Christian Youth Are Exposed to UN Climate Change Negotiations in Durban
DURBAN, South Africa/GENEVA, 2 December 2011 (LWI) – Christian youth from 21 countries are in Durban, the site of international negotiations on climate change, to learn to care for the environment in a joint program of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
As global leaders start negotiations for an international climate change agreement, COP17, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the youth are involved in a two-week training and immersion program in South Africa called “Youth for Eco-Justice.”
When the program ends on 10 December, participants–including eight young Lutherans–head home to initiate and implement environmental projects as volunteers in their own contexts.
LWF Youth Secretary Rev. Roger Schmidt said the program provided an important opportunity to expose youth to global climate change negotiations while they search for local solutions to the impact of the ecological crisis.
Participants have been studying the links between environmental issues and socio-economic structures, and are receiving training that prepares them to take part in the civil society activities related to the UN negotiations.
Both the LWF and the WCC “aim to engage young people in eco-justice and prepare them to become change makers in both church and society,” Schmidt added.
Youth for Eco-Justice is also linked to the “LWF together-the Earth needs you” program, which has Lutheran youth around the world studying the Bible together to reflect on God’s creation and environmental stewardship, and sharing their understandings across the Lutheran communion.
The youth gathered in South Africa visited the Clermont Youth Association, which was started by unemployed youth in the Durban township in 2009 and has focused on finding a more sustainable approach to the garbage problem experienced in Clermont.
The Clermont youth were trained in environmental management and recycling technology by Durban’s Diakonia Council of Churches. They are now able to clear streams, maintain the natural environment, and provide research data to the municipality of Durban on water and waste disposal for its follow-up action.
“We pass on research data to the municipality on waste disposal management and seek partners to help secure the environment,” said Justice Mahlaba, the Clermont youth team leader.
He said the youth also participated in municipal environmental meetings called to address longstanding problems and used the knowledge they have acquired from such forums to educate fellow members and the wider community on waste recycling.
Clermont youth coordinator Solomon Dlamini said, “The group has developed a waste management culture and collects bottles, scrap metals, and plastic to sell to recycling plants.”
Solomon added that the group recently collected ZAR 1,400 (USD 173) from the sale of recycled materials. “The group intends to mobilize Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans to collect and sort papers from each church for recycling,” added Dlamini.
Support from the South African department of environment and the Diakonia Council of Churches has enabled the group to reach out to the Clermont community with education programs on water, sanitation and hygiene to assist them in their struggle to gain access to clean water.
The impact of climate change and lack of proper water and sanitation management were evident in every part of the African continent with millions unable to access water, said Maike Gorsboth, who coordinates the Ecumenical Water Network at the WCC.
She noted that “the water crisis is more than climate change and water scarcity.”
Gorsboth said: “The poor in the global South not only lack access to water, but also pay the highest prices for water often supplied by private vendors.”
She added that factors such as population growth, lifestyle changes and climate change contributed to the increased water scarcity. “In the past, the increased world population has doubled, but at the same time water demands have increased four times.” (642 words)
(Written for LWI by George Arende)