Climate Change: An Earth Day Reality
Imagine this, you rise up early in the morning, before the sun and begin to prepare your day. As the main provider for your family, you strap your newborn onto your back, grab your basket and immediately go out to gather food. Perhaps you live in the rural areas of Accra and you work as a Kayayei (female porter or a carrier of loads; burden bearers). You risk your life daily for a few Cedis in hopes to feed your family. Women across the globe are forced into extreme, vulnerable conditions risking their lives trying to live. Abject poverty is their existence that is constantly under attack and one reason is climate change and all that is associated with it.
Climate is the observation and study of trends in atmospheric conditions measured over decades, centuries, or even longer. An example of weather is when we reference how cold, or hot it feels outside; temperature, and whether it’s rainy, foggy, snowy and the like. Observation of weather is typically based on short-term, present or soon coming conditions. Climate, however, is studying weather conditions and anticipating what to expect based on predictable, historical tendencies. Climate helps us determine when to plant, what to plant, and where to plant due to historic climate patterns over a period of time, over a period of seasons, and for many years. The problem has been this, over the past 20 years, or more, throughout the planet, we’ve seen extreme and difficult to predict weather conditions. These patterns have been so severe that the results have created environmental hardship in every area throughout the world. No place is exempt, which means those already subject to life-threatening, environmental vulnerabilities, are at even greater risks.
The catalyst behind climate change is known as the “Greenhouse Effect” or GHG. The major culprits associated with GHG are carbon dioxide and methane gases. For now, this is the mini-lesson on climate change. Oh, and for the record, it does exist, meaning, it is definitely real. Scientists who’ve been studying the impacts of GHG for decades report that humans contribute to climate behavior changes through massive population growth. Growth in population means growth in consumption of natural resources and accelerated depletion. As these numbers have been rapidly increasing over the past 150 yrs., the adverse environmental impacts have been increasing just as swiftly.
So, going back to our scenario, most developing nations are already dealing with a marginalized population replete with a scarcity of food, water, housing, education, medical care etc. not to mention corrupt governmental officials. Climate change is creating an even unimaginable adversity. Common in most households are the women being the primary wage earner and provider. Young girls and women risk their lives to fetch water, (often highly contaminated with animal and human feces and diseases), and food, as well as find work. These women and children are vulnerable to human trafficking, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and labor trafficking. Their quality of life is a crisis of life.
Why climate change? Why discuss the affects of climate change on developing countries? Because as we wind down from our Earth Day activities, it’s vitally important to remember that our community is larger than a few city blocks. It’s important to remember that a lot of our food source, our clothing, our coffee, our exotic fruit, come from those I’ve just described.
Earth Day is every day. In some form or fashion, we should think about how we handle things we come in contact with all the time. Things like plastic. We consume tons of plastics and improperly dispose of it as well. As a result, our food supply is threatened by it, and those who rely on fish and seafood for their major food source run the risk of untreatable diseases due to the vast consumption of plastics. How many plastic bottles of water do we use? How often do we toss these bottles and not recycle them? Unfortunately, there are some elements found in plastic bottles that are not recyclable. So, the question becomes, what’s my alternative to using bottled water? Plastic is just one of many contributors to GHG. Monitoring our personal carbon footprint is a way of reducing GHG. Choosing to reduce the use of electricity and reduce eating meat (yep... meat) help reduce GHG. Purchasing environmental friendly appliances, computers and other electronics help. Using less paper and as mentioned, plastic, and deliberately look for personal items that are environmentally safe indirectly helps our sisters in Ghana and other countries around the world.
The decisions we make here in the U.S. to reduce our carbon footprint can help developing countries become more climate resilient. Our collective daily efforts to improve our own quality of life can help improve their quality of life, little by little.
Change begins with a decision and it happens with execution. What we do matter. Here’s a website that offers a free carbon footprint calculator, https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator1.html
As long as you start, that’s half the battle. I hope you enjoyed Earth Day, and more importantly, I hope that every day will be Earth Day for you!
Blessings! E. Michelle Mickens, DSL, CEO, Live 4 Change, LLC
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 Robertson, M, 2014, Sustainability Principles and Practices.