Rick Olson visits with children in Tanzania.

By Rick Olson, Rotary Club of Prior Lake, Minnesota, USA

Climate change is an impersonal, ambiguous term, which denotes negative impact on people around the world. But on a recent trip to Tanzania in Africa I met some of the innocents who will be most affected by the increased droughts caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

On a 10-day biking safari to visit Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, we camped in a school yard in a Maasai village west of Arusha, Tanzania. Three boys came to visit, and after giving them some treats, I took their photo with my phone. I showed them the photo, and a boy about 8 or 9 years old gestured to me he would like to hold the phone.

So, I showed him how to take a photo with it and handed it to him. I also taught him how to take selfies and videos. Before long a group of about 15 children were gathered around us, looking at photos he had taken, enlarging the pictures of some of the kids, all to gales of laughter. It was so much fun. Seeing how quickly he learned to use the phone, without our knowing a word of each other’s language, was such a kick.

These Maasai children live in a very dry area. The March-May “rainy” season had not produced a drop of rain by the time I left on 23 March. These young ones and the rest of their tribe are the least capable of adapting to even drier conditions projected by the climate scientists than the desert they already live in, hanging on by a thread. Yet, we in the United States who are in the most wealthy of countries and have produced and continue to produce the most carbon dioxide can’t even agree that human-caused climate change is real, much less agree on what to do about it.

Is it the truth?

As a Prior Lake Rotarian, I join my club weekly in reciting The Four-Way Test. The first two lines are: “Is it the truth?” and “Is it fair to all concerned?” A guest commentary I wrote for the Prior Lake American, Commentary: Acting on climate change can make difference, outlines why it is the truth that climate change is real and caused by humans burning fossil fuel. Is it fair that those least able to adapt to the negative changes bear the greatest impacts while we do nothing? I think not.
We are not helpless in mitigating the consequences of our past and present actions. We as Rotarians can support actions including government legislation that promote feasible measures to effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We can support Rotary projects that seek to alleviate or reduce the impact of climate change.

Join us in minimizing the damage to not only our economy and our lives, but that of the innocents in Africa and India who will be most affected.