Our climate change experiences

James Kataliko writes here about the destruction of the forests in the East of the Congo and its impact on the life of indigenous peoples. The forest does not belong to us alone, and it stores much of the world’s carbon.

Zina Zelter: my experience of climate change.

I’m privileged. I know this.

I grew up in a country which has exploited other parts of the world for centuries. Where I, and the majority of the people I know, live comfortable lives built on that exploitation which still continues today. And where my comfortable life, and those of the people I love, pour greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and cause climate change, which so far is mainly impacting on the Global South and the ice-fields of the Poles.

So my experience of our changing climate is primarily one of emotional guilt and pain and fear. And I know I’m lucky, because so far I don’t have to worry about my food or water supply – or if tomorrow I’ll have to become a refugee. Instead I lie awake and hurt because I’m afraid that my daughter will have to exist in that world – and that across the world millions of people already do.

I dream of floods which rise to the top of my home surrounding me. And of being implicated in wars caused by climate driven famine.

And when things happen here which show me local climate change – the young trees I passed every day which died in the drought the year before last; the highest flooding I’ve ever seen in Aylestone Meadows in decades of living here a few weeks ago; a tree I loved at the end of my garden brought down in a gale last year; the scarily hot weather last Summer – I mostly grit my teeth and don’t let myself grieve, because I’m one of the lucky ones so what right do I have to complain? And so I campaign on climate issues and try to block it out.

But I hurt so much. When I stop and let myself really think about the climate – like now as I type – it’s hard to breathe, and it burns in my chest, and if I let myself, I feel like I could cry for ever. And it seeps into my dreams every night.

Privilege, guilt and pain all mixed up together. That’s my experience of climate change.