Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger and migration

The Cyprus Strollers celebrated the International Mountain Day with a gathering on 10 Dec., in which the following message was shared with all.

The UN declared 2002 the International Year of Mountains. From 2003 onwards, 11 December, is celebrated as “International Mountain Day”.

Mountains cover 22 percent of the earth’s land surface, and 915 million people live in mountain areas. 90% of these 915 million mountain dwellers live in developing countries, and ~ 1/3 of these people are poor and vulnerable to food shortage and insecurity.

Our mountains are threatened by their population abandoning their homes, moving to urban environments. Another serious threat is climate change; as temperatures rise, mountain glaciers are melting, and this affects our freshwater supplies. Hence the theme for this year’s International Mountain Day is climate, hunger and migration.

Some 30 years ago, while this writer was living in Switzerland, it was a shock to learn that snow was no longer falling at the time it was customarily expected, and the tourism industry was employing artificial means to create snow for skiing. One may wonder “how do these phenomena affect one living in Cyprus”. The answer is that the entire globe is no larger than a village, as far as the breadth of climate degradation goes. Recall, over 20 persons died in floods in Athens last month.

“What can one do about it”, comes another voice. There are no simple answers, and a Global Meeting is taking place from 11 – 13 Dec. 2017 in Rome, focusing on the challenges and opportunities in sustainable mountain development. This Global Meeting is expected to launch a framework to support concrete actions. It is not easy.

Having said this, at a personal, individual level, each one can continue acting responsibly, influencing others and, finally, not losing faith. As Jesus said to his disciples, in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, chapter 17: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as one grain of mustard, you can say to this mountain ‘move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

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