Something to get “Heated” About

Author: Abbie Giles

Posted October 1st, 2020

    What do you think about when you hear of climate change? Your mind may immediately jump to a lack of icebergs, warmer winters, or maybe even some particularly warm polar bears. We never think about climate change directly affecting us, our cities, or our towns, though. Our ever-warming climate is causing seawater to expand and ice to melt. Both of these factors lead to the rise in sea levels. This may seem unimportant, but it is destroying coastal cities, taking their history down with them. Here are six different sites around Africa that will be directly affected by rising sea levels in the alarmingly near future. 

    Suakin, Sudan, a city in north-eastern Sudan, is a historically rich site. It once played an important role in trading. Three thousand years ago, Egyptian pharaohs took advantage of its strategic placement in order to trade with neighboring societies around the Red Sea. Later, it became a stop for Muslim pilgrims making their way to Mecca. It has since lost its prominence due to the development of Port Sudan, a port located farther north in the country. This historic port city is being greatly affected by rising sea levels, which in turn puts them at high risk for sea erosion. 


    Another city being impacted by our changing climate is Lamu Old Town, Kenya. This is one of the most well preserved Swahili settlements in eastern Africa, and it is a center for the study of Swahili and Islamic cultures. The sea has been slowly but surely eating away at their beaches and shoreline, destroying the natural barriers that they have to protect themselves from the ocean. The mangrove forests that keep the island from flooding have also been severely impacted.  



    The Comoros Islands have palaces and a medina dating back hundreds of years. However, being a volcanic archipelago off the coast of East Africa, they are in danger of being taken completely off the map over time. According to a study conducted about this topic, “significant parts of the African coastal zone will be inundated by 2100.”


    The many forts and castles that dot the coastline of Ghana are sure to be victims of coastal erosion and flooding. Being built and occupied at different times and by different traders, these structures have been important to the gold trade as well as, unfortunately, the Transatlantic Slave Trade. When compared to pictures of the landscape from even as recent as 50 years ago, significant changes caused by erosion and flooding can be seen. 


    Again, when you think about climate change, changes in humidity is not t the first thing that comes to mind. The increasing humidity, especially in particularly arid places, creates prime conditions for the growth of microbial life and fungi. Through the rock art at Twyfelfontein, Namibia, archaeologists have been able to decipher at least two thousand years worth of history from societies that lived in this area. Humidity can, and will, destroy the history that was recorded and preserved using rock art. 


    The mud structures in Djenné, Mali are some of the most iconic photos of the country, preserving its culture and history. Some of these buildings are remnants of the Great Malian Empire. But recently, climate change has affected the condition of the mud and building material, in turn negatively affecting the integrity of the structures. This could cause the city to collapse. 


    If we keep doing what we are doing to the environment at such an alarming rate, these sites and many others could be destroyed very quickly. It is urgent that everyone does everything they can to help slow the effects of climate change. Whether it is simply recycling or using different forms of transportation, any and everything helps; and remember, climate change is not a political issue, it’s a human one.

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