Politicians’ lack of climate change literacy disastrous

guest column: Peter Makwanya

As climate change-induced disasters continue to wreak havoc in southern Africa where lives are lost and infrastructure destroyed, our politicians appear confused, clueless, empty and banal.

Their usual loud-mouths and glib died down when the unwanted guest, in the name of Cyclone Idai, gave the region and the nation a rude awakening.

Of course, no one can control natural disasters, but basic climate-change literacy is significant in conscientising people of the approach needed in dealing with such disasters.

This is important when natural disasters of Cylone Idai’s magnitude strike, at least they may have something to say.

Keeping quiet as if they have never existed is not only alarming, but also potentially and sufficiently confusing.

In some southern African countries, the cyclone has wiped out almost everything in sight. Politicians, who lack sufficient knowledge of the basics of climate change and natural disasters, including climate protection strategies, cannot play to the gallery anymore.

No more grandstanding or blame games. Welcome to reality based on the failure to plan and planning to fail.

For politicians who lack climate literacy and wisdom about basic concepts of climate change discourse, in order to stay relevant in future, they could do better by reading around in order to be conversant of simple issues threatening their environment.

Even during their campaigns, one hardly hears them talking about one of the most fundamental discourse of our time, which is climate change.

Although politicians pretend to know everything, they become ducking strangers when it comes to articulating climate change issues.

It also becomes a cause for concern when even their audience cannot link what happens around them to the fast-changing climate. Of course, people need to be empowered with information, training and education to acquire climate literacy skills and in this regard, they normally look to chiefs and politicians for knowledge.

Politicians and chiefs always claim to have people at heart in addition to being custodians of the environment and are able to explain to the people the social and economic benefits of climate change adaptation and protection strategies.

The above is instrumental in equipping people with climate change knowledge, networking skills, value addition and survival instincts. In development work, chiefs and politicians are considered as opinion leaders because people assume they are conversant with issues affecting them.

Now, there is a danger if opinion leaders do not know anything about issues that affect the people they claim to represent.

By default, they would not only be neglecting those they purport to represent, but expose them to disasters such as Cyclone Idai, which could contribute to worsening their plight.

Unfortunately, voters do not know how to punish politicians who take them for granted.

The reason behind climate change’s continued backgrounding even by the media is that, it is not a juicy subject and does not excite politicians at all.

Those politicians who can talk about climate change once in as many months and years, only do so when it matters most.

The current situation points to a scenario where the local people, politicians, media and environmental experts are disjointed rather than unified, not only because of the love of the environment, but also because of lack of knowledge, awareness and understanding.

The people’s main desire is to see their opinion leaders and especially the media talking about climate change impact from their local perspectives and world views.

Right now, people could be forgiven for equating the discourse of climate change to an imported concept, especially from the western world, yet it is happening right in front of their eyes.

As stakeholders and onlookers, people may not accept a situation where their counterparts are wiped in their sleep or through lack of protection by a marauding cyclone, without being sufficiently warned of the approaching disaster.

Definitely, something is wrong with our early warning systems for failing to notify people in advance of pending disasters.

In a short space of time, infrastructure was destroyed by the cyclone, including lives. As a result, the lives lost will not be resurrected while the infrastructure destroyed may take years to rebuild.

In this regard, as we plan about interventions in disaster management strategies, it is significant to factor in issues of costs.

For this reason, politicians need to start orienting themselves on issues of climate change because they affect both people’s lives and the environment.

Politicians need to take climate change as a priority and the Civil Protection Unit should not be awaken by the emergence of disasters in order to start orienting people about potential natural disasters.

Above all, politicians need to join forces in engaging in the war against climate change and the emergence of disasters. Let us not wait just to declare a state of disaster without sufficiently having done something substantial about disaster management strategies at the local level and with local people.

A

s climate change-induced disasters continue to wreak havoc in southern Africa where lives are lost and infrastructure destroyed, our politicians appear confused, clueless, empty and banal.

Their usual loud-mouths and glib died down when the unwanted guest, in the name of Cyclone Idai, gave the region and the nation a rude awakening.

Of course, no one can control natural disasters, but basic climate-change literacy is significant in conscientising people of the approach needed in dealing with such disasters.

This is important when natural disasters of Cylone Idai’s magnitude strike, at least they may have something to say.

Keeping quiet as if they have never existed is not only alarming, but also potentially and sufficiently confusing.

In some southern African countries, the cyclone has wiped out almost everything in sight. Politicians, who lack sufficient knowledge of the basics of climate change and natural disasters, including climate protection strategies, cannot play to the gallery anymore.

No more grandstanding or blame games. Welcome to reality based on the failure to plan and planning to fail.

For politicians who lack climate literacy and wisdom about basic concepts of climate change discourse, in order to stay relevant in future, they could do better by reading around in order to be conversant of simple issues threatening their environment.

Even during their campaigns, one hardly hears them talking about one of the most fundamental discourse of our time, which is climate change.

Although politicians pretend to know everything, they become ducking strangers when it comes to articulating climate change issues.

It also becomes a cause for concern when even their audience cannot link what happens around them to the fast-changing climate. Of course, people need to be empowered with information, training and education to acquire climate literacy skills and in this regard, they normally look to chiefs and politicians for knowledge.

Politicians and chiefs always claim to have people at heart in addition to being custodians of the environment and are able to explain to the people the social and economic benefits of climate change adaptation and protection strategies.

The above is instrumental in equipping people with climate change knowledge, networking skills, value addition and survival instincts. In development work, chiefs and politicians are considered as opinion leaders because people assume they are conversant with issues affecting them.

Now, there is a danger if opinion leaders do not know anything about issues that affect the people they claim to represent.

By default, they would not only be neglecting those they purport to represent, but expose them to disasters such as Cyclone Idai, which could contribute to worsening their plight.

Unfortunately, voters do not know how to punish politicians who take them for granted.

The reason behind climate change’s continued backgrounding even by the media is that, it is not a juicy subject and does not excite politicians at all.

Those politicians who can talk about climate change once in as many months and years, only do so when it matters most.

The current situation points to a scenario where the local people, politicians, media and environmental experts are disjointed rather than unified, not only because of the love of the environment, but also because of lack of knowledge, awareness and understanding.

The people’s main desire is to see their opinion leaders and especially the media talking about climate change impact from their local perspectives and world views.

Right now, people could be forgiven for equating the discourse of climate change to an imported concept, especially from the western world, yet it is happening right in front of their eyes.

As stakeholders and onlookers, people may not accept a situation where their counterparts are wiped in their sleep or through lack of protection by a marauding cyclone, without being sufficiently warned of the approaching disaster.

Definitely, something is wrong with our early warning systems for failing to notify people in advance of pending disasters.

In a short space of time, infrastructure was destroyed by the cyclone, including lives. As a result, the lives lost will not be resurrected while the infrastructure destroyed may take years to rebuild.

In this regard, as we plan about interventions in disaster management strategies, it is significant to factor in issues of costs.

For this reason, politicians need to start orienting themselves on issues of climate change because they affect both people’s lives and the environment.

Politicians need to take climate change as a priority and the Civil Protection Unit should not be awaken by the emergence of disasters in order to start orienting people about potential natural disasters.

Above all, politicians need to join forces in engaging in the war against climate change and the emergence of disasters. Let us not wait just to declare a state of disaster without sufficiently having done something substantial about disaster management strategies at the local level and with local people.

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