NEWBRIDGE native 2fm broadcaster Keith Walsh recently travelled to Malwai with Trócaire to get a first-hand glimpse of the devastating effects of climate change in the region and to raise awareness of the issue.
Keith, a former host of 2fm’s Breakfast Republic who now presents his own weekend show on the station, visited a number of Trócaire partners and projects during the short trip to Africa last month.
The trip marked six months since Cyclone Idai hit the region, leaving over 1,300 people dead, while over 850,000 people were affected in Malawi with 59 deaths and nearly 87,000 people having to leave their homes in the country.
The Irish public donated €414,840 to Trócaire’s emergency appeal, which was used to offer food supplies and shelter in the immediate aftermath, as well as addressing long-term issues like water, sanitation and hygiene, along with educating people on how to respond to future emergencies related to climate change.
Keith also visited small-farming projects and Climate Advocacy initiatives which are benefiting local communities in addition to meeting young people fighting for equality through Gender Based Violence education.
Speaking on the latest episode of Trócaire’s monthly podcast, the World Etc, Keith explained his motivation for travelling to Malawi.
“You come back and try and tell people: this climate change thing is real. You can be one more voice. I went over there as a factfinder to come back and say, ‘this is definitely happening!’
“What Trócaire do is ask the locals what they want. No-one is imposing anything on them, so they go over and ask, ‘what are you looking for, what’s happening, what are the problems, how has the weather changed in the last five years?’”
The trip offered Keith a first-hand glimpse of the effects of climate change, which has had a devastating impact on the lives of locals:
“Where I was, in a place called Zomba, there was an area that was like swamplands, but it had dried up so much it had gone right back to the lake and they were telling me the year before that the lake completely dried up,” he said.
“You’re driving through this dirt road and you see a boat beside a house… and I was like, ‘where are they fishing!?’ You get to a few kilometres away and the lake has receded so much that there’s not much of a lake anymore.
“These are the things that are happening, and they just have to rethink it. Now the fishermen don’t have the fish to eat or sell, so fishermen are now growing crops as well so they aren’t depending on one thing.”
The broadcaster admitted the trip has inspired him to support climate action and back the Friday’s for future School Strikes made famous by Greta Thunberg. Over 10,000 people took to the streets in Dublin last month with thousands protesting nationwide and millions taking action around the world.
“I don’t know if the trip made me want to campaign more, but it makes me more willing to support things like the Friday School Strikes and to be more encouraging of young people and to be that 40-something-year-old man that isn’t having a go at them,” he said.
“Criticising them is such an obvious white, male thing to do, so just shut up and listen to yourself.
“Somebody on Twitter said, ‘if the strikes are on the summer holidays, I’d love to see who would show up,’ but the point of it is, it’s a school strike – it can’t be on the summer holidays!
“If you’re being mistreated in work you aren’t going to strike on a Sunday when you don’t work, you strike on the days that effect the business.
“They’re going on strike to tell the adults that they’re not going to go to school on Fridays unless they do something about what’s happening to the world. That’s the point of it.
“Unfortunately for young people they didn’t take into account how thick some men and the generation before us are. They have all the excuses, they turn a blind eye and they have their blinkers on and they come up with a reason not to listen.
“Let’s help the people who are affected by climate change right now,” added Keith.
You can listen to the latest episode of Trócaire’s monthly podcast, the World Etc, at https://www.trocaire.org/news/podcast