CathyHird banner 09Nov22

Flipping through the channels on Sunday evening, I came across a super hero movie I had never watched, Superman Returns. He’d been away for four years, and everyone wonders how they got along without him all that time.

Superhero movies imply that our world needs these beings with special powers to deal with the problems people create. But somehow our real world gets by. I think it’s because there are people who step up and stand for what is needed in our world. A bunch of these people are in Egypt right now raising their voices to talk about climate change.

Let me talk about a few that have been sponsored through the United Church and Kairos, an ecumenical organization that works for justice. This delegation to COP27 aims to priviledge and amplify voices from the global South and Indigenous voices.

COP27 logo revOne of these delegates, a young woman named Yusra Shafi, studies psychology and environmental behaviour. She explains that her work has helped her see the effect of the climate crisis on mental health, especially in marginalized communities. It is important to her that the voices of those most affected by the changing climate are heard.

This is a theme that will be repeated at this event. Noble Wadzah is the co-ordinator of the Oil Watch chapter in Ghana, and he talks about climate refugees in his country. People are displaced from the lands they know because of changes in weather patterns. Wetlands are disappearing. Ocean water is contaminating rivers. Farming practices that worked for generations no longer do. People are struggling.

We’ve had a ridiculously warm fall here in Ontario after a dry summer, but heat and dryness in parts of Africa mean crops fail, cattle die, people lose their whole livelihood. The affects of climate change affect the global South disproportionately.

In other parts of Africa, flooding has been the issue. Juan Rachel Michael Roberto works for the South Sudan council of churches and talks about the people who have been displaced by floods and the problem of mobility in the country because of the destruction of roads and other infrastructure. Her ask of Canada and COP27 is for help with capacity building.

The voices of Indigenous people and people from the global South will not just be highlighting the challenges of climate change but also the solutions that they can advocate for. For example, Noble Wadzah, mentioned above, works directly on projects that move his country from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy options.

Another of the delegates from Canada is Tia Kennedy from Oneida First Nation and Walpole Island First Nation. In the YouTube video that speaks about her role in the delegation, she talks about the Indigenous understanding of earth as our mother. (Each of these delegates has a YouTube video you can look up.)

Something changes in our approach to the world when we shift from a colonial vision of the land to an understanding of earth as the one who nurtures us. Voices like Tia’s have not been central to the conversation about climate change in the past, but these voices need to be prioritized now. As she points out, Indigenous people have the longest standing relationship to mother earth and the necessary values to promote deep and quick changes.

CliffordMushquash cop27
Anishinaabe leader
Clifford Mushsquash

Her perspective is echoed by another delegate from Canada, Clifford Mushquash, an Anishinaabe from Pawgwasheeng (Pays Plat First Nation). He has seen the affects of climate change on his people on the North Shore of Lake Superior due to increased flooding and wild fires. His teaching that people are part of the land and the land is part of the people can help change the way we approach our earth.

Hosting COP27 in Africa was intentional. Voices from the global South need to be heard in the discussions on climate change. These voices bring us news of the dramatic effects of climate change. But what these delegates point out is that their connection to the land can also offer the shift in perspective that will enable the necessary changes to mitigate the crisis and to adapt. These are the super heroes we need today.

You can hear them speak for themselves about the needs and their hopes for COP27, in this Facebook video.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.




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