In my childhood, the common conversation by old folk was how lucky South Africa was, as far as natural disasters were concerned.
The elders would make various comparisons, and point out how some coastal areas and people across the world often struggled after being battered by cyclones, and how famine would punish some African countries.
Years on, the reality has changed.
Although not of the same magnitude or ferocity, our country has, however, experienced its share of natural disasters.
This week, catastrophic floods in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape regions are a clear indication that future leaders need to take steps to solidify their strategies around climate change.
In preparing for the elections of May 8, the Electoral Commission of South Africa embarked on the Xsê (from the Afrikaans Ek sê) campaign, hoping it will appeal to young people and encourage them to make their mark at the polls on May 8.
Interestingly, Al Jazeera notes that this year alone almost 2 billion people in 50 countries will vote.
We have already witnessed Nigerians and Indonesians heading to the polls, and India is currently busy with the third phase of its elections, set to conclude mid-May.
More interesting are the results of a survey published on Monday by the Harvard Public Opinion Project Youth Poll.
According to the poll, young people in the US have shown that if candidates contesting the 2020 US presidential election want to secure their vote, matters of climate change and immigration ought to be at the top of their priority list.
Back home, the issue of climate change alongside unemployment is currently part of the youth agenda.
Today’s youth is not only looking to secure solid jobs, decent housing and to being part of a country with a stable economy.
It has become clear that young people also want to establish how, if elected into power, a government will in the next five years ensure that their houses and livelihoods will be protected from natural disasters, and what plans there are to conserve the environment around them.
No longer can our municipalities and provincial governments be caught off guard, as it is the vote by the same youth that will inform the agenda for the next 20 years.
Our planning as a country should no longer be limited to reacting to an event or disaster, but needs to extend to what we can do now, as communities, to ensure future generations are safe.
A number of countries across the world have already built effective flood defences.
Following the 1953 North Sea floods caused by a heavy storm, the Netherlands has over the past 66 years heightened her protection mechanisms by employing technology to deal with the tightening of their sluices and barriers.
It is also said that as part of heightening its defences, Belgium has opted for the cheaper and more environmentally-friendly method of natural floodplains over building dams near cities.
The UN Development Programme has previously said that there isn’t a country that is currently not experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. No longer is South Africa or the African continent immune to natural disasters – and we have certainly seen that neither are countries overseas.
The effects of climate change have become what affects our lives.
UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 appeals to countries to “act on climate change”.
It is said that bold climate action could possibly trigger at least $26trillion (R373trillion) in economic benefits by 2030. This is what we want as a country.
This may also be what the youth advocates for via their votes.
* Mokati is the group development content editor at Independent Media.
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