|I like locusts
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Christian Aid Week
Date: 18 May, 2006
|Professor Richard Odingo at the report launch
Photo: Christian Aid/Robin Prime
'When I talk about being a survivor I am a true survivor!'
At the launch of the Christian Aid Week report, The climate of poverty: facts fears and hope, Professor Richard Odingo speaks to surefish editor Andy Jackson about his childhood experiences of drought and hunger and the present-day effects of climate change.
Professor Richard Odingo, is the vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a lecturer in geography at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
You describe yourself as a survivor. Why?
When I was born it was very bad. There were some years with severe drought. In 1943, for example, we had to survive. Fortunately where we lived was close to the next district where we could get grains, especially maize. But we had to go without food for a couple of days at times, and the community was always sharing. If there was only one potato, we would make sure we would share it in the family.
I remember as a child of 11 a time of very severe shortages, and my parents had to travel for 30 miles to go and look for food. The problem was that year there weren’t even vegetables available. The ground was bone dry. When they went to the next district, my parents came back with sour milk, which was not very palatable! I had never drunk that kind of milk before!
Then of course we used to have locust infestations to compound the problems. How pour people responded was to capture a lot of the locusts, when they settled on the crops, they would get a basket and get up very early in the morning to go and collect them. Literally they would collect the locusts from the tress where they were busy eating the leaves, then cook them, store them and this would be a bit of famine relief. I love eating locusts when I can get them.
When I talk about being a survivor I am a true survivor!
Were you surprised by any of the findings in the Christian Aid Week report?
No, because this is what I preach about climate change. I have been very involved with the IPCC since its inception in 1988. Prior to the IPCC I was very much involved with the Climate Network and Forum, starting with studies of drought, since 1972. I got involved with some of the meetings which led to the formation of the IPCC.
What do you think the worst case scenario is if the status quo remains?
If you look at the icicle evidence from Greenland, and the icicle evidence from Antarctica, the worst case scenario is a temperature rise of 16° Centigrade, which would be terrible if it actually happened. Everything in London would dry up and I know the British people would love to have some more warmth, I don’t think they could really stand it! The globe would not stand it.
I was making a joke earlier today about the Bible talking about the Nile drying up. This is the kind of scenario which could happen, and of course the global repercussions would be severe.
What about the social implications? The Christian Aid Week report talks about people being killed over water.
These are short term issues. Nomadic people are people who like to survive. They survive by migrating, looking for water for their livestock. If anyone tries to stop them they will fight back. This is normal. It’s what we call in geography trans-humans, where nomadic people move to the mountains during dry periods, and back during wet periods. Whenever they move they are ready to defend their right to water for their livestock. You’d be surprised but water for the livestock comes before water for the human beings. They are prepared even to lose their lives for the benefit of the livestock!
This year the livestock was dying by the hundreds and so there was warfare amongst the nomadic peoples which was related to bare survival. A very severe drought actually breeds violence. It’s not because the people are naturally violent, it’s the survival of the fittest. It sounds bad to put it that way but it’s the truth.
One of the best ways to approach this is to try and provide for nomadic peoples in special programs, so that at least they feel that they are cared for by their government.
Note: The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. It is open to all members of the United Nations and WMO.
The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.
• Christian Aid Week report: The climate of poverty: facts, fears and hope
• The launch of the climate change report videos
• Climate change is a theological issue
• Christian Aid Week 2006