Blog Action Day – What Famine Is

Drought in Kenya

Today is Blog Action Day, the day that bloggers band together to write about one topic, to make our voices heard and, hopefully, effect change.  This year’s chosen topic is Climate Change.

Since this blog is in part about doing  things to slow down the causes (rampant consumption in all its various guises), I thought I would speak about one of the effects of climate change instead.  This isn’t going to be pretty, folks, but I think it needs to be said.

One of the effects of ongoing and worsening climate change will be increased famine.

We all know about famine, right?  We’ve seen it on TV.

When I was in Kenya this past spring, I spent a bit of time in Mombasa, where they haven’t had rain in over three years.  People were already going hungry.

The first weekend we were there, one of the big radio stations sponsored a food drive, with regular reports and updates and messages from celebrities.  This is the famine I know.  The public famine.  The famine that happens somewhere else, to people I’ve never met.

Then I met some of the people who live there and I learned, a little better, what famine is.

It’s quiet and desperate and sad.  It’s watching food prices go up as you cut back what you buy.

It’s going from eating three meals a day to two.  And then down to one.   It’ s trying to maintain your dignity, your humanity, against all odds.  It’s having to decide whether you give the little bit of food that’s available to your kids, who need it to grow, or eat it yourself so that you’ll have the strength to go out and look for the work that may or may not be available and maybe get a little money to buy the food you need so you can all live a little longer.

Because, of course, it’s the poor and the vulnerable who are affected by famine, those who scramble to find work at the best of times.

And you can go along like this for a long time.  Weeks, months pass as you try to pretend that life is normal, that it’s not as bad as your fear and your belly tell you it is.  You don’t talk about it, because you have your pride and because you don’t want to scare your children.

But finally comes the day when there is no food in the house and no money to buy more and your neighbours can’t help you even if you beg.

It’s going to bed to lie awake hoping that tomorrow’s the day the food or the money or the mercy will come.

And if it doesn’t come, it’s lying down and dying, because the world has let you down.

We have to stop this happening while we have any mercy left.  We have to give up a few luxuries, walk instead of drive, hang our laundry, turn out our lights, cut back our rampant polluting so that the weather patterns can have a chance of settling back down.  Because all the food drives in the world won’t be enough when climate change gets added to all the usual reasons for famine.

Because famine affects real people, good people, people you would like to have round to dinner.  People who would be your friends, if you had the chance to meet them.

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6 Responses to Blog Action Day – What Famine Is

  1. sandy says:

    When asked my opinion on what I thought was the reason for human existence, I used to say “to learn compassion, as there is so little of it on earth”.

    Now I say, “to show mercy, since so little of it is shown here.” Compassion is the feeling, mercy is the action.

    I try to remember that mercy is given where mercy is shown. Can I expect to receive mercy when I need it, if I’ve not ever shown it? I don’t think so.

    Love your writing, Barb.

  2. Barb McMahon says:

    Thanks Sandy.

    I believe that our actions are more important than our feelings – so it’s mercy over compassion for me, too.

  3. valerie says:

    Not much to add Barb, except to reflect … and pass on your blog to everyone….


  4. Barb McMahon says:

    And thank you, too!

  5. Fiona says:

    Thank you Barb.
    You are able to give us so many ways to walk the talk every day and make us feel we are part of something worthwhile and huge . It is so easy to feel ‘what I do makes no impact’. Fiona

  6. Barb McMahon says:

    Fiona, you must never feel that what you do makes no impact! You inspire everyone around you!

    and thank you for your kind words – we are all part of something worthwhile and huge.

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