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Ethics key in climate change adaptation

Tuesday January 14 2020

climate change

Rising impacts of climate change have been linked to a series of extreme weather events. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK 

OBED NYANGENA
By OBED NYANGENA
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TABITHA ODERA
By TABITHA ODERA
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The impact of climate change will persistently threaten the world and as a result pose serious challenges of skewed vulnerabilities, intergenerational effects and ecological justice if collective perspective is not considered in addressing the relevance of key ethical concerns such as fairness and responsibility in harnessing it.

SHRINKING LAND

As the adverse effects of prolonged droughts and floods intensify and spread, the power of Kenya to feed its growing population is put to the test.

The increased population of 47.8 million, coupled with accelerated soil erosion due to floods and drought, are to blame for the shrinking arable land.

Coupled with low commodity prices and unavailability of ready markets, unfavourable weather events pose a serious threat to agriculture as a source of food, income and employment.

Floods cut power lines, rendering industrial operations senile, leading to reduced productivity and igniting the downsizing. 

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Blackouts worsen insecurity and delay medical services besides causing diseases and creating ideal breeding grounds for waterborne diseases. Floods also make roads impassable and cause landslides and avalanches. Drought is to blame for hunger, conflicts and the spread of airborne diseases.

GUNSHOTS AND TEARGAS

The effects of climate change are exacerbating unbearable damage on farmlands and rangelands. The multiplication of quelea quelea birds last year threatened wheat harvest in Narok County, compelling the national government to spend Sh200 million on spraying pesticides to kill the birds. 

In Mandera, Marsabit and Wajir, where locusts first landed, the government had to spray 3,000 litres of pesticides after residents’ attempts at sounding bells and clanging metal plates and cups with nails and sticks to scare away the locusts proved futile. Police attempts to use gunshots and tear gas canisters also came to nought.

The locusts came only weeks after floods had subsided. Hence, some of these futile techniques used by the residents show the desperation that communities face where proper disaster management and planning lack. Preparedness requires resource mobilisation before climate emergencies.

FRUSTRATED PEOPLE

Predictions using advanced technologies alongside indigenous knowledge should find ample space in disaster readiness. For when we act after disaster strikes, we eliminate the essence of mitigation. 

But prudence is necessary so that anticipation of disaster is not used as a scapegoat for impropriety of futile resources. 

Preparedness also involves community training and exploring the dimensions that a given disaster can portend harm and how damage can be minimised. 

To avert risk layering, prompt responses are needed. For instance, where houses are destroyed and people displaced, rapid relocation is necessary to safeguard trust in relationships. 

Otherwise, a frustrated person can easily engage in immoral activities that risk their health.

In any case, various lines of literature reveal that climate emergencies do not only trigger physiological effects per se, but psychological ones as well.

FAR-FETCHED REMEDY

That values can cushion us from the rage of unprecedented increases in temperature and rainfall might appear a far-fetched remedy, but a full analysis of the manifestation of drought and floods will, doubtlessly, reveal that greater gains are made where ethics is given fair space.

Mr Nyangena, ([email protected]) and Ms Odera ([email protected]) are freelance writers on climate change.​

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