“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.”
… Alan Paton, “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1948)
And Africa’s tragedy today is that so many things are broken the continent may never be whole again.
Although Alan Paton wrote his award-winning novel about apartheid in South Africa and the terrible anguish it occasioned, his admonition to weep for the demise of a place could easily be extended to the entire continent today as Africa struggles with so much trauma.
Starvation, disease, conflict and governmental corruption all impose death and difficulties for the continent’s population. The vestiges of European colonization also cast a shadow on society’s ability to resurrect itself.
Across the continent, climate change has added to the misery by contributing the diametrically opposed conditions of extreme drought and floods for several years. Disease rates have climbed in the wake of the changes.
As 2017 dawns, over 37 million Africans face starvation.
Even from the vantage point of a stable country such as Kenya, the devastation is apparent.
The heavy hand of climate change, in particular, is always present.
The year 2016 marked a terrific drought in the country, the byproduct of climate change and an unusually strong El Nino event, causing crops to fail and livestock to die. In the nature preserves, hundreds of thousands of wild animals also died.
Indeed the continent has seen unprecedented high temperatures for a number of years now, leaving millions vulnerable to hunger and disease. Experts fear the long-term effects of climate change will undermine the continent’s ability to survive.
Even very simple measures, such as the amount of snow visible on Mt. Kilimanjaro during the summer, speak of enormous change. Where the white icing once extended a quarter of the way down the 19,341-foot peak, there is now only a light dusting at the top.
Climate change can also be seen at ground level where the usually arid continent is literally burning up. Acres upon acres of desert are added each year as drought and high temperatures take their toll.
While climate change certainly has its effect on the very existence of Africa’s human population, it also impacts the continent’s unique wildlife due to both environmental changes and the fact that humans are now forced to hunt and poach to survive in an increasingly competitive arena.
Animals, not only in Africa but around the world, are on the verge of a sixth mass extinction and experts have given humans a mere 20 years to try to slow it. The culprits are many: climate change, hunting and poaching, agriculture.
But Africa, in part because of its distinct and vulnerable species, is on the forefront of extinction.
Consider – today a wild elephant dies every 15 minutes in African, due to poaching, drought and loss of habitat. Uganda has already lost all of its wild population, a situation the rest of the continent will find itself in within a decade if something is not done.
Cheetahs, the fastest land animal on Earth, are also in a rapid downward spiral as its global population has crashed during the last decade. Consider — in 1999 there were 1,200 cheetahs in Zimbabwe, today only 170 cheetahs are left.
In fact, cheetahs are already extinct in 91 percent of their original territory across Africa and Asia. Most of that is due to habitat loss and direct slaughter by cars and at the hands of humans for their skin, meat and even as pets.
Mountain gorillas are also in terrible danger of extinction. Consider — only 880 mountain gorillas exist today in a protected area surrounded by farmland. Scientists fear that as the planet warms, the gorilla’s natural food, various plants, will become scarce and the giant beasts will be unable to move from their current habitat to other places where food might be more plentiful.
My heart cries for this continent, its people and its environment and wildlife.
Yet there are things we all can do to help.
Support organizations to help the people of Africa face the tremendous problems that now confront them.
Give your support – and your money – to help in providing literacy, business investment, healthcare and other services to the people of this continent.
In particular, help stave off what officials believe will be a disastrous 2017, with millions upon millions of people without food. Oxfam and other organizations need our help to lessen the suffering.
Raise you voice in the fight against climate change. Write your representative, post on social media, be vocal.
Join organizations that protect the environment and its animals, such as the Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund. Again, be vocal in your support.
Do not purchase the products made from animals. Do not buy animal skins. Refuse to purchase ivory. And, make your opposition to these products known.
Africa is the cradle of Homo sapiens — the birthplace of humans. It is unique in all of the world.
Sadly, its demise comes at the hands of the very humans it cradled.
Yes, weep for it, but use those tears as weapons in its fight to survive.
“Stand unshod upon it, for the ground is holy, being even as it came from the Creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed.”
… Alan Paton, “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1948)