‘Planet will be fine with climate change, people not’

2011-12-05 00:00

RADIO reporter Irene Rodrigues from Denver, Colorado, was quite surprised after interviewing 12–year-old Sisanda Hadebe while they strode under a protest banner at Saturday’s climate change march through Durban.

That was because Sisanda then asked if she could interview her, as she and her friends from the Midlands Meander Education Association’s environmental club would be writing reports on their experience.

“Sure,” Rodrigues agreed before she shared her motives with the schoolgirl why she had come all the way to Durban to cover her second COP17 conference.

“I came here because last year (at Cancun) it was so moving to see farmers, people from small islands and fishermen. They’re affected by climate change, but they don’t get the media coverage.”

Fellow marchers from near and far also had their stories to tell Sisanda. “The thing with climate change is that the planet will be fine,” said Rico Euripidou, from Pietermaritzburg, marching with the environmental justice service and developmental organisation groundWork. “But it will affect people and when people affect people, they affect other people.”

Judith Carrerras, from the Spanish trade union Comisiones Obreros, told Sisanda, one branch of her organisation was taking part in the formal talks while the other mingled with the marchers.

Max Temmer, from Germany, who is busy with an overseas experience, working as a social worker in Pinetown, said he was doing his bit to pressurise politicians to achieve something at COP17. “But, really, I begin with myself. I try to use as little energy as possible and put pressure on politicians. I am a member of the Green Party in Germany.”

While learning how to do “cool” township handshakes involving the touching of clenched fists, Argentinian Alejandra Liuschitz explained to Sisanda and her friends that the world was a very unequal place with a huge gap between rich and poor nations. “The people in charge pay attention to their own interests. We must support community action.”

Whitney Chamusso, a Mozambican studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus said: “We have to send out the message to those who are not aware of climate change. It’s important for people to come together to do this. It gives out a louder message than to scream by yourself.”

Mossel Bay farmer Elvin Booysen said: “My concern is that every year there is less water, the land is deteriorating and every year we harvest less crops,” he said.

Nigerian Ruth Celestine, representing the Ogoni Solidarity Forum tells how the Niger River Delta polluted by oil extracted by large oil companies. “I’m here to let the representatives know that climate change in Nigeria is affecting us. The process of burning and scooping oil causes fires to break out, which burns lots of farmland. Without healthy farms there is poverty and death.”

The young reporters from the Midlands Meander Education Project were assisted by the education publication www.learnthenews.com.

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