It was good to read Dave Waltham’s column in which he states "around 40 local councils across the UK (and approaching 400 world-wide) have now declared a climate emergency as a result of pressure from grass-root movements increasingly frustrated by the inadequate actions of national governments”. And Wiltshire Council has become one of these.
While the impact of climate change is largely only noticeable to us here in Wiltshire through changes in weather patterns, the impact of our behaviour in the 'North' in terms of our emissions causing climate change, is devastating in countries in the 'South' (so-called developing countries).
Marlborough’s 37-year link with Gunjur in The Gambia has provided opportunities for students from the UK to undertake research in a number of areas - while they enhance their careers.
In August 2015 Alice Jones, a student of Geography at Newnham College, Cambridge and Tanglewest Douglas, a sixth form student from Magdalen School Oxford, spent two weeks researching people's perceptions of climate change at community level in Gunjur, at Gambian Government and civil society level, and also by questioning participants at an International Conference on climate change held at the British Embassy.
Amongst their findings were people's clear views that:
- An increasingly unpredictable rainy season is leading to a detrimental effect on food production in the country, especially rice. This brings a corresponding dependency on expensive and often unaffordable imported rice whose importation is itself is contributing to climate change
- The reduction in the flow of water down The Gambia river which rises in Guinea and flows through Senegal before reaching The Gambia - coupled with rising sea levels - has meant that salination from the sea has flowed a further 50 miles upstream. This is making the water unsuitable for irrigating rice and vegetables - hence the reduced food production.
- Changes to the rains are causing both drought and flash flooding.
- Increasing sea levels have been observed affecting the low-lying country, resulting in current and potential future damage. The effects of sea level rise are perceived to be focused in Banjul, the capital city, as well as the beaches at tourist destinations. The seasonal tourist industry is estimated to make up 20 - 25 per cent of the country's GDP.
- The local residents of Gunjur noted the most significant impact on fauna is on livestock malnutrition. But it also brings a positive impact on the mosquito population causing a reduction in the incidence of malaria. Additionally, the loss of fauna through climate change is observed to have a potential impact on the biodiversity of the country
- The Gambia's Poverty Reduction Strategy has generally aligned with the Millennium Development Goals and the impact of climate change has slowly and actively prevented the successful achievement of these goals. This includes slowing the reduction of child poverty, as well as making it less likely that the goal to reduce disease can be achieved.
While climate change is clearly a) a reality and b) induced largely by the behaviour of us 'northerners' in China, India, Europeand America it is essential that we keep reminding ourselves of the impact that it is having on our fellow human beings in less industrialised, poorer 'southern' countries.
It is clear that it is also contributing to migration from the worst affected countries.
12 March 2019