With COP26 taking place on our doorstep and dominating our headlines the reality of climate change is impossible to ignore.
The world is getting hotter. At present, it seems like we're on a path that will mean that in the next two or three decades, we will see significant changes to the weather, world geography and certain parts of the globe's ability to sustain life.
But, with the huge scale of the problem and the promises being made to tackle it, it is easy to lose sight of what this means for individual communities around the world. And it is easy to forget that, although the urgency to tackle the problem has amped up in the West, for many communities they have been feeling the sharp end of climate change for far longer than it has demanded our attention.
I have visited many countries over the years as part of my work with the Christian humanitarian aid charity Feed The Hungry. My work has taken me to Zambia, Kenya and Uganda and after seeing the impact of climate change in the world's poorest communities, I can see the responsibility we carry as both Christians and members of the global community.
Five years ago, I visited Zambia to film and photograph a Feed The Hungry feeding programme. One rural village we went to had been built by a stream, which was the main water supply. What I saw there was a bone-dry riverbed. It hadn't rained for 18 months and the forecast didn't show any signs of improvement. One father in the village had been trying to grow crops to feed his children. It was a sorrowful sight; the crops had failed because there just wasn't the moisture to be able to help them grow. The gentleman didn't know how he was going to feed his family.
We spoke to mothers with children who said the same; they were reliant on the land to grow food, to eat or to sell, but what do you do when the land doesn't produce? And that was five years ago! The UK only declared there was a climate emergency in 2019. Since then Zambia has continued to experience near annual droughts and the rising temperature shows no sign of abating.
The same story could be told for people growing food in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi; in recent years, their climate has been changing, often with higher temperatures and little rain. On the UN's live Hunger map 5.9 million people in Zimbabwe currently have insufficient food consumption– climate change is already biting and is only going to get worse.
Where some are suffering from drought others are battling floods. The year after my trip to Zambia, I visited a Feed The Hungry feeding programme in Kenya. We went to see a school where the food, provided by Feed The Hungry, was cooked in big metal pots, sat on a fire in a shanty wooden structure, clad with dried mud for walls. The children were happy for the food, even if the kitchen wasn't up to much. Later that year, that area of Kenya experienced huge amounts of rainfall. We received word that the 'kitchen' had been washed away in the torrents. Much like Zambia this pattern has continued and May this year saw 6,800 families left homeless after their homes were destroyed by floods. Feed The Hungry did some fundraising and raised enough to build a new kitchen, made out of concrete; now the most solid structure in the whole area.
The reality is that it is becoming harder for some developing countries to grow food, either because of too little or too much rainfall and often a combination of both extremes. Africa, as a continent, contributes less than 4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and yet is the most vulnerable continent in the world in terms of climate change and food insecurity.
The issue of climate change is going to affect many of us in the coming years, but the hot summers, warm winters and changing coastlines that we may see in the UK will be minor compared to the impact that it is already causing across Africa. But while the future may look bleak, it might not be too late to soften the outcome.
Humanity has the incredible God-given power to innovate in our stewardship and cultivation of creation. Feed The Hungry has just begun working with Coventry University on a project to develop sustainable farming systems for arid regions in Djibouti. Projects like this have the potential to have a huge impact.
But we are also called to be stewards of the world God has given us to live in, and changes to our lifestyles can help curb our own individual carbon output and begin to slow the process of climate change.
Once, vising a Ugandan refugee camp, I met some infants who would have been 2 or 3-years-old; the same age as my eldest son at that time. Their lives and the life of my son were a stark contrast; literally, worlds apart. The thing that struck me most was that the differences in their circumstances were purely down to geography; they were born in one country and my son was born in another. The future is going to be different and will affect different areas of the globe in different ways, but we must never forget that we are all in this together, and we ought to start living like we are.
Rich Smith is Communications and IT Manager at Feed The Hungry UK.