Cyclone Idai devastates
On 14 March, a devastating cyclone made landfall and tore across south-eastern Africa. The UN have said it might be the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere.
The following day over one million students around the world came together to protest inaction on climate change. The importance of their protest was brought in to sharp focus as the destruction wrought by the cyclone begun to make news headlines, alongside the student marches.
The suffering caused by the cyclone is immense. After taking hundreds of lives, Idai has left close to two million people across the region in desperate need of assistance. Roads are destroyed, river banks are bursting, schools unusable and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.
This disaster is really personal for me. I was in Zimbabwe just before the cyclone hit. I had been visiting local farmers who were learning to grow more food through a simple but life-changing farming program.
As I was leaving, it started to rain. Many of the farmers were overjoyed as they had been praying for an end to the crippling drought that had withered their crops and left their families hungry.
But none of us knew how deadly and destructive those rains would be.
I was devastated when I arrived back and saw the messages coming through from my colleagues whom I’d just said goodbye to. They told me how cyclone has battered the region, destroying everything in its path. I’m still struggling to come to terms with what that means for the people there.
Across the region entire villages have been submerged, buildings flattened and school and health care centres destroyed. Many people have lost their farms – their only source of food. The realisation that people might die because they have nothing to eat breaks my heart.
The ferocity of this storm is something we cannot, must not, ignore. Climate experts warn that as the world continues to warm up, storms like Idai will become more frequent and more deadly.
Here in Australia, we know all too well the destruction that extreme weather conditions can cause.
In NSW, our farmers have been crippled by drought and in Queensland more than half a million cattle have been lost to floods. As I write, the Northern Territory has just been battered by Cyclone Trevor.
Cyclones, bushfires, and floods – every day we are seeing the devastation it can cause. We are also seeing the ways in which it’s bringing people together.
Students all over the world marching together to demand global leaders take action on climate change. Uniting Church members in Australia making urgent donations to get food and blankets to survivors of Cyclone Idai. These are just two examples of unity we can look to that give us hope.
Climate Change is one of the biggest issues of our time, and we are at a defining moment. Families here in Australia, just like millions of vulnerable people overseas, are already suffering from its impacts.
As we continue to weather these storms together, literally and figuratively, it is an opportunity to ask, what kind of community do we want to be? What kind of neighbour?
Climate change poses a serious threat to us and the planet. Equally, it calls us to consider the values and the principles we need to live in more equitable, peaceful and sustainable ways.
There has never been a more important issue on which to stand united and act together. In the face of a changing climate, our future rests in solidarity.
To support Act For Peace’s Cyclone Idai appeal, click here.