What happens in Garissa is not staying there

A woman walks to a watering point in Modogashe, Garissa County. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Next time you wonder why friends whose wedding you attended a decade ago are not getting children, think before asking when they plan to name a newborn after a grandparent.

The cycle of misfortunes in the land of plenty is turning wealthy people into beggars and refugees in their own land.

So sad how communities in Garissa County, for instance, that have recently suffered prolonged drought and deaths of livestock now have to deal with flooding.

Where does one go? Is God blind to catastrophes or deaf to the cries of innocent people who can no longer adapt to climate change?

Yet there are really no miracles left to turn things around.

The people in Garissa, Turkana, Pakistan, Nigeria, or others where drought and flooding diligently take turns and, with unmeasured cruelty, claim lives and cause losses in billions of dollars, are not to blame.

Their only mistake is being born in the global south, where the effects of the manmade climate crisis by the global north are more severe for obvious reasons.

And we haven’t seen nothing yet! Now two in every five young people have second thoughts about bearing children because they do not want their offspring to suffer effects of the climate crisis, according to a study conducted by Unicef in 163 countries between July and August, and released in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, during COP27.

It is not surprising that the majority of the young people entertaining this thought are from Africa.

They know first-hand what it means to beg for rain as people and livestock starve to death due to famine, only for the flood gates to open, quite literally, and wash away all that was left. Who wants to bear a child in such an environment and be guilty of exposing them to unnecessary suffering? The youth may have a point!

Seen differently though, climate change is succeeding in controlling population growth in Africa and the rest of the poor global south.

More people in the global south already die in climate change-induced famine, water stress, clashes and diseases compared to those in the north, who enjoy financial and other muscles to save lives even in the face of hurricanes.

To make matters worse, for a lack of knowledge, many youths are beginning to normalise weird and unpredictable weather patterns.

Since they barely recognise the power they wield in telling the global warming culprits to act right, some turn to God for miracles or resign to “fate”.

And yes, for some, childbearing may as well happen in their next life.  

Children born in the last decade may not have an idea what normal weather meant 30 years ago, what quality food was, how easy it was to spot and marvel at certain insects, birds, plants or organisms that have now become extinct; what planting and harvest seasons meant, and how certain forested areas were picturesque before they became cash crop plantations.

The other risk with normalisation of the altered weather patterns, as the frog that is comfortable in a slowly boiling water ends up dying, is that it may be difficult to convince young people of the need for locally-led climate action, therefore missing out on crucial strengths.

Clearly, the climate crisis does not end with killings and losses in the likes of Garissa drought and flooding; youth are giving up on a crucial role, and this may disrupt generational continuity.

It is time for all of us to act on challenges everywhere since the problems are inter-connected and affect all of us in a way.

-The writer is the Interim Communications Manager, GreenFaith.