by Alexei Laushkin
Over the last week I had the privilege and opportunity to learn from two men with powerful testimonies. Rev. Osborne, the general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malawi and Rev. Moses, the President of the Council of Churches of Zambia as they toured greater Washington to talk about the impacts of climate change on the least of these in both of their countries.
It was really a moving experience for me. Both shared countless personal stories about how people are being driven from the rural areas to the cities because of the inconsistencies of the harvest due to global warming. Global Warming pushes local climate patterns to their extremes.
There encounters with climate change were simply incredible. Moses, who is also a professor of development studies at a Christian theological seminary, talked about how this last year he had planted a second crop to help support his children in private school. He invested in corn. Under normal circumstances he would have planted in January and expected the crop to mature through March, where he would than harvest and sell in late April/June. He expected to make about $2,000 from the investment.
This year the rains did start in early January but stopped in mid February never to return. His crop was a total loss. Luckily he has another job from the seminary that helps him provide food for his family, but for many of his fellow Zambians the failure of crops this year meant that they had to be pushed to the extremes to survive.
For many of the rural poor that means moving into the city, where the current city infrastructure and jobs opportunities has no place for them. So the rural poor set up shanty towns and slums in the suburbs of the major cities and resort to drugs and prostitution to survive. These are the stories from churches on the front line of climate crisis.
Osborne told similar stories. Despite some agriculture reforms by the government, climate change is having a strong impact on the rural poor of Malawi. Osborne worked for over 15 years with World Vision International and is very familiar with local development programs; he spoke about that impact of Global Warming on Lake Malawi, where reduced rain fall is helping the Lake shrink to unprecedented levels. The shrinking waters have meant less fish for the local people to eat and increased droughts for the surrounding areas.
Both men were impressive in their understanding of the challenges that Africa faces. Countless times throughout their trip they spoke of the need for long term wealth creation, to help bring hope and a future for countless Africans who subsist off the land. My prayer is that we will have ears to listen and respond with the compassion that the circumstances demand.
In 2012, EEN will be sharing stories like those of Osborne and Moses, people who have experienced the impact of climate change in their own lives. We will also be releasing a series of videos to share their stories. The first from Moses & Osborne is available below.