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Addis Ababa’s weather has changed dramatically, even in my lifetime. Now when it is raining, it’s a deluge and when the sun comes out, it is quite severe. As my job entails travelling to the various quarters of the city, complaining about the burning sun has become somewhat a routine for me.
Climate change is a phenomenon that is rarely disputed these days. The issue is discussed over and over on international stages, documentary films about how the earth is getting warmer, how ice glaciers are melting and how polar bears are dying out because of it. Conference after conference, and discussion after discussion is being held, all focused on how to confront the problem.
Addis Ababa is a congested city that is ever expanding. Although it may not be visible to us, this city is has become polluted in a very significant way. Are you interested in seeing if this is actually true? I suggest you wake up around 6:30 am in the morning and look at the distant sky; it looks like everybody in the city spent the night burning plastic.
One of the many ways to combat climate change is through reforestation. The developed world has learned the importance of having green areas in cities. Besides bringing beauty, these green spaces are what breathe life into an environment.
Unfortunately, it seems like individually we can’t, or do not want, to plant a single tree if our lives depended on it. Of course, efforts have been made by the city administration to nurture green areas in different parts of the city. Many trees have been planted alongside sidewalks, except that they don’t live long enough to contribute to anything. Most of these plants aren’t really taken care of by the city and its residents. As a developing country where poverty still prevails, lack of respect for nature seems to come to us rather naturally!
A more general view is that lack of respect for nature in the first place is what brought about the inconvenient truth, and that is, through all the inconsiderate things we have been doing to this planet because of greed and corruption along with a high degree of stupidity, we have certainly brought about the devastation wreaked by climate change upon ourselves.
If history or human nature has taught us anything, it is that we only tend to respond to problems when it hits close to home. Unless we witness some sort of proof that climate change will become the end of us, or unless we are confronted by a loss that can directly be traced back to it, we prefer to ignore the dire signs.
Climate change is a very long and slow process. In the old days, the effects of climate change were not obvious and there was no mechanism to measure the Earth’s temperature or all the other changes.
One of the many problems when it comes to solving, or trying to solve the problem, is that developing countries do not have the capacity to switch to sustainable, green or environment-friendly technologies because they are poor, and chances are they will remain poor for years to come.
In Ethiopia for example, we will continue to destroy the environment by cutting down trees, strewing rubbish like all kinds of plastic around and doing all the things that are considered hazardous to the environment. We do most of these things because, either we are not capable of seeing its disastrous consequences, or because there are no other options.
Through all this though, when it seems all hands are tied, there is always a better way of doing things; that’s just the way it is. Even as a developing country where poverty is rampant, there is still a better way of doing things, and there are better choices.
‘What are these choices?’ you may ask. For starters, let’s not abuse the trees planted on sidewalks! Let’s mind how we perceive the environment; it is not just a place where we can take a big old dump and it does not respond. There needs to be a relationship between people and environment, and this relationship needs to be based on respect and mutual benefit; it needs to be a ‘give and take’ situation.
The environment is very tolerant; mostly it finds ways to revive and rejuvenate itself after the destructions brought upon it by the human race. But like many other things, including people, it can only take so much; it will start to retaliate in a harsh way. One of the ways it does this is through climate change.
All is not lost; if we do not ignore the smallest things, then there is still an opportunity to make things right again