WE once used to joke about climate change because any talk of a change in the air sounded so remote, ever so distant. It also elicited a lot of cynicism, with an American senator saying all that could happen is change people’s lifestyles.
We would have fish where once we used to grow rice, they argued, rather lightly. But it didn’t take long before the Americans themselves started suffering the adverse effects of climate change at home. The hailstorms now ravaging homes across the Americas are just a harbinger of worse things to come.
At home, the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has sounded the warning shots that some species of wildlife – black rhinos, gorillas and wild dogs among them – are in danger of extinction, citing effects of climate change and human acts as the main cause.
Yes, at the centre of it all are humans who play a crucial role in climate change: we’re not just the cause and victims of climate change but also key players in bringing about its mitigation measures.
There were lots of uncertainties when debate on climate change began in earnest during the mid1980s, and the key question then was: How could we tell climate changes one hundred years down the road when we do not even know how warm’ the next Sunday would be? But as policymakers made lukewarm attempts at addressing the issue, the signs of a warmer climate were manifesting themselves locally.
Whether we believe it or not, Dar es Salaam itself is a sinking city. Across the Kigamboni Creek, for instance, the first port of call used by Arab traders on their way to Bagamoyo is now one hundred metres into the sea; and there many such landmarks across the coastline, including choice hotel facilities which have gone under within the past three or four decades.
True, there is precious little we can do to stop Planet Earth from warming up globally, but there are quite a few things we could do locally. We could, for one, work together to stop the ongoing plunder of coastal forestry, notably the mangroves of the Rufiji Delta.
Indeed, overall conservation of our wetlands would go a long way to minimizing localized effects of climate change. We could also act to curb dynamite fishing, if not stop it altogether, and help reduce coastal erosion in the process.
These things may seem small but they certainly add up, just like small positive acts bring about major social changes. In a word, we can change the world in our own small ways. To state the obvious, even the huge deserts we see today were once fertile farmlands now reduced to moving sands.
They all started as small ‘dots’ of parched land, then slowly one dot joined another to form a bigger ‘desertified’ plot in the midst of fertile land. That proves just one thing: if we can cause it, we can just as well reverse it.