Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Do we need to say our prayers?

Greig Whitehead
Greig Whitehead

For millions of people in Africa, climate change is a reality, says Greig Whitehead. However, as he explains in this week's Green Room, in religious nations such as Kenya, many believe that tackling global warming is beyond their control.

Kenyan pastoralist with his goats (Image: AP)
Even with trust in the power of God, Kenya is a country on the brink of disaster

Kenya is a deeply religious country.

Christians, Muslims and Hindus alike assemble for regular and often lengthy worship; prayers are offered up before and after every public meeting, and even before starting a cross-country "safari", the god of one's faith is called on to bless the journey.

So it comes as no surprise to hear a female pastoralist from the arid lands of North-East Kenya decrying the combined wisdom of the world's scientists, after being told that climate change is man-made.

"How can man change the climate and make it stop raining: it is God's will that has brought the drought," she utters.

But even with trust in the power of God, Kenya is a country on the brink of disaster.

As news reports show, the country's rivers are drying, its more remote areas are turning to desert, and the food chain - from land, to animals, to humans - is breaking down.

The ramifications of the rural drought now stretch to the streets of Nairobi, where five million people face daily power rationing, severe water shortages and higher food prices.

In battle terms, Kenya is on the frontline; it is staring climate change in the face.

Climate for change

But to deal with the global phenomenon, Kenya's "wananchi" (citizens) need to understand the complex of challenges they are up against, including a range of home-grown factors.

Schoolchild carrying a water bottle (Image: AFP)
Gathering drinking water is becoming even more difficult for many in Africa

A growing population, coupled with insufficient investment in rural infrastructure and land management, makes it even more difficult to adapt to climate change and stave off the impending disasters brought by human induced global warming.

For the future of Kenya, it is vital that practical solutions are found to meet people's concerns and help build sustainable systems that are less vulnerable to increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.

Most importantly, it is up to the youth of Kenya to take up the fight on climate change; to succeed where their elders are failing and to inspire a new generation to change their thinking and adapt their ways.

There are more than 4,000 secondary schools across Kenya, and apart from their purely academic function, most of them play a key role as a focal point for the surrounding community.

Secondary schools are well place to act as catalysts for community action.

The 12% of youth fortunate to attend these schools - the country's future leaders - have the knowledge and abilities to become "change-agents", able to motivate people to develop a better understanding of the causes and impacts of environmental degradation.

This then provides a foundation on which to discuss and take action.

'Here and now'

Climate change is about the here and now in Kenya, already seriously affecting the wellbeing of millions of people.

Wangari Maathai (Image: AFP)
Wangari Maathai has inspired many people to take action

It is a salutary warning for the more affluent countries in the North that a problem which - in essence - they have created, through industrialisation and development, will in time rebound to affect their own livelihoods.

Climate change is a global issue transcending national boundaries, but impacting first on those who can least afford to cope with the consequences.

The "God not man" cry from the lady in Kenya's northern reaches illustrates a common problem relating to understanding the underlying causes, and underscores the incapability of people in such situations to deal with the crisis that has impacted so severely on their communities.

As Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, notes:

"Climate change will bring massive ecological and economic challenges… therefore, alleviating dehumanising poverty will become even more difficult."

One of the keys to enable understanding and adaptation is to harness the power and ingenuity of youth. As Kefa Kones Kibet, a 17-year-old from Nakuru High School in Kenya's Rift Valley, remarks:

"Climate change causes suffering for people. Many people in Africa walk for miles in search of water.

"Women are the ones who suffer most because they are the ones who look out for the family. People should be educated on how to plant trees and how best to use the little water available.

"The only way to curb climate change is through action now for a better tomorrow."

Greig Whitehead is programme manager for the International Climate Challenge, Kenya

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with Greig Whitehead? In Africa, do young people hold the key to tackling climate change? How can people match climate science with religious beliefs? Is it the responsibility of industrialised nations to prevent dangerous climate change?

It is true that the Youth will be the salvation of Kenya, but only if they are given the 'tools' to see and understand the issues at hand. To do this the speed of institutional change needs to be cranked up a few notches. There should be a concerted effort for Donors NGO's and Govt to redirect their focus on the Youth through programs in all learning institutions and religious programs which have a tremendous outreach in Kenya. The time is now, yesterday, not tomorrow, we're running out of time. To do this we need to have the ability to enact changes of this magnitude quickly. We need to fast track the systems so that they can begin to take effect immediately. Sadly in our world of bureaucracy without great political will and vision this could be a pipe dream. We cannot afford to give up trying though.
Su Kahumbu, Nairobi Kenya

Praying won't save you.
Bleddyn Bowen, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK

true that religion provides convenient escape from responsibility. yes, opportunity exist for using the education network to confront climate change. dont generally think that this should be lumped over one group say the youth over any other. similarly other community networks can also be utilised. the greatest challenge is that the average kenyan spends more than 98% of his labor time struggling to make ends meet. conservation efforts have largely been painted as magnanimous efforts rather than pure survival. sure educational institutions (and others) can make an effort to include practical conservation as part of the curriculum, but at the expense of what else? many youths have no time to engage in conservation after school since they are engaged in other chores. answer lies in govt policy change to actively pursue conservation at all levels. in fact its not conservation but restoration thats needed
tnk, , nairobi, kenya

The decline of all aspects of the earth's environment and resources is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. At Revelation's Fourth Seal, one-fourth part of the earth is to be destroyed before we move forward to the next Seal events (Re.6:7-8). The earth is on a downhill slid from which it will not recover. Revelation's first four Trumpet events will destroy an additional one-third (Re.8:7-12). Bible Prophecy on the Web
Patricia Burns, Tempe, AZ, America

Tess from Nairobi, Robert Harris from Derby and others have rightly pointed out that belief in God entails stewardship and responsibility towards creation. By contrast, this article paints the rather simplistic picture of poor, uneducated people who refrain from responsible action because of their religious belief - the argument being based on the utterance of one single person somewhere in Kenya. In any case, the Pope, in his encylica "Charity in Truth" and his message "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation" has recently made quite clear that a new global solidarity, new socio-economic rules, new lifestyles and even a new model of development are needed to tackle the great ecological and socio-economic challenges of our day. The encyclica also makes clear that the environmental challenges cannot be adressed separately from integral human development in all its dimensions. This advice stems from the type of integral, interdisciplinary approach which we need, and which the type of simplistic thinking which would isolate the sciences from one another and from their philosophical and moral dimensions is unable to provide. Let's follow it.
Daniel, Salzburg, Austria

@ Andrea, Prag: Re your comment about people in developing countries having larger numbers of children than in developing worlds you should realise that one of the main reasons for doing this is purely for survival. If you don't know whether your newborn will survive their first bout of malaria then why put all your eggs in one basket?
Adam, Gloucestershire

I dont think it is God's will for global warming to occur, though of course he is letting it happen. Although I am not 100% convinced it is due to man, if it is I would not be surprised. I do wonder if it is part of the end times in which according to Jesus there will be enormous suffering?
Peter Culbert, Belfast, N Ireland

To Billy Hires of Tampa Fla; It is pathetic people like you with their "God disposes and I obey, therefore I do what I want" irresponsible attitude what put us here in the first place, all I have to say is that faith is blindness, and there is not worse blind than those like you who do not want to see. It is not ignorance what blinds you my friend, it is sheer stupidity.
Adgy, Puerto Rico

With the article of Greig Whitehead here is my misfeelings,global warming is man made no doubt and it is one of the major criterion of climate change. In addition with Africa, I would like to say that young people of all poor countries hold the key to tackling climate change . And also would not like to add climate science with relegious beleifs. Rich countries are mostly liable for this global warming. Because human beings have been changed their lifestyle through industrial revulution and this activities are influencing the temperature of the global atmoshphere. So rich countries are mostly responsible to reduce the GH GAS emission by investing money to keep the global temperature in limit.
Engr Md Abdus Salam, LGED, Kushtia, Bangladesh

Yes, climate change is in the hands of the Almighty God. Does anyone know where the snow comes from. Who formed the beatifull Alps and Victoria falls?. Can anyone try to form them?.Does anyone know who withholds or creates rain?. It is all in the power of God. Man cannot predict about the weather for next year. We cannot prepare with accuracy. We can only rely on the past weather patterns and the current phenomenon particularly across the vast water ocean masses to predict the immediate weather for the next couple of days. God changes the waves and the rain at any time and at His will. In addition, we go to church to pray to our Creator (God) to give the world including the sciencetists and environmentalists like the Nobel Prize Winner Wangari Mathai of Kenya the knowledge and wisdom to help us conserve the environment and make the world a better place to live in. As we are talking, Kenya has embarked on tree planting which means God is answering our prays. Read the Bible, Job 30 (God speaks at last). Verses 22,23, 25 speaks of the condition in Europe currently, when God asks ' Have you entered the storehouse of the snow and seen the treasury of the hail..Which I have reserved for the times of stress, for the days of the war and battle? Who has laid out a channel for the downpour and for the thunderstom a path .. To bring rain to no man's land the unpeopled wilderness. My dear friends read the rest and gain more knowledge and wisdom. The fear of the Almighty God is the beginning of wisdom. Rosemary, UK
Rosemary Wandia, Bristol, UK

After the 2002 general elections, Kenyans were the most optimistic people on earth. They believed that their new leaders would steer them to greater heights economically and otherwise. The youth were very positive and believed Kenya was on the threshhold of a new dawn to control the destiny of the country.Many embraced political decisions such a free primary education including going as far as making free will contributions for any project that would bring prosperity to the country. Five years later, it is the same youth who were being used to destroy the very foundations they had painstakingly build. In a nutshell, Kenyan youth have the energy to build and bring to fruition the dreams they cherish including a prosperous country where there is no blackouts, drought, etc, all brought about by poor management of the country's resources and political polarisation. The youth only need patriotic, selfless leaders to inspire them into catalysts of positive change. The youth are the future of Kenya!
Raymond Macharia, London

The problems facing much of Africa are not caused by 'man made climate change' but by local decimation of the land. Chopping down all the trees for fuel/building materials/to make farm land means drier air, more soil errosion and eventually famine. Deforestation caused the Ethiopian famines in the '80s and contrary to what Al Gore says is why the snow on Kilimanjaro is melting. Its still well below 0'C on top of the mountain but the deforested slopes mean that dry air, not humid is flowing up the mountain so no new snow is falling. Management of the land is an African issue not ours.
Peter Symonds, Notts

I agree with Thom from Vancouver, it is directly possible to engage with such thinking. The problem is not that she believes in God, but that she believes in an impersonal God who does not react to our own behaviour. Fatalism prepares people to die, which is awful if there is a way to live. The Christian position is that there is always a choice, a way to find life in a situation and choose it. We believe that things can change, not because we are resourceful or stubborn, but because we can listen to warnings and change our behaviour (as with Jonah and Nineveh). To sabotage your own predictive ability in this way is foolish, but it can perhaps be reduced by using examples from their own life where they avoided danger. "You could have died but you saw the danger and avoided it, was that God's will?"
Josh W, Swansea, Wales

ah, more supersitious thinking when it is convenient for humans. Oooh, we can't do anything, so we can continue on our path. My opinion, keep your ignorance if you wish, but do not expect any help from the science that you willfully ignore. No more medicine, agricultural assistance, etc, for Kenya.
andrea, harrisburg, USA

i believe everyone irrespective of age has the capability of handling all situations.just need focus and application of mind.those who feel responsible should combine religious feelings of people with science and educate all people about this.people want called industrialised nations can bring miraculous changes in the lives of these people and all over the world because they have resources.if we all start thinking about something together and put our heart and soul into it everything is possible on this mother is truly shameful that somewhere people are wasting water and somewhere one is just walking and walking for few drops of water
poonam loomba, ambala/india

How ironic that in an article declaring that the children of Kenya must be the ones to spearhead change, there is a photo of a child whose shoes can't hold her feet in, who has barely any flesh on her stick-thin legs, carrying a bottle with only a tiny amount of very dirty water. The word 'trees' appears only once in the article, but Kenya's drought has as much to do with tree-cutting as with climate change. As Waangari Maathai says 'You have to see the linkages'.
Ann, Madison, WI

The problem with "climate change" as presented by Mr Whitehead is that it is based on the assumption that the pre-industrial state is somehow ideal, and should be preserved. The truth is that the climate always changes, with or without human contribution, and that life is, and has always been a major factor in that change. Life created the current atmosphere, for without plants there would be no oxygen. So the fact that humans affect the climate is neither exceptional, nor by necessity bad. Many regions of the world could become more human-friendly through "global warming". Earth has seen far warmer periods than the projected "catastrophe", and the ice-ages were not exactly balmy. The planet will be fine, even when its "average temperature" (whatever that means) will be 3C higher. Life will adapted and thrive, as it as done since it aeons. Whether humanity will be fine, either during a warmer phase, or during a new Ice Age (as we were fearing in the seventies :), will depend on how we tackle our real problems. If not, we'll be one of the many species that lived for a while on Earth, like the dinosaurs. Like many of Africa's problems, wailing about who or what caused them and how unjust it all is does not contribute one jot to the solution. History is history, and if we go back far enough, each and everyone of us has ancestors that were robbed, enslaved, displaced, raped, tortured and killed. By "historical" standards every human is both victim and perpetrator. The drought in Kenya will not be solved by globally reducing CO2 emissions, but by local measures, such as reforestation, better land and water management, and reducing population growth.
Stefaan Eeckels, Harlange, Luxembourg

The young people in Africa are a key part to the future of their country in this crisis but they need help from the industralised world to survive this terrible tragedy. Climate Change will continue to increase in severity based upon the majority of scientist findings. Religious beliefs are very important and it may be the only thing these people will have to rely on for help but without physical action by the world's industralised nations the loss of human life and untold suffering will increase. We must decide now to help or face a very dangerous world for all the young people of the world!
Mike Koutelis, Epping, New Hampshire

Until all religious recognize that man created the divine, delusion will continue. We could say that it is God's will that they suffer their delusion and die from it, too, but that would be unkind to the naive. Nonetheless, their delusion hinders the serious effort to reduce global warming. They are putting themselves in a position where they will simply not matter anymore, and that is tragic.
Dr. David Heinimann, Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

Most of Africa is dysfunctional with criminal dictatorships and really ignorant and stupid administrations. When Ethiopia first requested food aid 30 years ago, their population was 30 million - today it is 70 million. Smart hey?? Last year for the first time in history South Africa became a net importer of food - over 10 00 farmers have been chased off the land in Southern Africa since 1990. Commercial farms divided up into small subsistence plots is no answer - but it is "African Culture" Maybe starvation every so often is "African culture" too??
Dennis, Johannesburg

Whitehead's piece has little truth. Not only the youth can do this. All Kenyans alike are to play their roles, since this is a complex society where every old man's opinion highly valued by the youth and the whole society for that matter. And that is the way this country will/has always operate(d).
Benn Olage, Nairobi, Kenya

This is God's work i doubt there is much we can do about it!The poor countries are the most vulnerable to increasingly unpredictable weather. We are all responsible we should take action now and come up with solutions and pray for a better tomorrow.
Marciano Koorndijk, Paramaribo / Suriname. South America

I strongly agree with Greig Whitehead. Many African youth do not possess the basic skills to combat climate challenges as result of poverty, illiteracy and youthful exuberance. In African tradition, religion is best understood in the conservation of the environment, thus in many African societies, natural forest is protected and conserved based on the belief that it serves as abode for supernatural beings. Therefore, if such tradition is still in practice, there would be less deforestion which is a major cause of climate change. It is the duty of developed nations to mitigate dangerous climate change because they are more responsible for the causes and feel less of its impacts which is majorly felt by most African countries and consequently aggravating sincere efforts to reduce poverty and other economic problems.
Aina Abiola. A, Ibadan, Nigeria

Yes, climate change is a man-make disaster, which the LDCs ,specially the Africans , are the most affected and victimized.Food production is enough to all , but not equally distributed, if we have no spare planet , we need to agree to save our planet and meet our future together
Dr.Bashir Herika, Khartoum/ Sudan

I beleive that young people have a responsibility to their environment and a connection to our planet which combines spiritual and pragmatic phenomena. Earth is a mother, and should be cared for as such, with lovingkindness, dignity, and wisdom,and responsibility, not trespassing the will of the creator. Climate change is in the hands of the Creator, in whose infinite wisdom we all rely and through Whom we are all connected.
Teresa, sudarshan, vaishnudevi

It is a great pity if Greig Whitehead does not seem to see that religious leaders are at least as important as schools, and probaboy much more so, in educating and mobilising the population to meet climate change, especially in a country like Kenya. Christian Aid has produced material for educatio and discussion on climate change in churches here in the UK (read 'Angels with Trumpets' by Paula Clifford, head of theology at Christian Aid, pub. by DLT, London 2009) and no doubt could help provide context-specific material for Kenya. The way to tackle theological ignorance is through good instruction, making the churches a real force for change.
Revd Dr Liz Carmichael, Oxford, UK

Of course it is overpopulation less consumption is in our hands there are no supernatural gods . Reality is more powerful than us it will destroy us all if we continue to deny it.
charles j jaggers, glynneath neath wales uk

In a way these Kenyans are right to believe that climate change is out of their control. Combating climate change will have to be a global effort, and it seems we would need a miracle of some kind for that to happen.
Chelsea, Salinas, CA, USA

If Kenya is a deeply religious country, there needs to be more emphasis put on the facts of science with regards to the global climate change. Kenyans need to know that they are a significant factor when it comes to preventing their harmful future. They need to see that things CAN be done to limit the probability of their everyday living negatively affecting them. Why make it harder for you when you can take insignificant (but significant) tasks that will continualy advance your surroundings despite what is happening where you have no control. How can something that is being proven right in front of your face not be undertaken as a serious matter? Mind boggling. With regards to young people holding the key to tackle climate change, sure, I think young people have the ability to raise awareness of climate change. It's just a matter of them learning about the effect by school or an outside source and being shown that they CAN make a difference.
Lindsey Warburton, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Young people are much more aware of the damage we are doing to the planet, so yes they should be heavily involved in helping to tackle the problem. As to industrialized countries, of course they should be responsible, they have made enormous sums of money treating the planet as one large waste dump, now that those effects threaten all the planets inhabitants it is their responsibility to take action. However having witnessed how things work in the US, I don't have much faith that people will do the right thing, greed always trumps doing whats right :(
Dan Stewart, USA

Whether on religious or other grounds the story is always; "my contribution is too small to make a difference, a drop in a bucket." In the 1930s my grandfather lived on the edge of the Oklahoma dust bowl. While others starved he prospered by doing three things. He kept his farm covered in cotton burrs which he got for free from the local gin. By so doing he acquired several inches of good Oklahoma land. He dismantled a 15000 gallon cedar water tank a firm no longer needed and re-erected it on his farm. He changed his primary crop from cotton to a commercial garden and by taking advantage of the water tank he was able to produce fresh vegetables in seasons when others could not. In short, he did all he was able six days a week and prayed for God's forgiveness and help on the seventh. One man can make a difference, at least to his wife and seven children, his neighbors and the community in which he lives. If the world becomes a slightly better place that is a good thing too.
Sandy Almond, Knoxville, Tennessee USA

We all have a stake in the fight against global warming. Although the young and the old have differing perspectives on various issues, climate change requires unity of purpose. I like the idea of involving high school and University students in environmental conservation efforts. In addition, I would suggest that all kenyans to have a mandatory National Youth Service for atleast one year. During this period, the youth would participate in environment and infrustructural development.
Paul Njenga, Missouri, USA

It makes me angry that people think that the dire situation in Kenya is caused by global warming. Global warming is real but the inequalities between the worlds richest and poorest countries have always existed. I'm sick of global warming being used as a scape goat by the developed world were in fact we are enjoying an earth destroying lifestyle by taking advantage of those from poorer nations.
Ian Pham, Kenmore, Australia

This "God not man" business is a more subtle frame-of-reference problem than it might appear to be at first glance. I, for example, would use the word "nature" in place of "God" when trying to frame phenomena such as droughts. Furthermore, I would link an effect such as a drought to causes such as human activity. There may be other causes as well, but human activity is one that we humans can do something about. My framework could be summed up as one in which nature reacts to everything that takes place, including human activity. A framework in which God reacts to everything that takes place, including human activity, is little different, and might be just as useful for encouraging people to change their ways. It is easy enough to argue that God is so angry at us for burning so much of His fossil fuels, cutting down so many of His forests, and despoiling so much of His world in general, that He is punishing us with droughts and other calamities, and will continue to do so until we repent and change our behaviour. In my example here, I have used the concept of a male God, but it is easy enough to substitute Him with a female God, a gender-neutral God, or multiple Gods that vary widely in description. None of that really matters. The point is that all frameworks that spring from the human mind are imperfect models of how the world really works, but they are all we have to explain the world to ourselves, so we might as well work with them as best we can.
Thom Oud, Vancouver Canada

Yes, there are many religious people who think that either God OR man does things in this world. This is also assumed by many non-religious people (well, by all of them). I am a religious person (Muslim) and I think that causation is more complex than that. The great Muslim thinker al-Ghazali came up with a theory of proximate and ultimate cause (the ultimate one being God), that still leaves room for human agency. Thus, God and man do not have to be alternative hypotheses. This fact is appreciated by the more educated Muslims, but if the BBC insists on quoting only whatever "person in the street" they happen to encounter, they may never understand the subtleties of the Islamic faith.
Robert Stallmann, Merced, CA, USA

We ,the human race have put this on us, the earth deserves a break from all our toxins, the earth wants to breath so it is taking action by eliminating the problem.
Maria, Southafrica

Yes, we need to pray AND yes, we need to take responsibility for the resources we have on this planet. In contrast to popular thought, a good Christain/Muslim/Hindu must by definition be wise, conservative and giving. More concern for others means leaving the land in good condition for the next generation and sharing vital resources. Children in secondary schools should be taught to incorporate their faith with their action, not bypass it. It will be a much for effective and positive result.

This is author is a believer in the religion of man made global warming. The "wananchi" are believers in a different God. Will a wind farm in Illinois solve the plight? Will my purchase of a hybrid help them? Will the theft of Billions or Trillions of dollars via Kyoto or Copenhagen help them? The answer is a giant NO!. Will the answers come from the youth? I think very possibly.If they become engaged in local issues of finding or creating new water sources, lessons in sanitation and the prevention of disease. These things will have an immediate, positive, long-lasting affect. Global warming/cooling/climate change is not the cause of their problems. This area has been drought prone for decades, if not centuries. They even have names for the various droughts that they have experienced, much as we name hurricanes.The article infers the "wananachi" should be praying to scientists,not God as THEY have the answers. Sure..that will work! (Note:that was sarcasm.) It could be that the answer is quite simple. Whether caused by man or by God, if I were watching my family starve to death, I would MOVE to where we could survive.
Don, Waynesville, Ohio USA

When looked at from Greig's perspective it is very difficult to deny whether anything that happens is God's will, even the worst tragedies that occur in nature. That said, however, it should be clear to practitioners of many religions that not all that happens is in accordance with God's will, and that God lets certain things happen that are clearly in opposition to His will. This certainly does not mean, therefore, that natural disasters or climate change is something that people should just blindly accept. Every person has a responsibility, to a certain extent, for human welfare and the welfare of their environment.
Franklin, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

The beauty of African countries is its ethnic and linguistic groups. Past one decade the world is moving dramatically and things are changing very fast.The traditional socializations are constantly at friction with the everyday changing current socialisations. Many African countries are facing racially motivated destructions, starvation, casualties due to AIDS and other diseases. Keeping faith in own culture and tradition gives you enormous strength. There is nothing wrong in accepting things with 'Will of God' perspective. But there are some current norms in the fast changing pluralistic society which definitely one has to follow irrespective of his own norms of particular religion and faith. Elders always do their level best to motivate the new generation. It's not fair to blame them. Prayers and religion always help a person. The need is to understand the correct 'Will of God'. The need is to restrict false ideas and reasoning that do lead to frustration and violence. High priorities must be given to environmental issues and must be kept at the forefront of the global meetings.
Sanjay Singh Thakur, Indore,India

All these comments sound too much like just wringing your hands instead of DOING something positive to help! It is obvious that the basic problem is WATER - pure water in good supply. Drill wells, or install purification plants, or import bottled water, or do all of that to get an adequate supply of pure water. START NOW!!!
William E. Foster, Rochester, NY, USA 14610-3019

Whether it's God's will or science, a hotter, drier central Africa will clearly further threaten the marginal existence of millions. It is the responsibility (should be instinct) of educated people to help to mitigate against this likelihood. Raise awareness. Do research. Provide funds to set up micro economic units, perhaps co operatives. You're right. The best hope is amongst the young and educated. These 'agents' will need to have positive tools for change. Rural tribal Africa can not just wait for God's decision. Training, ingenuity, pragmatism and some funding will help ease the pain. Water management is the solution.
Tony Esslinger, Seguret France

Education, I believe is key not just in Africa but everywhere.The answer to problems begins with critical reasoning and logic. To allow the belief of the will of a God to dictate outcomes is proof that numerous religious followers have little or no understanding of the concept of personal responsibility (this is truth not meant as negative criticism).I must also state that if those who have the ability to reach the minds of the young before they're indoctrinated into the mindset of superstition and myth. They must not hesitate to develop a plan to educate in the direction of critical thought;not just in developing countries but the world as a whole.
Stephen Moffe, Elmira,NY

Kenya has experienced a four fold increase in population over the past 50 years, now at 38 million. The country is projected to have a population of over 65 million in 40 years time. It is this huge demographic change that is impacting most on Kenya. To insist that global warming is the main problem that Kenya faces is a dangerous exercise in nonsense.
Malcolm McCandless, Dundee, Scotland

What an excellent article! Too much attention has been given to US views on climate change and not enough to understanding those of the poorer parts of the world. This piece goes some way to address the balance. The message is the same: whether religious neither god nor science is going to bail out humanity on this one. It takes action by all of us.
Geof Rayner, Rabastens, France

It is possible 4 man to tackle climate changes, i'm a science student, and according to my course in metrology, there are many ways to tackle climate changes. beside: i pray dat God will interfere and intervene in the other hand.
Gzntility, lagos Nigeria

Young People in Africa hold the Key to tackling climate change because they feel its effects now and if they want to live better tomorrow, its time to change. They have found the damage their parents brought on along with greedy people in top ranks, and now they have to guard their own lives through environmental protection. Religious beliefs stem from people reading their holy books. If people can read the Bible in Genesis where man was charged to take care of the environment, then they will know that wanton destruction is not taking care of it. It's everyones responsibility to take care of the environment and not sit down and watch as others destroy it. The older generation in Kenya watched as different areas from the Coast to the North was destroyed, and the youth don't have to.
Tess, Nairobi


Religion has so much negative to offer. It's time to change the world, one helpless god at a time.

All these events are telling us one thing, that there is no more time.
Immanuel Awoleye, Lagos Nigeria

The trouble is we do not really know much about GOD. Atheists claim there isn't one and over the millennia our concept of GOD has changed as different religions have gained ascendancy and introduced their GOD. The trouble is that GOD has been made in man's image and man is getting increasingly arrogant. Maybe GOD has now decided that it is time to do something about this upstart species which is ruining creation, sending drought to Africa and ice and snow to Europe and North America. One thing is for certain after this severe winter it will be difficult to convince people there is global warming.
Jim, Chichester

I think this analysis has been drowned out by the events of the past week. The pastoralists' prayers are now no longer about drought but what to do with the unprecedented deluge that has engulfed the entire country taking human as well as livestock lives and destroying homesteads, schools and crops.
Richard Kerama, Nairobi, Kenya

Humanism, which most people do not understand, is the answer and can be explained with a simple example. Despite how many prayers, when a person loses a limb no god will grow another for the victim regardless how many prayers are said. A human can make a prosthetic, however, and provide pain relief.
John Aalborg, Ponce de Leon FL 32455 USA

God has something to say about the mentality of climate change "science" - "Thinking themselves to be wise, they became fools." I stand with the woman in Kenya quoted as saying, "How can man change the climate...?" That is indeed God's business!
Billy Hires, Tampa, FL USA

We can not blame any body for the climate change. Everybody has benefited from industrial revolution. But Now we can blame industrialised nations not to take responsible role to reduce the dangerous of this disaster. A collective efforts of all nation only can do some thing instead of a blame game which we have been watching. Then the preyar to God, it should be sincier, many of us prey out of fear or greediness not by soul. The preyar ceremonies are quiet commercial more than spirituel or grouupes show their power.The God will be with those who are really believe in sincier prayer and faithful life. All other prayers will give negetive impacts as we see all over the world now. Every beliefs are now getting setbacke due to lack of real belief in their God's grace and truth
Shameer, Lagos

I think industrialised nations should be responsible for the climate change .
desmond, mayanghunanchina

Climate change is a worldwide phenomenon. Industrialisation in the developed countries is the major cause of climate change. Underdevelopment, illiteracy, ignorance and poor management of the environment are the major causes of climate change in Africa. Poor land use and management, poor agricultural practises including normadic pastures, destruction of forest and woodlands, uncontrolled expansion of urban and rural settlements expose large areas of land surface leading to erosion and silting of streams and river. Thus we are destroying are forests and vegetation cover, and all streams and rivers are vanishing due to silting and pollution. The destruction of forests has direct effect on rainfall and temperatures. Reversing these trends should be the primary aim of African leaders and scientists rather carbon emissions.
Kwaku Opon Tutu, Accra, Ghana

Young people always hold the key as they are the ambassadors of tomorrow but if you look at the situation from a philosophical perspective, the wording is out of alignment with what they seek. You are saying "Tackling Climate Change"It may just be the usage of the words as to what is expected. Do you want to anchor change of the climate or do you want something to be as it naturally is, or was? Taking ownership for anything is important and here I would say accountablity is a start, and maybe the nations that consume the most are really who should be accountable and responsible for the returning of stasis. Thank you
vicki curio tretiak, toronto ontario

I have just short comment I would like to share with others and this is about the inappropriate growth of human population in all developing countries (not only particularly in Africa). I think it is not realistic to find some genius solution for global warming and I am no expert at all, but I am quite concerned (well - everybody must be !) about all the situation with our planet. My point is - we have to try to bring education to all poor nations over the world, to help them understand the problem, starting their active involvement in the global process and make them understand that their natural right to have as much childern as they like is not ideal. "When I have not enough food and water for me, is it not quite selfish to bring a new human being to this world ?" It is obvious, that there is gonna be only suffering in its life ... While the families in let´s say "developed countries" have 1-3 childern in average, what is the average number in poor areas with lack of water and food ? 8-10 ? I understand the religion, ethics and human rights, but for me this is one of the most crutial things, which should not be forgotten - to bring the education to those people and make them understand the consequences of their conduct.
Andrea, Prag

Ever since people have lived to see the birth of their grandchildren, the human race has been doomed. There are too many people and it is now impossible to reduce the growth. There will be wars over food and drink within the next 50 years, and unless a miraculous replacement for fossil fuels is discovered/invented and adopted faster than any other technology has been, the population growth will outweigh any 'carbon reduction' efforts put in place. No-one would expect a 50% reduction in CO2 over the next 60 years, but the population of the World will roughly double in that time, so that is what is required. And that would only maintain the current levels of pollution! Also, a miserable by-product of this process will be the loss one of the fundamental traits of humanity; empathy. When there isn't enough food and water for the World, people will stop wanting to help others survive that are in situations where aid is required. Happy new year.
Simon Morris, London, UK

Whether global warming is largely anthropogenic, is essentially irrelevant to the necessary course of action. If non-human causes contribute very significantly to climate change, that merely means that we must work that much harder to moderate our greenhouse gas emissions. (CO2, CH4, NOx, ...) If you are in a lifeboat with rising water in the bilges, do you reject a request to stop peeing in the boat, just because "There are also some waves lapping over the sides"? "Faith: Not _wanting_ to know what is true." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Erik Christiansen, Melbourne, Australia

I agree with that idea youths are much more informed on the methods needed to carry on this movement,furthermore.they are taught on the various ways to stabilise global warming.also many have a profound knowledge of geology..with funds from mr.greig i think they are able..i'm an A4 student,17years.
Diyen franck-erick, Stains in paris.france

The woman's belief in God appears to be regarded as mere superstition here. Yet God, right at the beginning of the Bible, "puts man in charge" of his creation. I believe this includes responsible management of the environment. Therefore I believe that the Christian perspective on climate change is irrespective of the theories, we should not squander God's creation by putting out unsustainable CO2 and using up earth's finite resources at such a high rate, and instead behave in a responsible manner as "stewards" of God's creation.
Robert Harris, Derby

I do not know if young people will be the key to tackling climate change by themselves, I think that all people must colaborate in saving the world with their little or big contribution from the scope they handle. This is the world we have, there is no alternative in the short term to colonize other planet, and we have to take care or die. By the way I think that religions have been a necessary evil for human beings, taking care of the moral and ethical aspects of societies, and giving hope for the most vulnerable people, but very frecuently have represented an obstacle to technological development of societies and an obstacle to people for taking the responsability of their future in their own hands. Of course I believe that the responsability of industrialised countries is bigger than the others, but each one (industrialised or not) have to take the necessary and responsible actions to prevent the damages or to avoid continuing the damage they have caused.
Raúl, Matamoros Key, Caracas, Venezuela

Because of ignorance the African women think its a natural phenomenon. Ignorance is bliss for them as they cant tolerate the fact that it is a man made circumstances. It is the matter of great concern but whole world is looking on each other without taking any firm initiatives. This climate change is not affecting us directly so we are silent, but the day will come when we will be adversely affected. And, till then it will be too late to take any initiatives. Its better to stitch at time otherwise the torn piece will unable to protect us from anything.
Govind Kumar, New Delhi

The article is full of holes - yes we are responsible for part of global warming but partof it may be a natural process. Yes we in the west consume much more per capita than people in the devloping world but is China and India etc to be simply taken out of the equation only because they grew poluting masters now instead of having a history of big polution? And then the question of what happens to your forests - I did not cut a single tree in your country. It is difficult of course to control business and politicians but it is possible to let them pay for their mistakes. Are people in Kenya ready to do anything with destruction of own forests? Yes we in the west have obligation to help but if it is only us that have to do something then I am afraid the whole thing is a hard sell. besides - the warming albeit drasticly fast still has very long paces - even if we achieve the most what is possible now the effects will be gradual and show up only in time. Maybe we should better prepare for the apparently unavoidable instead of lamenting and demanding more money from the west. Beware these are not the reach in the west that actually pay for it - common folk is footing the bill not the big business.
hans kloss,

Well said.. The future lies in the imagination and flexibility of youth but perhaps more important it also relies on a willingness of older generations to be flexible enough to adopt new ways that enable the youth of today to prosper and make the changes that need to happen so they become reality. Wall street, the corporate world, needs to yield to the needs of future generations and richer nations need to understand as the author pointed out that the climate stresses felt today by those most vulnerable will very rapidly become first hand knowledge for all from which there is no hiding. The corporate world of Wall Street currently will have no protection, no buffer, when stress becomes so great that societies start to break down. I suggest the world, the world of mankind get its act together and act in unified manner to confront global warming and make a valiant effort to reverse the pitiful outcome likely to result from the climate summit in Copenhagen if nothing is done. The corporate world of military spending, consumerism and money should not be allowed to dash the hopes of future generations. I don't think God would disapprove of a World that takes action.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA

Survivor of these generation and the ones to come depends on what we do now to save it. We should all rise to the challenge and do our best to safe our environment, because they were all connected.
Oni Gideon Olanrewaju, Ile-ife, Nigeria

Only the people of kenya can understand how they feel hence they hold their believes or not, things are out of their hands, its more of a question when concrete steps would be taken for a healthier earth (or we go forward on the dinosaur route). Root of the problem is human manipulation of earth which has gone a lot over the board and now we need a system which uses the human brain for a positive cause and herein I agree, youth do hold a promise for a different future; if we made this mess , we would definitely have within us the ways that would clear up this mess as well.
Prashant Tripathi, Anand, India

The real problem is not religious trusting in God, but scientists believe they can manage everything at their will.
gio lodovico baglioni, Italy-lake Iseo

revelations 11:18 bible :- But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged, and to give [their] reward to your slaves the prophets and to the holy ones and to those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth."
niko, bergen / norway

Education will help tackle the problem. Young people in Africa don't have more knowledge than the old ones. Some generations have remained stagnant in development, so I beleive whether young or old Africans, we should take the 'education first' approach.
Mark, Assen/The Netherlands

This excellent article embodies why the people of more 'developed' nations, capable of acting on a relatively good understanding of the facts, progress, mechanisms and effects of climate change, have an obligation to press governments to develop programmes that alter our attitudes to National government and act from supra national perspectives in the perception and response to the global facts of climate change. In earlier stages of development, Northern/Western countries have attributed epoch changing phenomena and events to the will and hand of a higher, external force, god, or whatever. It's in our history and mostly we see things differently and are able to attribute causes and responses on a basis of social, cultural and scientific development that gives us more complex insight, technologies and potential for action. It's a global problem and the societies of More developed countries are relatively well insulated from some of it's emerging immediate effects, materially, socially, and so on. That insulation is temporary and our knowledge and realisation of the magnitude of climate change is not easy for us to 'process'. We can though, also know that the universal value of a human life is the basis of human rights legislation. From a world centred perspective, we somehow have to hurry to action on this basis. Clearly, governments and cross governmental and NG organisations have to change priorities and focus on enabling developments that prioritise help to enable development of infrastructure (and this includes people) to enable LDCs (Less developed countries) to best respond to their immediate problems and be full members of a cooperative global squaring up to the facts of climate change. Efforts in this direction were scuppered at Copenhagen this time round. We have to take steps to create processes above mere competition, to describe and tackle climate change. The old Industrialized nations were ignorant of the consequences of the processes they set in motion. Now we know that the industrializing processes rampant now, in China and India for example, are worsening the problems the world faces - and it stares us in the face that ill- regulated international industrial competition is not a viable or sustainable way for the world to continue. Not simple. What is simple is that investing in the people, in the future and therefore in education to facilitate non industrialized nations in responding to their physical and social issues is paramount. Religious responses are part of a world view, a making sense of the world that we have to acknowledge and respect as different, that does not change overnight, but clearly, if my house is on fire, I'm not going to pray for rain if there's water at hand.
Rita, England

We certainly need some global warming here in alberta. It is always cold and we have no summer to speak of ! We use coal for energy, our vehicles run 24 hours daily, our furnaces never shut off. Canada is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gases and yet we are in a frozen tundra that is becoming colder yet. Where is the global warming ?
joseph, calgary alberta canada

For some Religious people to understand, accept and do something about climate change and its effect on us we will have to blend the science and religion.
Rita, Tamale, Ghana

Mr Whitehead is right; young people ARE the key to tackling climate change (they don't hold the key, they themselves are the key). But only education will help. Religion is and always has been totally useless in dealing with realities of nature - that is not its purpose. If someone says 'It's God's will', then that person is working on a Darwin Award. Science - which always doubts even itself, in total contrast to religion - is the answer, and the only answer. It is time for religious people to accept that religion has other purposes, and does NOT provide an answer to everything.
D. Fear, Heidelberg, Germany

Utter piffle. The variation in the climate in Kenya is nothing to do with human activities worldwide. The rains come, the rains go. It's natural variation.
Thomas Goodey, Cuxton-upon-Medway, UK

I believe that young people in Africa hold a key role in changing the future. If they could be educated and learn to understand how they can directly influence their own lives and the world around them it could change so much. But I also believe that it is the responsibility of industrialized nations to step in and help. We in America have been blessed to be a blessing. If we could use our knowledge and resources for good instead of greed it could change the world.
Krystle Leininger, Lancaster, USA

Drought very common in Kenya. In the tropical regions, there is plenty of moisture, the big issue is the direction of the wind. They were having floods last October.
I think it is extremely narrow minded for a acclaimed journalist to blame a short term drought on climate change. Seems he is trying to make an inference that developed countries are responsible for the drought in Kenya. To do so would be an insult to the intellect of his audience.
David Lear, Everett, Wa USA

Education will help tackle the problem. Young people in Africa don't have more knowledge than the old generations. Some generations have remained stagnant in development, so I beleive whether young or old, we should take the 'education first' approach.
Young people all over the world are standing up and calling for proper attention to climate changes. The impact of climate change will in many cases be strongest in developing countries, and thus climate change poses a threat to development, as it risks hampering access to water, food, sanitation and security, among other things.
Unless young people are equipped with tools such as education and health, including reproductive health, their empowerment, involvement and contributions will not be possible, or at least a lot less successful.
Arlin Rajan, India

It is easy to use religion to help shine a light onto the unknown, and 'climate change' is very much an unknown. There are masses of conflicting data covering topics such as how much change will occur, what the change will be, where it will happen and what the causes are. With all that uncertainty, it makes sense to turn to God. However, in Kenya, I would suggest that people look at the cause for the rivers drying. It isn't necessarily carbon emissions. Other factors such as deforestation, over irrigation, over population and industry can all play a part. If these are the reasons, then the solution lies in education and reform.
Jeff Barnsley, Auckland, NZ

I find it interesting in that an article which touches on Kenya's population explosion and its failure to manage land use accordingly is still willing to place the blame squarely at the feet of global warming.
Here's a thought. If global warming were to vanish off the radar tomorrow, would Kenya's problems disappear with it? I don't think they would, because many of the issues in that country lie with a burgeoning populace making increasing and unsustainable demands on badly managed resources, not on the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
Kenya's carbon dioxide output is less than 0.1% of the world's total output at around 12 million tonnes per annum. Compare this to, say, the American military in Iraq's annual output of around 141 million tonnes, or China's 28,431 million tonnes per annum and you can see just how miniscule Kenya's contribution is.
To impose more restrictions and limitations in the name of climate change on these people, while doing little to tackle the fundamental problems affecting them is not just misguided, but downright wrong.
How do you tell a developing nation it needs to cut back because of climate change when the West is starting wars whose carbon output dwarfs that of Kenya, yet is specifically excluded from carbon offsetting agreements in both Kyoto and Copenhagen?
Mark McCorkell, London, UK

Kenyans are not the ones who have caused climate change, and it is understandable from a cultural perspective why they would attach a spiritual rather than scientific significance to the drought. The fertile green rift valley of my childhood is now a brown wasteland where nothing will grow. To Kenyans, understanding the root cause of the drought is not really the focus right now. Survival has become an all consuming task.
James Bennett, Kijabe Kenya

If a man or woman has religion and yet makes the decision to remain a poor steward of the magnificence that has been placed in our care (according to one's belief), then that religion is worthless. Global Warming, industrialized pollution, even the pollution of immediate orbits around our planet, are such examples of spitting in the face of what God has provided for you.
Roger, Shushi, NKR

Most major religions share a similar moral base. Even if what happens is "God's will," is it really better to sit by and watch, or to try to do some good for the world? Whatever happens, at least you'll know you tried. Humanism and religion can exist in harmony. Jesus saw people suffering and he didn't just stand there and watch--he helped. Whatever you believe, helping the environment is doing the right thing.
Grace, Meadow Vista, CA United States

Bring your carbon footprint down to the level of the average Kenyan, and then maybe you will have some advice to give them about climate change.
What difference does it make what Kenyan's believe about the reason for climate change? They are in the same situation either way. If you think climate change is human caused and live in a developed country, it is your responsibility to do something about it, and not give advice or try to convince other people about what you think is the reason for climate change.
I think this article is out of line to bring up religious belief on climate change, but it brings up a good question on how religious beliefs affect what Kenyan's do about the poverty & food shortages they face.
At least according to the Christian worldview, God's control over nature does not remove our responsibility to care for nature, and it doesn't change the reality that there are consequences for our actions. Christians need to both pray and act responsibly.
Matthew, Surrey, Canada

You know, this is my issue. I am Bible college student, a lover of Christ and am an activist for a green earth. I believe that while on the earth for however long we have been, that we've caused and are continuing to cause damage to our environment. We need to take responsibility for what is going on in our world and not throw out the "it's God's will" every time a big issue hits. Because Biblically speaking it's not God's will. As believers we are told to be good stewards, how does this not apply to our earth? It's unfortunate that BBC interviewed the rather "stereotypical Christian" and didn't get a chance to speak to MANY Christian organizations that believe in protecting our earth.
Chloe, Vancouver, Canada

Only 3 of 59 commentators so far have touched on the real problem - that of overpopulation. It really doesn't matter what happens to the climate, continuing to have large families without high infant mortality, will guarantee a subsistence lifestyle for all. We need to stabilise and reduce our population far more than our carbon emissions.
Jan, Australia

Now this is rich, the Church of Gaia - Latter Day Lysenkoists decrying non-comformity to climate change as the product of religious reactionaries.
Paul Canniff, St. John's, NL, Canada

This isn't a confirmation of AGW. It is an article on drought and lack of infrastructure. The presumption (assumption) is that it is caused by what some propose is AGW. What they don't say is that these countries are not being allowed to build infrastructure (the same as we have) so they won't add to what some claim is AGW. We can have it but they can't. Children are dying because the developed nations are controlling the purse strings. They are dying now. Does anybody care? No.
Bob, melbourne, fl usa

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