The climate movement has in the last couple years taken a new turn world over. Now more than ever before, young people have mobilized around the climate strikes, a tactic that has spread across the world like wild fire. And yes, this is a much needed ingredient when it comes to resistance & the cause of demanding for urgent leadership so as to reverse the imminent threats posed by the current chaotic climate system. Standing up to decision makers and speaking truth to power is much of a progress as it is equally a witty move.
It is however worrying, that, for most of the budding “climate activists” it seems fashionable to identify with, say, the FFF aka climate strikes. The simple act of walking out on a boring Friday afternoon, coercing peers to join you, and holding placards( some of which are materials made out of deforestation, and unnecessary waste of paper), seems to be the “in thing”. And so, if [I]do not seem to participate in these strikes, [I] am actually not doing anything for the climate movement.
That right there is where young people are getting it wrong. The idea of trying to seek attention, and possibly be noticed by media fronts, and thus become “climate celebrities” beats the whole idea of activism. Yet it is what is seemingly driving most youth to go on streets to strike. Carrying messages that one cannot back up, or riding on an otherwise genuine course, and divert the real need for focus into solving climate & ecological crises.
Whereas activism is important, and, while the western media has constantly been reminded to focus on the many youth doing a lot in the global south, I think it is important to have the right focus. Do not be lied to and quickly pick up the “keyboard warriors” whose only major job is to create noise online while nothing is happening on the ground. We need to nurture & support the youth & youth initiatives honestly putting real action on addressing climate crisis.
Climate movements is never only about strikes, neither is it about celebrity hypes, or just focusing on petitions, or only focusing on mass actions, or solely about media bytes. No, not at all! Climate movements just like other social movements, involve a lot of tactics, and actions, that help make the bigger outcomes, and the success or failure of the movements/ campaigns.
Picture showing creative ways of activism: Tree nurseries to offer food security, support carbon sequestration & enhance biodiversity. [Source: A Rocha Kenya]
From Kenya, I have witnessed & helped build movements from grassroots. And I can assure that a lot of sacrifices go into this. You don’t just wake up one day and decide you are an activist. You don’t just wake up and decide to hold a protest. No, a lot of planning, coordination, designing of tactics, and actually, mobilizing to gather several stakeholders, go into it. Don’t forget betrayal, even from the innermost members of your movement[s]. Yes, some people, due to selfish reasons, or otherwise, may fight you, or block you from working on some of your programs, or even, intimidate you,even when you mean well. But that should not discourage you, keep focused, for eventually, things will fall in place. Just do not get corrupted by the misconduct of a few,even those in your team[s]. But, learn from it!
Then again, you have to know what cause you are fighting, what pillars comprise the injustices you are up against, and how to address/ bring down each pillar. In most cases, you are prompted to employ different tactics for the different pillars. Some take longer while others take a shorter time to bring down, yet we must learn to trust the process, while being consistent, being open & flexible to team dynamics, but always knowing what your demands are, and what is the end result of all the tactics employed in the campaigns/ movements. Case in point is the #deCOALonize campaign in Kenya, where we coordinated & organized around the political, judicial, financial, private sector & community ignorance pillars, and successfully tackled our campaign to stop the investment of the planned Lamu coal fired power plant from being set up in Kenya’s serene coastal environs. The many multi stakeholders involved, the constant community engagement fora, the well organized & timely protests, the targeted letter deliveries, and indeed, the awareness creation sessions paid off. The National Environment Tribunal found fault in the proponents to the project, and ordered for a halt, citing a lack of proper community engagement during the public participation period, lack of clear disposal mechanism on the waste generated, among other key concerns. This did not happen overnight. It is a process that took many years. Even now, we have not relented. We are still keenly following through to ensure the proponents do not get away & go ahead with the project. Now to me, these are real climate activists. And I know there are many other similar case studies all around the world. From South Africa to Cote D’Ivore, Brazil to Canada, Australia to India, Uganda to Ghana, and many more. And there are many individuals doing an amazing call to action. From Greta to 350.org’s Bill Mckibben, and countries committing to serious ambitious & actionable contributions to solve our common crisis. From Luxernberg to Kiribati, Niue to Rwanda, Chile to Sweden, among many more. Let this inspire more real contributions from everyone.
Another thing is constant learning. You can never know it all, yet again, you can not take advantage of ignorance to blindly engage in a cause. You have to read, research & accept to be challenged. Engage in forums, watch relevant documentaries, reach out to organizations in the space, and do not stop pushing yourself to keep learning, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
The capitalistic system as it is, seeks to glorify some over others, while breaking many more, and deliberately blocking progress to some of the most deserving & the least culpable of committing injustices. Simple rewarding to a select few won’t change anything. What we need is a system change, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem~Kaluki Paul Mutuku
And YES! The climate movement has never been, and cannot now be about creating “celebrities”. That is why Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood😁& all other *woods* are all about. Let them act it out, but, let us put REAL action. Grow the trees, offer real Environmental Education, host knowledge sharing platforms, learn from the best, run those ecological farms, demand for protection of Biodiversity. But, do not be blinded by the “being a star” for the climate movement. IT IS TIME FOR ACTION!
Let those who have ears hear, let those who have eyes see, and let those who serve in truth, ACT for NATURE, for the PLANET, for BIODIVERSITY, and for HUMANITY!
And of course, I leave you with a picture for the month. #mobilize.
Post script note: To all the amazing organizers, to the very young people who are woke, and who realize the need to stand up & demand for justice, to the community leaders & environmental defenders who fight to protect nature and its biodiversity[ and often times put their lives on the line], to those who believe that it is okay to question when things don’t seem to be right, to those whose quest for justice burns deep inside of them, and those who do not fear stating/ saying things as they are, and to everyone fighting the genuine fight, this is FOR YOU. To you all, who, just like the iconic Late Prof. Wangari Maathai, choose to fight the injustices, no matter what, no matter the cost/ sacrifice, this goes out to YOU. To the climate strikers who go out of their comforts to demonstrate, and engage beyond the strikes, this is for YOU. To everyone reading this, this is for YOU.
***Header Image credits: Google pictures**