The Guardian (UK) recently put out a series of blog posts called “The Road to Durban.” Tomorrow, climate change scientists, delegates, and government officials from all represented UN countries will open discussions about current climate change issues. They will discuss the dying Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Action Plan, and hundreds of other climate-related issues. The only way climate change can be mitigated, and plans set into action to repair damage already done, countries are going to have to cooperate. In the hustle and bustle of this big-time conference, it can be easily over-looked how climate change is affecting small isolated populations all over the world.
Less than 400 miles away, just outside Johannesburg, the mining industry is poisoning communities through unregulated toxic waste. One very stubborn woman, Mariette Lieferink, is standing up for the communities that can’t stand up for themselves. Children can be found throughout the community playing in yellow dust- the product of toxic waste in the area from mining operations. They could be inhaling and ingesting remnants of gold, cadmium, uranium, cobalt, copper, zinc, and other heavy metals. As rain waters rise with the advent of more extreme climate change, toxic wastes become more widely spread. All inhabitants of this area risk cancer and radiation poisoning, and simultaneously lack the healthcare and medicines to counter the deadly effects. Lieferink is battling the corporations, fighting for enforcement of pollution and toxic waste laws.
Hopefully, the Climate Change Conference in Durban this week can settle some issues regarding climate change that will affect not only policy, but also the implementation of sustainable practices. Small communities deserve the protection and health standards set by intergovernmental officials, and can be heavily affected by climate change. I will be interested to see what decisions and agreements are made in the coming weeks by government officials from around the world, and how they plan to benefit the constituency.