The Environment Affects All of Us

This winter might just be our coldest yet. Unlike in other years, the change from the balmy warm summer into the biting cold of the month that invites us to stay home, in its very name, Seetebosigo, this year’s transition was like the sharp cut of a well sharpened knife.

We went straight from the blazing heat to the great need for heaters, with a cold front coming in from Cape Town, which brought with it the rudest announcement that the seasons had changed and we are now in the midst of winter.

The summer we just came out of was moody, but hot in the ways the sun played touch with our faces. Most nights were sweat drenching furnaces, a happy place for flies and mosquitoes.

The fields would quickly ready the harvest and almost immediately, it would be burnt brown, with little to offer but dried up maize cobs, wilted bean leaves and tired sorghum heads.

The rains came in late, but they filled up the rivers. The drought came to an end. The Okavango river which had, in the preceding year, become the desolate place where elephants and hippos were dying in their numbers, from the low water levels, had come alive again.

I wonder if we realised that all these changes were signals of a hurt environment, in need of an overhaul. In 2020 alone, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared 15 species of animals extinct.

In 2019, when thousands of animal species were lost, 24 species were declared extinct. It is estimated that by 2050, more than one million species will be extinct, amongst them, 50% of all animals on the continent of Africa. Rhinos, gorillas, cheetahs, pangolins, chimpanzees are included in these. Most of the anticipated extinctions will be caused by climate change, destruction of the natural habitat and illegal hunting.

The environment seems a strange topic to many Batswana today, and yet we are literally fully dependent on it.

We have become accustomed to a world that is almost completely man-made, and have normalised behaviours which are harmful to the world around us, including the animals, plants and other life which exist on this earth.

Human beings are inherently a species which takes and takes but hardly ever gives back. That is why we find ourselves in a world today that needs healing from the trauma we have caused it.

In reality, even though it is our collective responsibility to ensure the protection of our environment, the depletion of the ecosystem has resulted in the deepened inequalities we find in our society today, which cause great poverty in the majority.

Although the world itself is under threat, to a great extent, considerations of the environment are made to seem like a luxury afforded to few. In Botswana, a largely agrarian country, climate change directly affects crop yields and therefore has a bearing on food security, water scarcity and even hunger. Women, being the poorest are the most affected constituency, placing them at greater risk of forced migration, exploitation, abuse and sexualised violence in the pervasive and deeply inequal ways climate change effects are being shaped. Like many African countries, our post-colonial economy has greatly burdened the earth, and was heavily reliant on diamond mining.

This unhealthy reliance on the mining not only exploits working class men, but in so doing, depends on the unpaid reproductive and care work of women, while excluding caretakers of land from the decision-making spaces, where land use is decided on.

These systems are organised around the large-scale exploitation of nature. Nature supports the necessary infrastructure that supports life on earth and human development.

The continued abuse of it not only threatens plants, animals and birds, it also greatly threatens human existence on earth. Unfortunately, as climate change continues to intensify, women will continue to struggle the most, according them less access to basic human rights, including the ability to freely acquire land.

The same gender inequality, which impacts women to a larger extent than men, also greatly hampers women’s capacity as well as their potential to be actors in climate change.

Veronal Collantes an intergovernmental specialist observes, “these gender inequalities - access to and control over resources, access to education and information, and equal rights and access to decision-making processes - define what women and men can do and cannot do in a particular context of climate change.” No. Women are not merely helpless victims.

In many communities, women are imagining alternative communities which are focused on sustainability and cooperation, and championing clean sources of energy.

Women’s leadership as well as their participation can tend to have a transformative effect on their societies. It is important that women in Botswana seize the opportunities available to reimagine their communities and build them towards sustainability, especially in times like the present where there is great uncertainty and power and the economy are wavering.

Climate change is an intense human rights problem, calling for urgent and immediate action. It is said that the best time to start caring is yesterday; and that the next best time is NOW. This one is our responsibility. Emang Basadi!

Editor's Comment
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