ABOUT a fortnight ago I was a guest at Adam Simbeye’s THIS WEEK IN PERSPECTIVE weekly edition on TBC One, where some of the issues up for discussion involved the level of understanding of today’s critical environmental concerns among our people.
Do our people, for instance, the grandma sitting next to you at the family dinner table, understand what the experts talk about?
My take on that is a positive, unequivocal ‘Yes” because they do, and have always done it better than our so-called experts, especially when it comes to explaining what the experts make out to sound so complex.
I derive the most striking evidence of that from two stories, the first from West Africa, and the other from the continent’s south in Zimbabwe: “When I was a girl there were many fruits to be gathered.
We kept a third for our own consumption, and sold the remainder in town; we would take the fruits and the leaves without jeopardising the life of the tree. Now these trees are rare and you have to go a long way to find them.
“We used to collect firewood from trees which had died naturally. Now there aren’t any. We have to go a long way, to cut a living shrub and leave it to dry out for days or weeks before we can use it for our fires. It is for lack of other produce that I sell wood, because at least I am sure that it will be bought and that I will have enough money to provide for my needs.”
That was Rasmata, a Burkinabe village woman, responding to a nosy newswoman who asked her why she was chopping down trees knowing that would lead to desertification. “What can I do,” Rasmata had retorted, before she launched on the historical perspective.
Like her, an elder in southern Zimbabwe, once described soil erosion in embarrassingly simple terms: “If I fell off my stool, I might get bruised, but if I fell from the top of my hut, I will break my neck.”
Indeed, rainfall may dislodge small specks of soil gradually, but as the gathering flow picks momentum, it lodges ever more and greater quantities of soil downstream. These are the people we often choose to ignore in our so-called development discourse.
Yet it’s not just the dry lands but also what we call our marine resources that are now telling the difference as we humans wrought a path of negative change on the living environment that, in turn, is defining what we call climate change – which others still deny is ever happening.
“Today, as we snorkeled, I noticed the lobster buoys were farther out,” recalls a swimmer in the United States. “Curious as to why, I later asked a commercial fisherman friend from Gloucester.
He surmised that striped bass, which had returned to Massachusetts and Maine in the ensuing decades, were hammering molting lobster in the shadows. He was only partly right.
“Lobsters are moving to deeper, colder water, part of a larger migration that’s seeing them head offshore and farther north with each passing year.
In three days, Jake and I didn’t spot a single lobster in the same rock gardens where I would frequently corner them as late as the early 1990s.
“As for the stripers, they were always around Scituate for a few weeks in high summer, but now they’re common most of summer. They too are migrating north from the warm Mid-Atlantic shorelines where they spawn.
“It’s estimated that striped bass have increased their numbers by 300 per cent off eastern Canada, where they’re now competing with Atlantic salmon.
Just past the Rocky Beach shorebreak last summer, Jake and I rolled on our backs at the bottom and watched as wolf-pack-size schools of stripers marauded the shallows above us in a flash of silver bolts.”
In the words of our swimmer, this is the “…sign of both Ocean healths—rapid adaptation— and the challenges species face as habitat changes and newcomers arrive ready to fill vacuums. It’s humans that lag.”
Indeed, these aren’t just empty ‘horror’ stories told by starry-eyed environmentalists out to justify another global conference on the ‘world’s threatened coral reefs’.
It’s now being estimated that climate change and fish migrations will cut global fishing revenues by $10 billion by 2050.
“Simply walk up and glance at the ocean like a tourist, though, and it’s easy to believe nothing has changed, which is often the case with recognizing climate change elsewhere in the world. “We have to pause and reflect…
“In the late 1980s, just as human-caused climate change was first being registered, I was skiing corn snow in the Colorado Rockies.
Today, winter is shorter by two weeks, and the corn cycle, which requires warm days and cold nights for the freeze/thaw to transform the snowpack, is far less dependable.”
We all have stories to tell in witness to climate change … like Rasmata in Burkina Faso and the swimmer in the Colorado Rockies… where they now “see fewer cold nights in March and April.”
You can’t tell from a distance,” the swimmer says, and counsels us further: “You have to experience it up close.” Once there, it becomes clear we’re losing out on climate change.
Time to act.
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