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Where are they now: the causes other than climate change

By David Hale - posted Tuesday, 1 October 2019

When Stephen Hawking searched for a theory on everything something to describe it all he was not meaning that climate change was the cause of every problem in the world.

It would be great if the main cause of poverty was climate change or the only refugees were climate change refugees or the main cause of chronic diseases was air pollution or the main cause of global conflicts was climate change because it would mean by addressing just one issue one could solve all other issues and we would be home for teatime but alas that is not the case. The world is not that black and white.

The world is a lot more complex than that and so are issues like poverty. The need to improve the amount of irrigated farm lands, improve storage facilities and market access, increased fertiliser use, domestic and international policies, and better safety nets are just some of the issues that need to be addressed in order to end global poverty.   


In many ways climate change was the cause that we were designed to support the most. It was not an issue just happening in some far away country but an issue that every single person can be impacted by including us and our family. It also is an issue where the demands to change are not generally on us but other people like governments, rich people with their private jets and businesses.

It is the reason why people can protest against climate change but continue to eat meat, drive cars, fly to Bali, have children, buy more and more clothes, and drink coffee despite the huge water consumption It takes just to grow and transport the coffee beans for just one cup of coffee because the burden to change to do something to act is meant for others like governments. 

So if climate change is the cause that we are going to be the most supportive of what happens to all the other causes? The campaign to reduce earthquake deaths by improving building designs that low-income earners often find themselves in and gender inequality that plays out in ways like women being less likely to be rescued than male family members after the initial disaster.

Even the campaign to reduce the deaths by pollution is going to be much broader than government and industry shifting to cleaner energy and flight shaming. Indoor air pollution’s defeat is going to come from things like the end of indoor smoking, better ventilation, the end of poverty and access to cleaner cook stoves for the poor.

There are tens of millions of refugees in the world most of whom are not climate change refugees and the conflicts that made them refugees or the help they need is not just a greener planet. It is the end to war and violence, the provisions of good healthcare, jobs, food and shelter.

The argument could be made that the global impact of climate change makes it the logical cause to reign over all other causes. The same however could be said about an asteroid wiping us out, WW3, a pandemic or even AI which some people argue pose a threat to humanity {not that I’m one of those people}.


The causes that can’t destroy the world still matter especially to the people suffering from them. A gas leak in a street or a rare disease still matters to those directly impacted.

What of the causes that do not get the attention proportionate to its impact like ending car crashes? There are more than a million people a year that die on top of the more than 100 million that have already died. How many strikes, protests, vigils, prayers in church or official public memorials has there been for this cause and the victims- something that may not wipe out the entire world but can and does wipe out entire families literally in an instant and the future generations that would have come from those families. This does not include the millions more that become disabled as a result of violent crashes.

What of the campaign to clear landmines in the world that go on killing or causing injury or the campaign to ban cluster bombs, or reduce small arms, reduce nuclear weapons, or end the many conflict issues in places like Kashmir, Cyprus, Yemen, Congo, Haiti, Western Sahara, Kosovo or for that matter the hunt for war criminals and justice as a result of the Rwandan genocide and the Cambodian genocide. 

The campaigns to keep journalists safe, ending HIV/AIDS and the stigma that has come with it, the fight for democracy and not just in Hong Kong but around many parts of the world that are under a dictatorship or part democracy, what of the fight against TB or against Malaria and Malaria’s end will not come just from cooling the planet, but bed nets, medical care, draining swamps, development of vaccines and the end of poverty and other measures.

Doing something about climate change is important and so is doing something about the other causes that get overlooked or merged into climate change and here’s hoping we won’t need a where are they now second edition.

Just as the Bible teaches even with 99 sheep one must go look for the one sheep that is missing we must not forget that every cause matters the other 99 causes and people matters.

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About the Author

David Hale is an Anglican University Lay Chaplain, staff worker for the Australian Student Christian Movement and a member of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by David Hale

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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