Dienstag, 15. April 2008

Thank you, Father Tutu

It’s not every day that I find an email from a Noble Peace Prize winner in my inbox (mass generated ones written for Al Gore aside). So you can imagine how thrilled I was last Sunday to find a message from Desmond Tutu in amongst reminders to attend meetings and excuses by colleagues about why they couldn’t do x or y (sigh). - Tutu is different. He exudes energy and action. I remember hearing Tutu on the radio back in 1993. I was travelling through a gloomy South Africa then. Less than a year before South Africa’s first democratic elections, many people I spoke to were either scared or convinced that the country would degenerate into civil war. And they didn’t make it up. When I pulled into Cape Town on the bus from Knysna, 11 people had just been slaughtered at a Cape Town church. – Tutu, in the face of this atrocity, managed to sound outraged but forward-looking. He was a voice of reason without hiding his emotion. All throughout the apartheid years, he managed the art of not mincing his words about injustice while exuding principles as much as determination. - I finally got to listen to Tutu in person last year in Nairobi. What I had heard from others is more than true: The Archbishop is one of the funniest men on planet earth. Even jokes he must have told a million times (like the one about him only having been chosen for the Noble Prize because he has an exceptionally short and easy to remember name…) he pulls off with real charm. He is witty, has an admirable sense of self-irony – and, may be most impressive of all - is as unforgiving and uncompromising in his political analysis as ever! If you want proof, read this statement Tutu issued on the occasion of the Major Emitters Meeting that I am currently sitting outside in Paris. You will see, I think, why I was staring at my computer last Sunday with a smile on my face …

“Climate change is real, and it is happening now. Over 80% of the emissions currently in the atmosphere have been put there by the G8 group of rich countries. But many rich world leaders have not, so far, responded to the climate crisis with the urgency required. Cushioned and cosseted, they have had the luxury of closing their minds to the real impact of what is happening in the fragile and precious atmosphere that surrounds the planet we live on. I wonder how much more anxious they might be, if they depended on the cycle of mother nature to feed their families. How much greater would their concerns be if they lived in slums and townships, in mud houses, or shelters made of plastic bags? In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality. The poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh edge of climate change every day of their lives. The melting of the snows on the peak of Kilimanjaro is a warning of the changes taking place in Africa. Across this beautiful but vulnerable continent, people are already feeling the change in the weather. But rain or drought, the result is the same: more hunger and more misery for millions of people living on the margins of global society. In the past 10 years, 2.6 billion people have suffered from natural disasters. That is more than a third of the global population - most of them in the developing world. The human impact is obvious, but what is not so apparent is the extent to which climatic events can undo the developmental gains put in place over decades. Droughts and floods destroy lives, but they also destroy schools, economies and opportunity. It is time to stop this cycle of destruction. At the Major Economies Meeting in Paris, developed countries must commit to immediate action against climate change. The United Nations need to deliver an action plan to save the planet at the climate change conference in 2009. There is no time to be distracted from the urgent task to deliver this global rescue plan. The world is watching, and those who are feeling the impacts of climate change today are expecting decisive action – now.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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