Show a bit of Solidarity
Campaigning is the public witness to our solidarity with the world’s poor. But what in the world is solidarity?
The word took on a new meaning in 1981. In that year an unemployed electrician called Lech Walesa climbed over the wall of the shipyard in Gdansk , where the workers were on strike. They chose him as their leader, and he founded a trade union which became known as Solidarnosc - Solidarity.
Solidarnosc was new because it was for something. And not just for more money. It was for freedom – freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom for workers to organise themselves. It also stood for mutual support between factories in which were beginning to create a resistance movement against Communism.
Walesa’s leap over the wall turned out to be a pivotal moment of history. Within ten years another wall – the Berlin Wall – was down, and Walesa himself was President of a newly liberated .
Solidarity is a powerful idea, and it could be as powerful in the west as it was in the East, if people could get hold of it. The beginning of solidarity is understanding what other people are going through, or likely to be going through soon. So as Christian Aid begins to ratchet up its campaign on climate change, here are a few facts which might help us to take the poor into our hearts. They are taken from reports of the International Panel on Climate Change – a conservative United Nations body not given to drama or exaggeration.
Currently some 150,000 people each year are dying as a consequence of climate change – the vast majority of them in poor countries. By 2020 some African countries may have lost 50% of their agricultural production from rain-fed crops. And by 2080 millions more people each year will see their homes disappearing under the waves as sea level rises – mostly in the mega-deltas of Asia and Africa .
It is the speed and inevitability of these changes which really pulls you up short. Even if we reformed our lives dramatically, stopped using our cars and tumble dryers put up hundreds of wind turbines, we could not prevent changes in climate which we have already set in motion.
The challenge is to stop climate change before temperatures rise another two degrees centigrade. It is around that point that species extinction will rocket, the ice caps will destabilise and crop yields will start to fall even in places like which will initially benefit from warmer weather.
To stop at two degrees we will have to cut carbon emissions by 80% - in other words to go back to where we were in 1970. Those of us who can remember back that far will realise it wasn’t all that bad then.
And it won’t be as bad as it might be for the world’s poor if we can achieve it. Isn’t that something worth showing a bit of solidarity for?