Climate justice youth caravan heads for South Africa

By Fredrick Nzwili
Posted Nov 8, 2011

[Ecumenical News International — Nairobi, Kenya] About 200 young people traveling in a caravan of buses left Nairobi on Nov. 7 to promote action on climate change. Their two-week trip, punctuated with music, dance and drama and sponsored by faith-based and secular groups, will end in Durban, South Africa at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s conference called COP-17.

“Climate change requires a justice response. We cannot to afford to see it differently. It is not only an economic, but also a moral ethical issue. It needs a response that addresses the injustices it has caused so far,” Paul Mbole, Kenya country coordinator for Norwegian Church Aid, one of the supporting agencies, told ENInews at a launch event on Nov. 6.

The buses are carrying the slogan “We Have Faith: Act Now for Climate Justice.” The group is also maintaining a Facebook page and blog where updates will be posted of caravan activities. They plan to attend an interfaith rally in Durban on Nov. 27, said organizers.

COP-17 (which stands for 17th Conference of Parties) begins on Nov. 28 Reports say a rise in global temperatures, largely attributed to human action, has contributed to depleted water resources, soil erosion and reduced crop yields. Sponsors of the caravan have been mobilizing for more youth involvement to tackle the challenge, according to Mbole.

“So a way to turn the tide is get the young generation involved. More importantly, they are 70 percent of our [Africa’s] population and they need to be listened to,” he said. The young people are from Africa, Asia and Europe.

The caravan’s journey will wind through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, countries in which the youth will organize concerts to draw attention to impacts of climate change. Kenyan gospel rapper Juliani was part of the kickoff event.

Claire Morris, a Ph.D. student from the U.K. studying renewable energy and sustainability, said the caravan will collect voices of young people and others suffering the impact of climate change. “We are trying to educate our generation. We are trying to move the youth to a more sustainable future,” said Morris.

Jessia Margaret Gomes, an intern from the Young Women Christian Association in Bangladesh, said floods associated with climate change are creating refugees in her country. “Leaders must realize that the world is facing a great threat and a few years on, it may be hard to reverse the mistake. We have to fight it [climate change],” said Gomes.

The youth are looking for legally binding agreements which are internationally acceptable, according to Joshua Minai, a Kenyan member of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. The activists also want an extension of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement setting greenhouse-gas reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries.