Almost 16,000 kilometers away from Port Vila lies the Old Land, as one region in the north of Germany is called. One would have to cross about 20 countries to get there. Basically, half way around the world. By plane, it would take two days. Then you’d be standing on Claus Blohm’s farm. Claus is a farmer with a firm handshake, his jacket tight. He walks through his apple orchard, which is so long that you cannot see the end. His shoes are already wet from the rain.
The Old Land is also called that way, because apples have always been grown here. Claus’ ancestors lived off of their apple trees, since the weather seems to have changed. Last summer, Claus says, it was hotter than ever before in Germany. 40 degrees. His apples got a kind of sunburn. First they turn completely pale, then brown. He lost almost 70 percent of his harvest that way. Fruit farmer Claus is desperate. He may have to give up his farm that we wanted to hand over to his children.
At about the same time, on the other side of the world, Salome Kalo is likewise worried. In her village Piliura, located on Pele Island, she is in charge of food security. Differently, than in Germany, where vegetables have to be imported in from distant countries and are piled up in supermarkets, everything grows in her garden: legumes, fruits, root vegetables. At least that’s the way it has always been, says Salome Kalo while walking on a little trail to her garden. Since Pam raged over Vanuatu, she also knows how it feels when you’re no longer sure you have food to eat. No leaves and no fruit were left when the cyclone destroyed almost the entire harvest five years ago. Ever since the storms have been getting stronger, the inhabitants of Pele Island have no longer planted their crops on the mountains, Salome explains, but need to plant it in the more secure backyards of their houses. But the storms are not her only worry. Although it is January, in the middle of the rainy season, not a drop has fallen from the sky for days, Salome witnesses. The plants suffer from the lack of water. “The weather is changing,” she says.
The fruit farmer in Germany and Salome Kalo in Vanuatu have a similar problem: climate change is threatening their existence. All over the world, it’s getting warmer. This has caused the weather to become unbalanced: When it’s supposed to be warm, it rains in torrents. If it is supposed to rain, it is drought. How are farmers supposed to be able to predict the harvest this way? At the same time, storms are getting stronger because the air has heated up. Researchers can calculate that if the earth warms by more than 1.5 degree in the next thirty years, it will cause huge damages to harvests, lands and livelihoods. The consequences of climate change are felt all over the world. But not every nation has the same chance to deal with it.
- In Germany, farmers like Claus receive money so that they can sustain their harvest. Someone like Salome Kalo on Pele Island has no other choice but to help herself: She is experimenting with mixing different plant species in the near surrounding of her house, what she calls: organic
- “In Pele Island we have seen a lot of impacts of climate change, this is why we try this new systems. And it works”, says Salome. Next to her house she has built a solar dryer for preserving fruits. Outside her village is a solar pump for times when there is no rain.
Farmers like Salome can only adapt to the effects of changing climate, they can cushion the damage, what climate experts have named adaptation, but they will not stop climate change. However, the climate is changing with such a speed, that farmers all over the world are increasingly unable to react fast enough. The result is that countries like Vanuatu are hindered, to develop. Climate change is responsible for a whole chain of effects, from crop failures, food insecurity, poverty.
Climate change divides the world unequally: Between privileged nations that can cope with the effects of climate damages and countries like Vanuatu that have not enough resources to adapt to the new circumstances. And there is an evident injustice of states, that are causing climate change and those suffering from it. Farmer Claus Blohm’ home country Germany is the sixth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, a gas that you can’t see or touch but which causes the earth to warm year by year to a dangerous extent. Countries that are blowing these so-called greenhouse gases into the air, to sustain their industries but on the other side of the coin destroyed the development of other countries, such as Vanuatu, a country hardly emitting any greenhouse gases. On the one hand side, Vanuatu ranks first on the countries in the world that suffer most from extreme weather conditions. On the ranking of economic power, Germany is on the forth. It is hard to deny that the wealth of industrialized countries is built also on the destruction of the environment.
The consequences of climate change, in Vanuatu an obvious fact, are slowly being recognized by industrialized nations. Once a year the 193 officially named countries in the world, meet for a big climate conference. Last year in December it took place in Madrid, in Spain. For 13 days, the attending countries also discussed a solution to support countries like Vanuatu. Countries, in which the consequences of climate change are even more noticeable than in those where laws and regulations are made. Vanuatu already receives 2.579.220.000 vuv from a pod called the Green Climate Fund. It sounds like a good idea. But in fact, it is too little to cover the real needs, critics say. In Germany, this amount of money would not even be sufficient to build 20 houses. Compared this to a country, where the cyclone Pam destroyed more than 90 percent of all buildings only in Port Vila.
But there is also good news: Three months before the climate conference, 1.5 million people were taking to the streets to demonstrate. That is as much as five times the population of Vanuatu. They were young and old, carrying rattles, drums and posters, they were angry and hopeful as they were demanding that the industrial nations should stop blowing greenhouse gases into the air, which heat up the earth. They demand that not only a farmer such as Claus in Germany, but also a woman like Salome Kalo should receive compensation for damages caused by extreme weather. It has been called the first climate strike.
On the same day, 20 September 2019, demonstrators also marched through the streets of Port Vila. On one of the banners was written: “We want climate justice.” It is the same inscription that you can read almost 16,000 kilometers away at the same time at the demonstration in Germany.
Note: This research was supported by Netzwerk Recherche, Stiftung Mercator and Otto-Brenner-Stiftung.