Cape Town — Government and civil society have partnered to launch a unique "climate change train" to criss-cross the country raising awareness on changing weather patterns ahead of COP 17 in Durban.
The train project has been touted by some as one the biggest campaigns in the history of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings.
The train, set to pass through 17 communities including small towns, rural areas, villages and townships, started its epic journey in Cape Town on Friday night.
It is scheduled to reach Durban on November 27, just in time for the all-important COP 17.
Some of the areas bound to be reached include Worcester, Beaufort West, Kimberly, Klerksdorp, Krugersdorp, Polokwane, Louis Trichardt and Ladysmith.
Led by SA environmental agency, Indalo Yethu, the ambitious project is supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and the Embassy of the Republic of Germany.
Traveling under the banner, Mobilisation, Dialogue and Climate Justice, the train is meant to reach ordinary and vulnerable South Africans on their climate change "hopes, aspirations, experiences and solutions".
According to the organisers, lively meetings with locals will be held on the train and in community town halls.
Schools, activists and ordinary people along the way will come to share films, industrial theatre and discussions on climate change.
Other activities planned on the journey include tree planting to offset the carbon footprint of the train, whilst gardening, music and poetry are also on the cards.
The train is also being used as a resource hub showcasing low-carbon technologies and presenting information and learning experiences on climate change mitigation, adaptation and innovation.
Indalo Yethu chief executive June Josephs-Langa said their campaign would keep going even after COP 17.
She said the voices they would hear along the away would help towards crafting the African People's Climate Charter.
Josephs-Langa said that because people in small towns were sidelined by mainstream media on climate change awareness, they were not necessarily aware why weather patterns were changing and were trying to adapt.
She said the technical language used on climate change discussions cut off ordinary and vulnerable people from the conversation.