‘As my days on this earth go by, I can see the earth following me in to grave’ the words of mzee Kangu commenting on the disturbing issue of climate change. Mzee Kangu is 84 years old. He is deeply disturbed by climate change even more than his learned children and grandchildren. He worries for the future. The future in which he will not be alive. He worries for the generations to come, his grand children and their children. How they will survive. For an African old man of his age, he is highly informed. I corner him in his favourite spot on his veranda listening to a pocket radio broadcasting on his native language. He informs me he does this to keep up with the world. He is highly versed on the current affairs. You can see worry lines all over his face as he watching bright orange sun setting. ‘I think we are killing our own sun’ he says. He is wearing a black cotton trouser and a tweed jacket with a bright yellow scarf over his neck to keep him warm. He gives me a long questionable look which makes me highly uncomfortable and then offers me a seat.
‘My grandson there are many things you have not seen in this community of ours, you were born yesterday when everything was already dead. We still continue to kill. You can see all these hills surrounding us which are barren and rocky. They have not been always like that. When I was a boy and a young man your age we used to go hunting there. They were our lively hood. It had always been like that for generations which were there before us, but it will never again be so. We kept livestock in large numbers. Pasture was plenty in the valleys because the hills had impenetrable forest cover. Wild animals resided in the hills and hunted just enough for our survival. Otherwise we co-existed peacefully. We would call our dogs every morning then equip ourselves with bows and arrows. Our families would be waiting for a meal at supper time and we delivered. Then large scale farming was introduced. Food became even more plenty and diverse. The weather was favourable. Like a drying tap, drop by drop the forest cover began its death. Folks cleared land for farming and grazing. First the valleys because we still regarded the forests as sacred. Then the fear slowly receded. An ignorant generation came of age. Highly powerful machinery with hunger for land was introduced. They started eating in to the sacred forests. Still this did not finish our forest cover. Nobody would have thought one day our forests would be barren
Then a disaster struck. People saw the potential of the money out of forests. Modernization brought about constructions. The constructions needed materials which came from our forests and rivers. They began harvesting timber for construction of buildings. They were not planting any. The government was doing nothing about it and it’s only recently that it has risen to defend already dead forest. With wood they also harvested sand from our rivers running from the forests for making concrete. Rain water began washing away our farms of the top soil into the rivers but that was not enough. They continued harvesting the sand. Big trucks used to travel from the city to this place in large numbers. Ferrying sand to the city to feed its hunger for construction. As if that was not enough, enterprising businessmen from other counties set up a saw mill at the edge of forest. They called it development, I called it grave. It is no longer functional and owners have long left our place after stripping us naked.
The rivers developed gullies from the hills to the valleys. The farms became barren after washing of the top soil. Nowadays they are not in any way useful. What we have are barren rocks for farms. Nothing survives there.
Then weather patens started shifting and changing. They called it global warming on the radio. For the first time since I saw the light of this planet, we experienced a full scale drought and famine. Human and animal souls perished before the government came to our rescue with relief food which was barely enough. It was called la Nina. A period filled with great suffering. As if that was not enough, El Niño followed. What commenced as a blessing twisted in to a catastrophe. We seeked refuge on the hills because the lowlands were submerged with water. Many people perished in the floods and only the strong survived. Once again the government with the help of international community came to our rescue providing clothing and foodstuffs.
Since then things have never been the same again and they will never be. Weather patterns have been inconsistent and unpredictable. We expect rain when we see it. In the old days there were rainmakers who predicted the weather patterns and seeked rain. I highly doubt if they would bring any change nowadays. Many a time’s farmers till their land and burry seed on the barren soil only for the rains to fail. The forests used to provide rain for us. Now they are planting few seedlings but the glory is gone. They can never replace it. The seedlings die within few weeks because there is no moisture to sustain them. My heart feels with sorrow when I walk freely on the barren land which years ago I struggled to penetrate through.
Water is essential for human survival. When I was young we never used to worry about it. You could dig a well on your compound and within a few feet find enough water supply for whole community. The rivers flowed with clear life giving water. The rivers no longer exist because the catchment where they originated from was destroyed by humans who are now suffering. They were replaced with deep dry gullies which are a health hazard. People perish when they happen to fall in any of the dangerous gullies. The remaining river in our community runs only when rains fall. It is only a trickle which is dirty and unfit for humans or animals. The young and women have to travel far and wide in search of elusive water. A phenomenon I never experienced when I was young. I never saw it in my wildest of dreams.
My time here is nearly over. My peers no longer live. Creator spared them the agony of seeing this and I cannot imagine how lucky they are. Many perished due to the changes. A great chunk died during the El Niño and la Nina. I do not know why I still survive, may be to tell you this and you pass it to the next generations. Tell them the disasters will not cease. Mother Nature is angry with humans for destroying the earth shamelessly. She won’t stop expressing the wrath on defenceless humans. They even make innocent animals suffer the wrath.
I spent my time listening to radio now that I have nothing else to do and nowhere to go. I have heard that global warming has caused the arctic ice to melt. Ocean water levels are rising all over the globe. This poses a major risk to low lying lands and small islands. Already different parts of the world are experiencing it. From what i predict the floods in Australia and other parts is just a tip of an iceberg. With the ice shelf disappearing, the Eskimos living there lack livelihood and I think right now they are no better than us in the tropics.
I have also heard that the big countries are rising to find a solution but they are not doing much of a progress. They are responsible for the carbon emissions destroying our ozone layer hence unleashing the wrath of the sun on us. They are meeting every now and then in order to find a solution to save a perishing earth but it is a lie. A beautiful lie. Because they always fill us with hopes that they are going to find a solution. They never do. I fear that soon enough it will be too late to apply patches when and if they find one. From what I hear, they are adamant in their refusal to cut their carbon emissions. I also understand that if our forests still survived, the problem would not be much a big one. They would absorb the emitted carbon and the ozone would still be intact.
If the ice shelf continues disappearing at the rate it is we will soon have no reason to live. I always feel that they can come to a compromise for the sake of humanity. But they are far away from my village. Fellow villagers are dying due to hunger because the forests were destroyed when many were not even born. Here I can’t think of a suitable solution to our problems. I will soon be dead my grandson, I cry for you, your generation and others to come. By the time you will be of my age the earth will be no longer habitable. Time to act is now’