by Uchita de Zoysa (Convener - Climate Sustainability PLATFORM)
The Climate Sustainability PLATFORM convened at the Centre for African Studies of the University of Copenhagen yesterday. Prof. Stig Jensen, director began the discussion by asking what happiness means to different communities. Dr. Simron Singh from India showed how people of Nicobar Islands have lost their traditional way of life after the Tsunami due to the rapid influx of development aid. He said "these people lived simple and content lifestyles of very low economic activities, the development aid regime has now brought them the status of debt and have to engage more and more hours to earn. The social structure has been changed for ever. Mr. Souleymanne Bassoum says, development aid has made us hungrier. The more the aid, the more our people are trapped in debt. The simple possessions that made us happy are no longer in our own control. The system has complicated our lives. Money cannot bring our lost values back, and economic aid hasn't brought us happiness. In Senegal, we were homogenous society, which has come under strain because of the strains of modernity. We want to develop in our ways and not the way the western development aide agencies want."
Ms. Ameset Haile, from Mekelle University Ethiopia, said with all this big talk on sustainability for the past many decades, the people still remain hungry. While we are talking here in Copenhagen, people in Ethiopia are dying from hunger. For us it is simply about survival. In Ethiopia, we have seen temperature actually rise, and diseases like malaria increase. People are becoming homeless because of changing climate and weather patterns. It's only a matter of time that rest in the world too will be dragged into the same climate plight."
Dr. Faiz H. Shah from Responsible Business Initiative Pakistan says Equity is a human aspiration that has been translated into principles of faith and fundamental human rights. Climate sustainability can be addressed through equity. Equity is shaken when powerful business interests take advantage of powerless consumers. There is hope for climate sustainability if we can somehow make trade equitable.
Mr. Gopal Kumar Jain, coordinator South Asia Youth Environment Secretariat in India started with a quote from the Bhagawad Geeta. he said, "we should begin with ourselves in creating a better world. There are many examples from the Tsunami where aid de-linked people from their environments close to the sea. You try to take people away from their natural habitats and place them in artificially designed environments, the social fabric is destroyed."
Mr. Ali Rilwan, Director of BluePeace Maldives said; "less than a meter above sea level, our hope for climate sustainability is low. Even with effect of climate change felt, we still have the will survive. Our peple, not governments bring us this hope. Information through the internet, facebook, twitter, and other new media is empowering us, and will help us rise above the tide. Climate change has no boundaries. If the world cannot save Maldives, then no one else will be saved as well."
Even though the negotiators from the South at the Bella Centre may not be hungry, people they try to represent are hungry and destitute. If they do not feel the hunger of their people, then they may not be able represent their aspirations for climate sustainability. That worries the members of the Climate Sustainability PLATFROM!
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