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Humanity before Ethnicity

African Climate Change: A Call for Environmental Justice

African environmental justice is long overdue. Africans need global leadership and personal commitment to save their children. Not only talk, but action! It is not about the usual so-called 'global warming' debate but the erratic African climatic crisis induced by its detrimental effects.

The world’s climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark is convening to devise an international strategy on the issue the environmental crisis affecting global climate. Africa’s contribution is negligible compared with the Western nations, Japan and China. As such, Africa is a victim of the climatic extremes that threaten the life of innocent human beings and their environment. For too long, Africans arguably attributed the climate crisis to God’s wrath for our spiritual conditions and so on. But, now we have found out that our enemies are “we” on the other hemisphere. The culprits in Copenhagen will play the role of both defendant and judge at the same time. Africans have no choice but to stand and fight for their right to survive. They need to live like others. They believe they have God-given right to freely breathe unpolluted air. They do not want to be extinct like the dinosaurs. Thus, it now becomes a moral issue for the Western and industrialized nations to clean up their mess. You cannot kill someone and go back to your bed to sleep and snore. God will shake up your conscience if you have any. Some how, someway the Almighty God who created us equally from the dust but in His own image will execute His justice. Fighting for climate conservation is a just war. It is for the survival of the poorest and the weakest rather than the fittest.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi, who is a controversial figure with regards to his own government, represents the victimized 53 Africa nations and peoples. Nevertheless, the critical issue he is bringing to the table is far from being contentious. It is the very same issue that many international humanitarian organizations, national experts and individuals of bare common sense have been advocating for many decades. I am with the PM of Ethiopia on this burning issue as he debates this particular African dilemma.  All serious and sensible Africans and other good willed people around the world should rally around his plea before world leaders in Copenhagen.

I am not saying this as unconcerned by-stander. I opposed the massacre of trees for the European market consumption in 1980's in Mozambique where I worked as a forestry engineer. The government needed 'foreign currency' badly to feed its newly independent nation. Africans shipped raw logs of black ebony to Europe and Japan. Since the country could not afford reforestation, it only became just a little more than a talk rather than an alternative activity. 

As head of regional forestry and wildlife office, I had fought against the communist military government's land policy in 1970s, which contributed to further depletion of the virgin forest of Ethiopia. We managed to plant 11 million trees in the central region of Ethiopia before I moved to Mozambique. Later, I helped in some forestry development projects in Southern Africa.  One of the reasons I abandoned the profession was because of such onslaughts on the natural resources of Africa without due consideration to the consequences or future restoration.

Now about 30 years later, I am still weeping with the world over the spilt milk. While I praise the cooperation of the Prime Minister of Denmark, I challenge the resolute apathy of the culprits. They do not seem to be interested to rescue Africa after years of their unchecked exploitation. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, " Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere (paraphrased)". I can therefore, only agree with our late Emperor Haile Selassie, "God and history will judge" in due season if Africans mismanage God’s resources.

As a side note of caution, let me say to my fellow global environmental activists that no amount of monetary compensation can fully recover the loss. Such environmental iniquity and irresponsible stewardship should humble them before the enlightened world. Since monetary award to corrupt African governments will only aggravate the situation, I would suggest that an international committee of legal, environmental and ethical experts be formed to devise a strategy to recoup the damage, manage and conserve the environment, fund reforestation of indigenous species, pay for training, research, sustainability and development.

Given the gravity of the climate change due mainly to forest depletion, I am also calling on all Africans and friends of Africa worldwide, not to polarize or jeopardize the forum but to agree in principle and policy on this one solitary issue, i.e., to stand for Africa’s environmental justice beyond all other divisive differences. 

May this message win the hearts and heads of the dignitaries and conferees of Copenhagen Convention!

Rev. Tegga Lendado, PhD.
O.A.S.I.S of American Solutions for Solutions
Atlanta, USA.