K. member of parliament Zac Goldsmith, and many others), the film chronicles a worldwide movement for localization that is underway.
But the first part of the film looks at what economic globalization has wrought. In sometimes heart-breaking imagery, the film exposes many of the effects of globalization; the ways that it destroys livelihoods and foments conflicts; the ways that people are forced off their lands, in many cases having those lands appropriated by governments doing the bidding of corporations. As Vandana Shiva, the renowned ecologist and physicist, says in the film, this process has driven 100,000 Indian farmers to suicide -- and this is just one tragic example of many.
One of the thorniest issues to understand is that of global trade, which is widely assumed to be beneficial, even in the most progressive circles. However, we see in the film the ways in which global trade is destroying the environment as countries routinely import and export massive quantities of identical products. For instance, the U.K. exports as much butter and milk as it imports. The U.S. exports about 900,000 tons of beef and veal and imports roughly the same quantities. All of this wasteful trade massively contributes to CO2 emissions and is only possible because our tax dollars go to trans-national corporations in the form of hidden subsidies.
Globalization also causes feelings of alienation. As we see in the film, young people in the less industrialized parts of the world are made to feel backward and inferior in contrast to the romanticized media images of the West. Even in the West, where marketing now targets children at earlier and earlier ages, the message is, you are not enough. You need the latest fashions, the latest technological devices, the perfect body and face to be someone. These pressures are linked to a worldwide epidemic of depression and psychological disorders.
But The Economics of Happiness, as one would surmise from its title, is not a picture of gloom. The film convincingly depicts the multiple benefits of localization. "It's not only a better way, it is inevitable," says filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge.
"As the price of energy escalates and as the global economy becomes even more destabilized, we will have no choice but to turn to each other. If we start now, instead of waiting for further collapse, we will have a better chance of building up more diversified and thriving local economies, and we will be happier for it."

Norberg Hodge and her organization, the International Society for Ecology and Culture, have been promoting localization for over three decades on every continent. These experiences have provided unique insights into the connection between well-being and a more localized life -- a life in which our basic needs are met closer to home.

"Localization is about connection," says Norberg-Hodge. "It is about re-establishing our interdependence with others as well as with the natural world around us. And this connection is fundamental to our very happiness." In the faltering cracks of the global economy, these are the real "green shoots" to be hopeful about.
The Economics of Happiness will be launched in public screenings in the U.S., Europe, and Asia throughout January and February. For more information:
Watch the trailer here: