Think of Nepal, and I think of snow and mountains. Think of Malawi, and it’s hot sun and exotic fruit like mangoes.
I’d be right on both counts but what I didn’t know was that these two distinctive nations have something in common. It’s not something to be proud of but it is something to shout about – the devastating effects of climate change.
(Handmade Fair Trade hat from Pachamama, Nepal)
Farmers, and indeed people involved in other occupations as well, are increasingly suffering from the same things in both countries – unpredictable weather patterns which make it even harder than it was before to bring crops to harvest, whether we’re talking about drought or flood.
In Nepal, drought may cause the watermills, which generate electricity, to stop working, so safe water becomes scarce, and that in turn leads to disease.
In Malawi, flooding may sweep debris into the all-important Lake Malawi and cause pollution, as well as destroying people’s homes.
The Nepalese are seeing less snow cover at higher altitudes, which affects biodiversity. People who never before have seen snakes or mosquitoes, or had any reason to understand the dangers they present, are now having to deal with these pests which have the potential to cause great harm to human life.
In a desperate effort to survive, Malawian parents may take their children out of school to work on the land – when the weather conditions suddenly become favourable for planting or harvesting.
Wildfires have become much more prevalent in Nepal, increasing air pollution.
Hunger in Malawi, caused by crops failing (one woman used to regularly harvest 5 bags of maize but is now lucky if she gets 2) is leading to an increase in diabetes and other nutrition-related health problems.
Of course these are just a few examples, gleaned from a recent webinar organised by the Faith Impact Forum and Christian Aid, who are collaborating in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow in November. The speakers included Joel Hafvenstein, a Mission Partner working with the United Mission to Nepal and Gary Brough also a Mission Partner, working the Church and Society Programme in Mzuzu, Malawi.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Both organisations are doing what they can to combat the effects of the climate crisis, such as introducing new crops, or new varieties of crops. But as Martin Johnstone (Glasgow Churches Together COP26 Ambassador) said in his presentation on the same webinar, we can all play our part, by cutting our own carbon emissions and making sure we are on a green tariff for our electricity supply.
Eco-Congregation Scotland and Christian Aid have lots of ideas for action, from the individual to the corporate. And we can pray: holding national leaders in prayer, that they will make bold decisions to make the world “just and green” sooner rather than later (before it’s too late).
Having only recently sat down to try and educate myself about the climate crisis, I say “Hats off” in appreciation to those who have sung the song of the prophets and showed the rest of us what needs to be done.