Facing the real effects of climate change

Thank you for the rain – Facing the real effects of climate change

@CalaixA

Some days ago, the documentary Thank you for the rain, 2017, was presented in Barcelona, in the context of the initiative DocsBarcelona del mes. Directed by Julia Dahr, it focuses on the effects of climate change suffered by a community of Kenyan farmers. The film attests the seriousness of the matter and the diverse repercussions that can have on very different lifestyles.

The story is told through the vision of Kisilu and Christina, a couple of farmers who are strongly engaged with the mitigation of the impacts they are suffering. Kisilu wants to communicate this struggle to his community of farmers and also to the whole world. For this purpose, he asked Julia to carry a camera to record his own vision of the subject, so the final making of the movie mixes some images recorded by Kisilu with some recorded by Julia. This is one of the documentary features that makes it more personal. At the same time, there is a deep message in the film, transcendental for the planet and for all of us.

Kisilu story is very touching. He studied the traditional farming techniques in the region, but he realised that this knowledge is not working anymore. Some years, the wet season does not appear, and other years impressive floods happen, that can even kill crops. As a result, they need to organize better and to plan the use of water and vegetation.

On that direction, Kisilu is conscious of the benefits that greening their lands could carry. To this end, he puts his efforts on planting trees: to absorb carbon dioxide, to increase water infiltration, to regulate temperature, to fix soil, to strengthen biodiversity to give rise to nutrient cycles, etc. Look at the next two pictures of the same park, Collserola Natural Park in Barcelona, to illustrate some differences between vegetated and not vegetated lands.

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Collserola Natural Park – Barcelona. Vegetation can structure a complex ecosystem which provides rich ecological services (December 2017. Self-source.)

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Collserola Natural Park – Barcelona.  Ecological services are poor in a lack of vegetation (December 2017. Self-source.)

The focus on planting trees more than herbs or shrubs is not casual. Given its great development though the trunk, branches, leaves and roots, trees provide greater benefits than smaller plants in all the mentioned aspects.

For example, trees can absorb much more carbon than herbaceous plants. In mediterranean climates, 1 hectare of forest can absorb between 5 to 25 tonnes of CO2 every year, while grasslands can absorb only around 1 to 5 tonnes of CO2 every year (Pereira et al., 2007). There are marked differences between species, depending on their rate of growth, as well as other factors, that can condition the absorption levels: the availability of water and nutrients, the temperature, the age of each individual, etc.

Another example of the potential of trees reinforcing ecosystems is the roll they have supporting biodiversity. They give structure in height, providing a wide range of microconditions which change from the soil level to the top leaves (different sun irradiation, temperature, humidity, type of organic materials, etc.). Therefore, they can accommodate a broader variety of species. This spectrum of conditions is more limited in simpler habitats such as grasslands.

Back to the storyline, the enhancement of tree planting is the perfect complement for cultivated areas, looking for a combination of adaptation and mitigation of climate change, empowering ecosystem services and carrying on with the farming activities. At the same time, trees can provide other benefits, such as wood, eatable fruits or shadow generation.

Apart from the environmental aspects of the climate change and some strategies to fight against it, the documentary shows an important part of the social impacts of it. On one side, we can see how families which completely depend on farming for survival suffer direct effects of climate change. If they don’t harvest due to drought or floods, they cannot eat. That’s why some communities of farmers in Kenia are trying to diversify their activities now, for example raising goats which can eat different type of shrubs. They are also promoting a system of microcredits to finance small projects, and to help families in case of bad harvests or other problems related to climate, such as wrecks in the houses.

On the other side, the story reflects the process lived within COP21 in 2015, celebrated in Paris. It is very exciting to see how Kisilu, a humble person but with strong convictions, presents his experience and calls for help and action within the conferences. However, the results weren’t as ambitious as it should have been. The measures in the agreement included (BBC, 13 December 2015):

  • To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
  • To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2ºC (3.6ºF) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5ºC.
  • To review progress every five years.
  • $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

And the main problem is: Will the governments carry out these objectives? So far it seems they wouldn’t.

It is very sad to see how people who only have a small piece of land are fighting against climate change with all their forces, while the lobbies of fossil fuels push to still burning them only to be more and more rich. In addition, humble people don’t have easy access to technology or infrastructure to regulate the effects of climate change. That is why they are much more vulnerable to them.

Anyway, we cannot stand idly by. The film is clearly oriented to the action. Everybody should make a contribution towards it. This is another of the implicit reflections in the documentary. Here we expose some general proposals you can do to try to help stopping climate change:

  • Leave your car and use public transport or bike.
  • Try to substitute plastics for natural materials, such as wood or glass.
  • Buy local products, they have less emissions associated to their transport.
  • Buy ecological products, they have less emissions because they don’t use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.
  • Reuse and recicle products.
  • In summary, think on the life cycle of a product when you buy it, including: obtaining of the raw material, processing, consumption and residues treatments.
  • Eat less meat. Click here to know more.
  • If you have a piece of land, plant trees. If not, push your common council to do it.
  • If you have access to renewable energy use it. If not, push your government to take profit from it.

It seems difficult to even try it. I recognize I do not always follow these recommendations. But we don’t have much time. That is why we should follow Kisilu’s lead and act since now!

Clara Montaner Augé  /  6th march 2018

 

You can watch the movie through the film website: http://thankyoufortherain.com/shop

If you want to get involved in Kisilu and Christina’s work, or other climate justice projects, you can get information at: http://thankyoufortherain.com/take-action

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