By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet. It sits in the Indian Ocean near Africa’s southeast coast, just east of Mozambique.
According to the USA’s CIA World Factbook, more than 60% of Madagascar’s 27.5 million people are under 25 years old. Many reside in rural areas, with about 23% having access to electricity. It is not considered a wealthy nation – 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.
The island’s rural residents farm rice, sugar cane, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and other delicious food products.
However, according to the United Nations, “Families have been living on raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts for months now … people [are] dying from severe hunger … not because of war or conflict, this is because of climate change.”
Climate change in Madagascar dramatically appears as severe droughts, sand covering previously fertile fields, and more than one million people experiencing food insecurity.
Food insecurity is not limited to Madagascar. David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), reports: “Today, 41 million people are literally knocking on famine’s door.” WFP warns that current trends indicate “the number of hungry people will reach 840 million by 2030.”
Consequences of climate change include food insecurity, in part, because a changing climate affects water supplies. The World Resources Institute (WRI) explains that diminished water supplies, increased water demand, and extreme flood events are “pathways leading from water risk to water insecurity”. It reports that water insecurity “may lead to conflict, migration, or acute food insecurity.”
Water related conflicts currently are occurring in Iran. News reports from the region indicate the protests there this week have turned violent with tear-gas filling the air and people being killed.
WRI reports that “The African Sahel saw outbreaks of violence over water and productive land. In Yemen, water was used as a weapon of war, with water systems targeted and people deprived of water for drinking and farming, affecting their health and livelihoods.”
Today, climate change is impacting adversely the quality of life experienced by millions of the planet’s peoples. In the near foreseeable future, perhaps as soon as the year 2030, the number likely will grow to billions.
When – by what date certain – will we acknowledge that our lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles depend on the planet’s health and take those steps necessary to protect it?