19 Sep

Protecting the environment, protecting people’s well-being

Wollastonite mine near Garies, South Africa. Photo: jbdodane (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Wollastonite mine near Garies, South Africa. Photo: jbdodane (CC BY-NC 2.0)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa/GENEVA

We need a transition that is just and fair

The climate change crisis has created a dilemma for our society. For many years we have been trying to find solutions to combat climate change and its effects, which include efforts to shift from coal and fossil fuel industries to a green economy, and to keep the temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, hopefully only 1.5 degrees.

Industrialization has been key to societal development and well-being in terms of creating opportunities for economic growth. Yet in many ways, endangering our environment. It is for that reason that the shift to a sustainable and green economy, as the only solution to protect our environment and the wellbeing of our people equally, has been such a dilemma.

No rain for seven months

To put this subject in context, I will talk about South Africa, my country, a beautiful country but one that is not isolated from this dilemma. South Africa is a country whose people are suffering the effects of climate change, one of which being droughts. While Cape Town almost ran out of water earlier this year, most rural areas where ELCSA parishes and congregations are situated faced day-zero a long time before Cape Town was realized.

In December 2016, as ELCSA South Eastern Diocese Youth League, we held our annual conference at Vryheid church circuit, in an area where rain had not fallen for seven months at the time. Many of our congregants had to face terrible effects, to the point they could no longer sustain their farms. In the same region we have Mfolozi circuit, in an area where there is coal mining, an industry that enables congregants to sustain themselves with jobs. This is really a dilemma. We are talking about protecting the environment and the wellbeing of the people – sustaining the jobs while we need a sustainable environment.

New economies that protect the environment

The South African context is very sensitive. South Africa is challenged by the need to keep existing jobs, particularly in mining industries, while it is also challenged to meet the educational, health and employment needs of its growing population. The shift from existing coal and other polluting industries, therefore, would perhaps be economic suicide. However, this does not mean South Africa will have to keep or even grow these unsustainable and polluting industries.

The South African context is very sensitive. South Africa is challenged by the need to keep existing jobs, particularly in mining industries, while it is also challenged to meet the educational, health and employment needs of its growing population. The shift from existing coal and other polluting industries, therefore, would perhaps be economic suicide. However, this does not mean South Africa will have to keep or even grow these unsustainable and polluting industries.

The solution is there, it needs a just and fair transition. A just transition requires a development process which provides real improvement in the quality of human life at the same time conserving the vitality of the natural world, which in my context is a treasure of biological diversity.

During this Season of Creation, we are praying that God gives us more strength to fight this dilemma. In Genesis 1:9-13, God creates life, the ecosystem that reproduces itself without human efforts, and God allows life to flourish according to its nature. I pray that may this will of God be done, I pray that God reminds us, as US poet and hip-hop author Prince Ea says in his poem, “We are not apart from nature but a part of nature, to betray nature is to betray us, but to protect nature is to protect ourselves.”

Biographical info

Khulekani S. Magwaza is an LWF council member and the head of the Green Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA), an LWF member church in South Africa.

Season of Creation

 

Photo by jbdodane. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.