Desmond Tutu: climate change is worse than apartheid

science | Nov 23, 2011 | By Martin Barillas

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu urged South Africans to join world faith leaders, political leaders and artists at an “extraordinary” mass rally on November 27 at the King’s Park Stadium in Durban. The Nobe Prize-winning archbishop is to host the “We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice” rally and concert, at which he will lead a call to world leaders attending the COP17 climate change talks in Durban that they should reach a fair and legally binding agreement to curb climate change.

Musicians including Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Arno Carstens, rap star HHP, Shabalala Rhythm and Kenyan Gospel rapper Juliani have confirmed they will perform at the rally, which will be free. The COP17 talks start in Durban the day after the rally. Pope Benedict XVI, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks  of the UK, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have also been invited. Those who cannot attend have been asked to send video clips of support.

Environmental campaigners and motivational speakers Lewis Pugh, the “human polar bear”, and Braam Malherbe, a 50/50 presenter, will be among the many who will address the crowd. “Apartheid seemed an overwhelming challenge that could not be defeated but we mobilised and defeated it. We need the same passion and determination to defeat climate change,” says Tutu. “Climate change is an even greater threat to us than apartheid was, because as temperatures rise, millions of Africans will be deprived of water and crops. This will cause enormous suffering. It is something we simply cannot allow," he averred.

“In the face of such a huge threat, many of us feel numb and throw up our hands, believing we can’t make a difference. But we can make a difference – come to the rally. It will be an extraordinary event. And if you cannot come, please sign our petition on We want to have over one million signatures on these petitions at the rally to hand over the world leaders."

“Along with the many other faith leaders in the campaign, I appeal to you all - don’t hesitate to join us. Your support could help make a world of difference in keeping our planet cool.”

At the rally, Archbishop Tutu will hand over the petition to COP17 Chair, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who has confirmed she will attend to receive it.

UNFCCC executive secretary Christina Figueres has confirmed she will attend the rally, and President Jacob Zuma is among the many key politicians who have been invited.

The “We Have Faith” petition calls on world leaders to commit to a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, for a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol, and for funding to help Africa adapt to climate change.

Learners from dozens of schools throughout KwaZulu-Natal will also participate in the rally, presenting environmental-themed posters and messages to the leaders and performing song-and-dance numbers. According to a press release from the Anglican Communion, faith leaders participating in the campaign will reiterate what it termed "scientists’ predictions that that if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, by the end of the century average world temperatures will rise between 2 degrees Centigrade and 4 degrees Centigrade, and up to 6 degrees Centigrade in parts of Africa."

The statement from the worldwide church based in Britain continued, "Climate change is already causing unpredictable, extreme weather across the world, they say. Large numbers of people, especially in Africa, are struggling to survive amid increasingly severe droughts, floods and other disasters. Although Africans have done very little to cause climate change, they will be among the most devastated. A new climate change treaty is crucial to prevent enormous suffering and loss of life."

South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Archbishop Tutu, university chancellor Ela Gandhi, satirist Pieter–Dirk Uys and author John van de Ruit are the latest public figures to sign the “We Have Faith” petition, which the Anglicans claim has also been signed by thousands of people across Africa.

The “We Have Faith” campaign has several other key elements, which include a youth caravan travelling from Nairobi to the rally, and a day of prayer on December 4 for a just outcome to the talks. Hundreds of youth activists and artists from many African countries, including South Africa, are travelling from Nairobi to Durban in the caravan (a convoy of “We Have Faith”-branded buses). Along the way, they will stage youth-led climate concerts in cities including Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Lusaka, Gaborone, Lilongwe and Johannesburg (Soweto). Over 200 climate activists are taking part in an epic “Ride for Climate Justice” from Beitbridge in Mpumpalanga to Durban, where they will attend the rally.


YouTube Tutu  

Twitter account @HaveFaithActNow



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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