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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics » A Balancing Act That Is Considerably Less Fun Than a Circus

A Balancing Act That Is Considerably Less Fun Than a Circus

By Sam Pollan, ‘14

What if?

Balance is important. Finding a way to spend adequate resources across several fields is a necessary, but difficult, task. This is doubly true for climate change. The debate about where to allocate funds or establish green infrastructure is full of head shaking and face palms. Just as Dr. Mike MacCracken warned about how people need to utilize all mitigation solutions before seeking climate remediation, the world needs to prioritize which venture will have the largest payoff. Should we spend colossal sums of money for mitigation if predictions are grim or go ahead and invest in adaptation policy?

The eThekwini Municipality in Durban, South Africa has zeroed the scales and weighed the options and found that adaptation efforts are their best bet. This too brings into consideration a whole new spectrum of possibilities for actions. The government faces the quandary of dealing with various environmental issues versus infrastructure development and social services. Both are serious concerns, especially considering the extreme prevalence of HIV/AIDS and unemployment or the alternative highly polluting industries and the fact that Durban is a region of exceptionally high biodiversity.

Another area of controversy is education. eThekwini has done an excellent job of motivating people and organizations into action, however, that is typically where the positive results end. As discussed by Michael Maniates, actions are not enough. South Africa severely lacks access to the education necessary to truly fashion a formidable preventative for climate change. Education, or the lack thereof, especially among policy makers, has slowed the process of formally addressing climate change.

The thing about trying to find a balance with climate change is that there is often, but not always, a win-win situation. For example, by raising the MPG standard for cars, the result is not only fewer CO2 emissions, but also cleaner air. In eThekwini, the implementation of a CDM that converted landfill methane into electricity not only provided much needed energy at a financial benefit, but also reduced the amount of GHGs which relates to the main concern of climate change. Although not all climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts are this clearly created and employed, finding the balance of the situation can help people efficiently respond to climate change.

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