Kenyan Red Cross and Climate Change
Happy Friday! I am honored to be able to make the first official post for Red Cross Month…enjoy.
In November 2009 I was able to travel to Kenya for the General Assembly of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. I attended meetings in Nairobi for almost two weeks but today I wanted to share with you a story from the Kenyan International Youth Camp which I attended on the coast of Kenya post meetings.
Imagine sitting near one of the most pristine beaches you have ever seen. You are sitting in the grass on a bluff just above the sand and the bight blues waves are lapping up. Now add 100 incredible Kenyan youth volunteers from all over the country. Sprinkle in some international delegates like myself and you pretty much have the setting.
We are all immersed in a discussion about climate change. There is one discussion leader. He starts off by saying how big of a problem climate change is. In Kenya, they are having floods and droughts all at the same time. People are starving. He points to a flip chart that has two questions.
#1) What have you done to contribute to climate change?
#2) What are you doing to mitigate the effects?
I begin to ponder these questions. Normally in the US when someone asks me the first question I would say “I drive too much, or I don’t recycle everything”. Thinking about the question though in this crazy context, I have a different answer. I grab a piece of paper, I scribble “I am American”. I flash the paper over to a youth volunteer from southern California (Hi Amy!). For me this was a hard realization. I live in one of the most privileged place in the entire world and because I live here I contribute a greater amount proportionally than others do to green house gases and such. Now I am not saying we all need to move but we need to be conscious that our actions have world wide ripple effects.
I then began to think about the second question. “What am I doing to help?” This answer though was a little different. I stepped back and put on my American Red Cross hat. What are we as the American Red Cross doing, and what are we as youth volunteers doing? The honest answer is we could be doing much more. The American Red Cross recognizes that climate change is occurring and that it leads to more frequent, more diverse and more intense natural disasters. It is hard for me to see that the Kenyan Red Cross Youth are responding to a disaster in which our country can help to stop from happening. I urge youth volunteers to take active steps to minimize the waste you are creating during meetings, projects, LDCs and whatever other awesome things you are up to. I would love to hear what steps you have already taken or your thoughts about this.
Have a happy green weekend!