Climate and other trauma in Africa and Washington

Even Africans living in isolated village know that the climate is changing.  Yet so many rich and powerful people in the US deny climate change.  How can they be so blind?  Maybe they are blind just because they are so rich. So rich that they live isolated in climate controlled buildings like Trump Tower. How would they know about a changing climate. The climate in the buildings where they stay is the same the year round.  Maybe they need to live without electricity and grow their own food, as they do in Kasisi village.

DSCN7892To get to Kasisi village in Malawi, you first go to Chickwawa.  Though it’s pronounced a lot like Chihuahua, I never saw any dogs in the village.  Plenty of goats and cattle, a few hogs and lots of children, but no dogs.

In Chikhwawa, take the first paved road going North and go to the end of the paved road.  There you’ll see a sign pointing to the Majete Wildlife Reserve.  Take my advice and head toward the reserve.  We didn’t when we first arrived and had to traverse several stream beds and miles of rutted road before we reached the village.  The road to the reserve actually has bridges across the streams and rivers.  After about 7 kilometers you’ll see the sign for Kasisi.

The sign points toward the Chief’s residence and the catholic church, but doesn’t mention the Mtadeya Cooperative. That’s the group I’ve come to work with.  They need help in business planning.  Part of any good business plan is SWOT Analysis.  This covers the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to the business.

Chief among the Threats noted by this cooperative is climate change or “kusindha kwa nyengo” in the local Chichewa language.

They experienced the worst drought in years last year. Maize, their staple crop, didn’t produce much of anything.  Malawians survived only because donors from the US and Europe provided enough for them to eat.  Many Europeans and Americans love to help Malawi.  It’s a peaceful country with warm-hearted people.  And it’s among the poorest in Africa.  So hundreds of charities have flocked to the country.

You’ll see signs everywhere in the capitol, Lilongwe, pointing to the offices of Western agencies providing food, technical assistance, health care and other relief.  On the roads heading out of town, the fanciest vehicles all are decorated with the insignia of aid agencies.  Signs along the roads point to innumerable aid projects.

My least favorite on this trip was the “Gender-sensitive, community-based disaster mitigation project”. These are the buzzwords that relief agencies have to address if they are to attract funding nowadays.  Any project which puts the current buzz words in its title is likely focused more on the fads of donors than the needs of people—much less on the underlying causes of poverty.

Climate change is also a fashionable buzzword which leads people astray from root causes. Climate change is just one of many disturbances that afflict systems all over the world.  Resilience is the ability to withstand, adapt and evolve in the face of disturbance.  That’s not to say climate change isn’t real.  What isn’t real is the hype associated with any buzzword, trend or fad.

Climate change is no different from innumerable disturbances that all human and ecological systems must cope with. Resilient systems cope with them in the same way they always have: through conservative innovation, being connected but self-organized, accumulating physical assets and complementary diversity.

These are the tried and true qualities of resilient systems—those which have survived much worse disturbances than our current climate change or even the Trump election.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s