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When you mention climate change, the first thing that comes to my mind is, “Why do you take me back to school?” And even in school, I knew climate change as weather changes, and that was not my concern. But I have gained knowledge about it, and we all played a part in making it happen. Especially people with resources and money; but they have done nothing to change their behavior. The most affected people are the poor and disadvantaged people. Life revolves around climate change and everything is affected by it; just to name a few: housing, water and sanitation, ocean acidification, wildfires, dumpsites, and the wetlands.

My question is, how can I worry about climate change when I’m living in a shack? When it’s raining, I become wet, and we drown in the sewers every winter because of the lack of housing and service delivery. Putting bread on the table is my first priority while the big spenders worry about which car they should buy. When I think about that, it is not fair to the disadvantaged people, because when nature takes its course, we will all be implicated – being rich or poor. I’m sending this message to the decision makers to hear what I have to say about this matter.

youths climate change

Together with Terra and Asavela, Sandile (left) reflects on climate change. They met during the project Vukuzenzele and started up a venture called Uvuno Hub.

We are all obsessed about money and big cars while polluting mother Earth and nature, but have forgotten about climate change. When are we going to change and follow the footsteps of our great grandparents and respect nature, not gamble with it? There’s always campaigns advocating the knowledge of climate change but still no change. COP26 had a summit to speak about finding ways to deal with climate change. And my voice was also part of the people who spoke that day through my poem, The Land Is Crying, where it was shared in the UK on Channel 4.

I was also part of the team where we made a short video about climate change and incorporating it in our daily lives. I also wrote a poem about climate change, building shacks in the wetlands, fires happening in the informal settlements, and showing that the level of living in South Africa is not the same. We can all work together to do things differently in order to prevent climate change from happening; the ball is in our hands right now. I will share the poem I wrote with you and I hope you will be inspired to look
differently to climate change.

The Land is Crying

When I listen I only hear the destruction of moving cars
Drillers drilling, is this the kind of life I should be living?
The realities hit hard on me
Is there anyone who can rescue me from this hole?
Is there anyone listening?
Is it only you, land?
The land is crying, it’s bleeding blood in the form of water,
Fires burning seeking attention by destroying the nature
Is there anyone who hears the cry of this land?
The universe is confused, is this a movie or a reality?
Is there anyone who’s listening?
Who is this destroyer?
Aren’t you ashamed of yourself about this?
Are you the one responsible for this crisis?
Listen, Listen, Listen to the Land!!!

This is how we felt when we shot that video: Climate change is a tip of the iceberg here in our communities because many people are suffering from the lack of housing facilities, water and sanitation, lack of food security (poverty, hunger), overpopulation in the townships, fires and floods that destroy the shacks, with hundreds of people stranded in the streets without anywhere to go, without shelter. The high unemployment rate forces people to find any land and occupy it without any proper structures and build in it in order to survive.

Climate change is something that hits us without the knowledge and we feel like people have to be alerted and educated about what it entails. Going to these communities is to gather the information and use it to the benefit of the community members.

youths standing three people

Looking at the land: how is climate change affecting our surrounding?

There are things that we can’t change, like companies that use harmful chemicals, but on the other hand, there are things that we can change as community members, and it is important to the community members to come together and work things out themselves in order to help themselves to respond to these climate change risks. The sad part is that people who are affected by these harmful acts are the ones that least cause this havoc. The living arrangements, the shacks, the structure of townships, the bucket-system toilets, the water crisis, no electricity, poverty, and high rate of unemployment tells us that people don’t live in these conditions by choice, but because matters are forcing them to be in these situations. We had a chance to look at a graph that explains the reality of climate change now compared to a decade ago. It shows that we are at risk of dryness and heat all over the world, and that shows the seriousness of this matter.

Sandile is passionate about sharing stories that make a difference. Together with Elona, he documents stories and experiences that contribute to community building and climate justice. They are part of the international project Celebrating Local Wisdom and Sustainable Solutions, a fellowship programme with the focus on global learning, as well as the project Youth Visions in a Changing Climate, a cooperation with the Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST), the University of Cape Town, the Beach Co-op (Ffion Atkins), locally-based artist CareCreative (Claire Homewood), and members of the HC360Crew.

Sandile Fanana

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