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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Heather Libby, tcktcktck: As extreme weather destroys Durban slum, residents call for climate action

As extreme weather destroys Durban slum, residents call for climate action

by  , tcktcktck, November 29, 2011
Summer rain causes flooding in southern Africa
Creative Commons: Dorothy Voorhees, 2010
After more than a decade of living on Canada’s West Coast, I consider myself a connoisseur of rain. I thought I’d seen it all until Sunday night’s epic rain and windstorm here in Durban, South Africa. The skies opened up – dousing the city with sheets of rain, driving wind and purple lightning. Dry, safe and ensconced in my hotel, I admit to being a little thrilled by the relentless power of it all.
I’d resent these feelings the next morning.
As I would learn when I arrived at the ICC, the rainstorm which had delighted me the previous night was a killer. 6 people in one of Durban’s poorest neighbourhoods, the Abahlali, died as flood waters and rain washed away their homes. Brad Johnson shares the hard numbers at Climate Progress:
Ten people along South Africa’s east coast were killed, 700 houses destroyed, and thousands left homeless following torrential rains on Sunday. According to the South Africa Weather Bureau, 2.5 inches of rain fell last night in Durban, which had already recorded 8.2 inches for November, almost double its average.
It is appropriate that the UN Climate Talks would begin in Durban the morning after the disaster. After all, this is the conference where parties are deciding to fill the climate fund. Established in Cancun last year, this fund is designed to provide developing countries with money for adaptation so they can be better prepared for floods like this. In an op-ed in the local Durban newspaper, the residents of Abahlali called for UN negotiators to recognize ‘the full force of what extreme weather does to the poor.’
“Whose interests will this Conference of the Parties serve if the poor are outside busy dealing with effect of the floods which are the direct result of our vulnerability to bad weather in the shacks? How can the world begin these talks without going and experiencing the effect and the reality of how the change in climate will affect the people in Durban whose lives are already most precarious? Today it is clear that these talks will take us nowhere if they ignore the reality that those who will suffer the consequences of the change in climate the most are the poor. So, excluding the poor in these talks will not help any of us. …The rich have caused and are causing climate change but it is us, the poor, who will pay the greatest price. The rich, in South Africa and around the world, have to be called to order. Our safety depends on this.”
If you would like to learn more about the Abahlali, I encourage you to watch ‘A Place in the City,’ an excellent documentary from Journeyman Pictures about the settlement. It is embedded below:
As the talks start on Day 2, the residents of Abahlali are on my mind. I hope they’re on the minds of negotiators as well.

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