Voices from Hopenhagen: Jeunesse Park

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Image credit: Hopenhagen
Editor's note: This guest post is written by Jeunesse Park, founder and CEO of Food and Trees for Africa.

Climate change is still such an abstract concept to so many people, although we all talk about the weather daily. It is often the first topic of conversation. Is this a vestige of memory from a time when we were intimately connected to the earth and her elements?If you think about it climate affects our lives intensely, since the very way we live, the food we eat and the way we feel, often depends on what the weather is doing. When I ask the residents of the townships of Alexandra or Soweto what they know of climate change, they say things like, "It does seem hotter, drier, more windy." But they do not sense the impending threats to their lives, or those of their children more likely, and even if they did, day to day survival now is difficult enough. Projection into the lives of future generations is not something that preoccupies them and sustainable development is thus not important.

This is a challenge in Africa where this applies to the majority of the population, and is a continent predicted to be hard hit by climate change.

One would hope that democratically elected governments, such as in South Africa, Africa's biggest economy, will take responsibility for caring for their people and the land and ensure a healthy future. Unfortunately as we head to Copenhagen it seems the South African government's position is that "we won't be dictated to by the developed world in terms of reductions." And, according to Africa wide Civil Society Climate Change Initiative, "Africa will not accept any delay by developed countries to deeply cut their greenhouse gas emissions and support for Africa to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change...Africa is the most vulnerable continent and has the right for full support to adapt to climate change." (21 October, Ethiopia)

South Africa ranks as the 12th largest carbon polluter on the planet—around 440 million tonnes a year—with one of the world's top three single most carbon intensive energy companies and the world's largest maker of motor fuels from coal. Moves to diversify the country's energy mix away from coal have been slow, yet carbon emissions reporting will soon be mandatory and non compliance will incur penalties, according to a recent statement from the Minister of Environment.

If first world governments go into COP15 with no intention of committing to the necessary reductions, despite the fact that their industrial actions over the last 150 years have catalysed the impact of climate change, and if developing nations stubbornly insist that they should be allowed the same exploitation and abuse of resources, another impasse looms. It's encouraging that grassroots movements are realizing their potency. But the groundswell must continue to grow and become more vociferous to the point that our leaders take note and respond with real action to limit the effects of climate change, leading us into a sustainable future.

jeunesse park photoJeunesse Park is the founder and CEO of Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA), South Africa's only national greening and food gardening NGO which promotes greening, sustainable natural resource use and management and food security, through three key programs: Trees for Homes, EduPlant, and the Urban Greening Forum.
Help turn Copenhagen into Hopenhagen at hopenhagen.org.

Tags: Alternative Energy | Carbon Emissions | Developing Nations

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