12 September, 2011

Journalism Fratenity talks Climate Change and Sustainable Development

BY: Nqobile (Buthelezi) Sibisi

How can journalists and journalism academia play an active role in ensuiring sustainable development in Africa? What are the many facets of sustainable development in Africa and have they been properly debated in terms of how we as the media, working with civil society, government and business can form a fratenity to ensure its mandate? How are we as the media framing the agenda on climate change and on whose terms? How is the media forming relations with the sciences industry in the fight to curb climate change and ensure food security?...

These are just few of the questions that will be asked in this year's Highway Africa Conference in Cape Town. The theme this year is African Media and the Global Sustainability Challenge. With the recent scourge of drought in East Africa resulting to the shocking poverty level in Somalia to the changing weather pattern in South Africa, this conference couldn't have been more timely! Africa needs to ask itself; what is its current status; what needs to be done to effect change and what promise do today's decisions offer to the future of its children?

These are pertinent issues which I am afraid might serve no interest to most of youth in South Africa. Julius Malema and the hate speech trial is a more jucy engagement for some. Though I am not taking away anything from the importance and relevance of this particular story and many of its counterparts; I believe South African politics must realy now delve into the issues which will ensure our survival and that of the contintent apart from party squables, seeing that we take the lead in affecting direction in the mother land.

Simple lines from Paul Valley in 2008 predicted that Africa would be most hit by the effects of climate change. "Emerging analysis seen by the Stern Review into the economic impact of climate change suggests one of the worst affected places on the planet will also be the poorest," he said then. Five years down the line, Africa has begun to see climate changes adding frustrations to this already challenged land, resulting to more human suffering.

Just this winter, South Africa experienced heavy rainfalls resulting to floods and loss of homes, depriving the poorest of South Africans the much needed warmth amidst the increasing chill of winter and heavy snowfall! One might ask of the broader impact of climate change in the country and why they should be bothered. The Department of Environment Affairs' new climate change webpage has summarised the effects of climate change in South Africa, saying:

"...recent studies for the 'Country Studies Project' predict that climate change will cause mean temperature increases in the range of between 1oC and 3oC by the mid 21st century, with the highest increases in the most arid parts of the country. A broad reduction of rainfall in the range 5% - 10% has been predicted for the summer rainfall region. This is likely to be accompanied by an increased incidence of both drought and floods, with prolonged dry spells being followed by intense storms. A marginal increase in early winter rainfall is predicted for the winter rainfall region of the country. A rise in sea level is also predicted - perhaps by as much as 0.9m by 2100."

In lay men's terms, we should expect more droughts, followed by floods, storms and winter rainfalls, to name a few.The question to ask though is how all this change affecte economic development in Africa? The simple answer is that alike nature, the man-made lifecyle follows a parten of cause and effect. Climate change will most definately affect our economies, causing much unneeded 'vulnerability'. Humans would then need to adapt as a society, the 'adaptation' thereof beeing implemented through the policity put into effect by governments as a response to climate change and its conteraction thereof.

An example of a vulnerabilty cycles would be: drought-flooding thenafter-hault in maze production-no mealie meal-poverty for low income families-death of children-generations gap which would result to a gap in the economic production sytems as it would have no workers of a particular age-drop in production-South Africa unable to export and trade with other countries-no income-borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-the country runs into det-....the cycle goes on into other sectors. In the end, the country is poor, unable to fend for itself, having to borrow funds which it cannot reimburse, leading to disaster! I dare not mention here the diseases that will follow from the fluctuating temperatures, including: high blood pressure, dehydration, malaria and cholera to name a few.

This was just a scenario, but the question is what key decision makers will do about it. A pact must be made, definately, between:
1. The climate change research body of scientist currently mapping out the situation on ground and grass root levels- coming up with solutions of how this challenge can be reduced and curbed,
2. The media who will disseminate this information to the masses- informing about risks, vulnerability and responsibility for each citizen to play part
3. Government who will then implement policy to ensure businesses are responsible about their carbon emmissions and held accountable
4. Civil society who will have the citizenry's best interest at heart, putting to task all offenders to stay true to the climate change code.

What is your take?

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