It’s somehow fitting, yet sadly ironic that the day I started my unit on ‘Droughts, Floods and Climate Change’, breaking news reports were saying that hurricane Irma was to be the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic.
“The theme today is floods and droughts, I told the class. Cheias e secas.”
Mozambicans live outside. They may sleep inside of houses but their lives depend on outside. The success of machambas, the substinence farms every Mozambican tends to, depend on the rain. Washing clothes, dishes and bodies are done in the river. Drinking water comes from wells. Finite sources which can run out after a few months of falta de chuva. Some rural towns have a falta de agua, lack of water, for three months of the year. Cities have water shortages. The taps only work two hours a day twice a week.
During rainy season, rain is king. The predictable storms mean that in the morning, people are farming and in the afternoon, no one attends class– it’s not like you can’t hear anything the teacher is saying if the rain is beating down on the tin roof four hours a day.
The first time I heard a Mozambican mention climate change was my third day here.
“What are those types of trees?” I asked my host Pai, still new enough in the house where making conversation was a must in order to be polite.
“Tangerines…. when I was young the trees were FILLED with them. From May to December we had tangerines. But for the past couple of years we have had none. Namaacha doesn’t have enough water, the weather is too hot.”
As while the United States has climate denier on what seems like every street corner (and even in government offices), in Mozambique; I have yet to meet one.
When people ask us what our projecto is about, we almost always reply “é para fazer um troco de experiências entres os dos países,” to faciliate an exchange of experiences between both countries. So here is something maybe Americans can learn. Climate change is real. And it may not affecting us Americans much. We can’t feel the warmer summers because our air conditioners keep our houses to a cool 67, we don’t notice that tangerines don’t grow, because they are stocked year round, imported from far away places, in the supermarkets. But in Mozambique we can feel it. Climate change is an elementary school missing a roof because of the strongest cyclone of the decade, it’s the child who dies of malnutrition because the past year didn’t have enough rain, and thus nutritious foods are not available or affordable.
In this weeks’ lesson plan, one of the fill in the blanks was “Both droughts and famines can result in water becoming contaminated.
This can cause waterborne diseases such as cholera.” Another sentences was more reassuring. “Although droughts and famines are natural disasters, there are things we can do to prevent them.”
So if you don’t do anything to slow down climate change for yourself, do it for the rest of the world. As today’s grammar exercises reminded, diarrheal diseases (of which cholera is one of them), is the second leading cause of death for children under five.
Class ended with my iPad screen showing videos of Hurricane Harvey rescue missions. I attempted to explain that these aren’t usually rivers, they are highways, this isn’t usually a lake, there are two-story houses somewhere underneath there. Yet, there are still people who don’t believe in climate change, I exclaimed.
“Uau, estão mal lá, parece que a terra está zangado com eles.” A student replied. Wow, it is bad there, it seems that the earth is mad at them.