Will world leaders agree on a plan to address global climate change? The question doesn’t yet have an answer. This week at the United Nations, Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai delivered a message to the heads of state assembled on behalf of civil society organizations across the globe. In her statement Maathai said that the realities of climate change are evident – “as erratic fires in California, devastating floods in Bangladesh, and West Africa or melting polar ice…” and called on the leaders, on behalf of their peoples, to “secure a fair, ambitious and binding deal.” Ten million people, Maathai added, are in need of food aid in Kenya, the result of intense drought and inadequate government policies. Such a situation may well signal the climate future for many countries and communities. Will the world’s leaders wake up to this in time? Will they heed the calls, and the science?
Kenya’s current straits could have been avoided. For years, Maathai’s warned about the perilous consequences of Kenya’s rampant forest destruction. Forests capture carbon, helping slow global warming. They also serve as “water towers,” regulating rainfall and ensuring that rivers don’t run dry. But now many rivers are dry. Children and the elderly have begun dying and wildlife is, too. Finally, the politicians are focusing on protecting the Mau forest in particular. But it’s late and the climate’s changing. Will they act? The question hangs there in Kenya, as it does in the wider world.