By Lovelyn Andrawus
Growing up, I enjoyed climbing trees, and chasing butterflies and light bugs. I was always amused by nature, and I grew to appreciate it. However, as the years went by, trees became fewer, butterflies became scarce, and there were hardly light bugs to play with.
I also did not understand how people discarded waste without any care or regards for the environment. There were visible changes in the environment.
Back in school, I was not taught anything related to climate change, but I knew how to keep a healthy and clean environment.
Years later, I got admission into university, and that is when I first heard of climate change and its effects on the environment. I thought long and hard about climate change, and I decided that I was going to create an awareness and sensitisation on issues surrounding climate change and the environment.
The impact of climate change in the sub-Saharan Africa is felt on the economy, lifestyle, as well as on culture.
More recently, the dry Sahara has become intensely dry, and this has affected food security and the availability of water for human beings and animals.
Thousands of animals die every day in this region due to thirst. Drought is more severe and prominent due to prolonged periods of low rain.
Extreme weather events such as floods and flash floods are becoming more common, damaging farms and properties. Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa is linked to war and conflict such as the Boko Haram in west Africa, where people in this region are fighting for the limited resources owing to climate change.
The lack of food and water has further led to the migration of people within the sub-Saharan Africa to neighbouring countries, and an increase in refugee camps, and this unfortunately incites war.
Everyone is a stakeholder in the environment, and has the responsibility to preserve it. People in sub-Saharan Africa should take the first step by improving their care for the environment, planting more trees than they cut down, properly disposing off waste, and preserving nature.
Communities and governments should be intentional in fighting climate change and work hand-in-hand to preserve the environment, including reserves and tourist attractions sites.
Laws and policies regarding the environment should be created and adhered to by all stakeholders, and solutions which are unique to the environment should be crafted.
Activism is important and powerful. Being a young climate change activist and environmentalist in Africa, Nigeria, is often challenging. I advocate for clean energy rather than crude oil which is the main source of income for the country. However, it is not easy for the government to accept this.
Going after large multinational companies such as Coca Cola is also a risk. Activists are continuously being targeted, hence this poses a security challenge.
They also face challenges with obtaining Visas to attend global conferences as they commonly get denied. Funding opportunities is also a challenge due to the long and tedious processes and procedures in African nations.
Africa is a religious continent, where the school of thought on most things happening on the environment is the ‘will of God’ or ‘God’s anger on human beings’. Commonly, I do not argue with people who have this school of thought.
Instead, I make them understand the changes that take place in the environment with time and over the years. I convince them based on the facts that surround them and are understandable. For example, I highlight how we have fewer trees and animals, frequent cold and hot weathers, and increased and decreased rains, among other things.
Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa is part of our daily life challenges. Our sources of livelihood are affected as rivers and lakes dry up, and the fisherman lose their source of income.
Low or no rains plunge farmers into irrigation farming which is expensive, while the prices of food stuffs skyrocket. Flash floods damage plants and crops in farms, destroying lives and properties of the locals.
Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable as their immune system cannot withstand hunger. Women are also vulnerable as they need water for sanitation and health care.
Climate activism in sub-Saharan Africa is a new and fast growing initiative. The climate space is growing rapidly as more youth become aware of the changes happening around them, and also through climate education and awareness. Greta Thunberg once mentioned that, “we need billions of climate activists to win climate change.” As an activist and regional coordinator of the global youth movement, Fridays for Future MAPA, I love mentoring and helping new climate warriors in joining the space and to grow the movement towards advocacy.
I also enjoy raising our voices to promote awareness and demand climate justice; and seeing the young people who are knowledgeable about climate change, sustainability, and policy in decision-making spheres, contributing to the global issues and solutions that will shape a sustainable future for all.
I believe that it is important to raise our voices and call on the attention of world leaders on the issues surrounding climate change. While Africa as a whole is the least responsible for the climate crisis yet it suffers most of the impacts, there is a need to call on the countries which are responsible to retrace and take responsibility for their actions for a more sustainable future.
Activism has proven to be a powerful and effective stance through the actions of young heroes such as Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate, who called on the attention of global and local leaders on climate change, a call for action.
Since then, there has been enduring attention on the effects of climate change and how it can be addressed.
However, activism can also be done through the media which can be used to create an awareness and to encourage people to take action against climate change. Media is a powerful tool in this modern day.
The subject of climate change needs to be intensively and extensively discussed, both locally and internationally as much as Covid-19 was and is still being discussed the world over.
This can be achieved through awareness programmes on the television, radios, newspapers, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Climate activism should be driven by a passion for change for a better today and tomorrow, for all. No action is too big or too little. I advise the young people to take part in activism by first making the decision to be climate activists.
Start anywhere – your home, school, or even at the market; then take the next step and post about it online to engage and encourage others to join in. Be inspired, and also inspire.