Photo: Sean Hawkey
From rising sea levels and severe weather events to shifting agricultural seasons and increased exposure to disease, the world is feeling the impacts of climate change. Its worst consequences fall increasingly on vulnerable communities, those who have contributed the least to climate change but yet suffer the most. This is a human-made problem that cries out for a human solution in the form of fully engaged leaders, advocates and citizens working together to save our planet from devastation of climate change.
In countries where CWS works, changing weather patterns, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, unpredictability of once-stable cultivating and harvesting patterns, damage to ecosystems and decreasing supplies of water have altered the environment in which families live and work.
Challenges have escalated, and hard-won development gains have too often been eroded.
We are facing both a need and an opportunity to prepare for a sustainable future. With support from CWS, communities are finding innovative solutions to develop livelihoods, meet their needs and build new, durable infrastructure.
As people of faith, we believe we are called to protect and serve creation and seek justice for all people and future generations. Yet, even as we faithfully commit to doing our part, we recognize that these actions alone are not sufficient—this crisis requires a global response.
To create a future with clean air, a healthy environment, good jobs and resilience in the face of a changing climate for our children, countries around the world must commit to an ambitious, equitable and binding global framework to address climate change.
When perennial floods and occasional cyclones hit Myanmar, poor families often lose everything: food, homes and even their meager livelihoods as subsistence rice farmers or fishermen. Families may use what little savings they have to meet immediate needs like clean water but then often become dependent on others – extended family, better off neighbors or aid agencies – for longer term support. As weather related disasters in Asia increase in frequency, duration and intensity, many vulnerable Myanmar families reel from disaster to disaster, often going further into debt and poverty with each damaging weather event. To address all stages of climate disruption, CWS organizes disaster risk reduction education/training to help families and communities mitigate impact and prepare to avert damage before disasters happen and also to respond during emergencies. In situations of acute, sudden disaster, CWS relief addresses immediate needs, while ongoing CWS-supported integrated community development projects help families get back on their feet and move forward.
Climate Change disproportionately affects vulnerable groups. In the Gran Chaco Indigenous and campesino families live in water stressed areas where climate change has increased drought and reduced agricultural output. Communities also face harsh competition for land from international companies and have reduced bargaining power to negotiate agricultural credit on terms favorable to them. CWS’s program provides small grants organized groups to promote community-led initiatives in climate smart agriculture and water management. Funding also helps them to develop strategies to advocate for their right to food and better negotiate funding with local authorities.
Lack of access and the high cost of energy traps the poorest communities in vicious cycles of poverty and environmental degradation. But it is possible to simultaneously develop strategies that address climate change, address hunger and poverty and build sustainable development strategies. By promoting decentralized affordable, low carbon, renewable green energy technologies such as solar energy, bio mass conversion and eco – san toilets through community owned and managed social enterprise projects, CWS is helping vulnerable groups in Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to generate their own power supplies for homes and schools, manage water supplies, grow more food, improve sanitation and reduce recurring health problems.