Act justly: be part of the solution of the climate change challenge

Author: Julian Bryant

Published on: 1 March 2017

When I visited a remote village in the Amazonian rainforest in Bolivia and asked people about climate change they said, ‘We don’t need anyone to tell us the climate is changing. We see it for ourselves. The seasons and weather are changing. We suffer more floods and droughts than we did before.’

A few days later I visited a large city called La Paz and local people pointed out a mountain with some snow on its peak. The snow is vanishing as the climate gets warmer and this is reducing the city’s water supply.

This week I received this message from La Paz, ‘We are experiencing what is said to be the worst drought in 25 years. Residents are currently receiving rationed water every two to three days, but there are some areas that have not had water for over a week. Tensions are rising as temperatures soar and the little water that is available is orange in colour and contaminated.’

Millions of the poorest people in our world are feeling the impact of climate change which exacerbates problems that may already exist. They are suffering the most from its consequences: hunger, drought, floods, diminished fish stocks and more extreme weather events, and yet they are the least to blame for causing it.

It is tempting to think that ‘this is just too much – what can we do?’ Christian Aid works with communities to help them adapt to a changing climate.

Churches in Norfolk and Waveney have been supporting our work in Kenya and helping people like Rodah. Each year Rodah tried to grow vegetables on a small plot of dry land and walked a gruelling six miles, carrying back heavy containers of water, just to keep her crops alive. The harvest was never enough.

Working with the Anglican Church in Kenya, we helped the community to build a sand dam and distributed drought resistant seeds, and through sharing new farming techniques the community learned how to make the water they do have go further. The sand dam collects water under the surface of a dry river bed and it is then pumped out.

Now Rodah has the precious water she needs to nurture her land and she’s even able to provide casual work for her neighbours – helping her entire community to thrive.

We work in many other ways to enable lots of communities to adapt to climate change and we are grateful for all those who give towards this work. Solar panels have been brought in for isolated communities, radio warning systems for emergencies, water filtration units, storm resistant housing, knowledge and training and much more.

This brings change and life to people living in poverty but it is not enough to tackle climate change itself. We also need to address the causes of climate change. What is our Government doing and how can we work to ensure their commitments are followed through? What energy suppliers are our churches using? How do our buying habits impact the environment? What does our pension scheme invest in?

As well as giving and praying, perhaps we also need to start learning about what we can do to make the world a better place for people in need. And campaign to make a difference. More than ever we need the church to be a prophetic voice, challenging the unjust systems that make people’s lives so hard – including the causes of climate change.

In the words of Kenyan theologian Jesse Mugambi, ‘In the long term, the rich and powerful will do more justice to the poor and the powerless if they live up to the prophetic challenge of Micah 6:6-8, both at home and abroad, in all spheres of life, including ecological rehabilitation locally and globally.’

‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

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