Greta Thunberg urges for African climate activists to be heard


Pontus Lundahl

Greta Thunberg and African climate activists call attention to marginalized voices, demanding to be listened to.

Ruth Logrono, Journalist

Two weeks ago, Vanessa Nakate of Fridays for Future Uganda attended the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, and was cropped out of a photo from that conference by the Associated Press. The consequent support for Nakate on social media, including a comment from Greta Thunberg and a statement from AP saying they made a “terrible mistake,” sparked a conversation about the lack of media coverage on African activists.

Markus Schreiber
At the World Economic Forum.

On January 31 in Stockholm, Sweden, Thunberg and other climate activists held a press conference to urge the world to listen to African voices. The people present were Nakate, Ayakha Melithafa and Ndoni Mcunu from South Africa, and Makenna Muigai from Kenya.

In the conference, they appealed for the world to recognize the dangers Africa is in. The continent contributes the least to global warming, accounting for only about two percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and yet they stand to suffer the most. They’re expected to carry almost 50% of the global climate change adaptation costs, despite having 15% of the world’s population. Major droughts and floods have already disrupted millions of people, and the extreme swings in weather affect crops and pastures, causing almost “52 million people to become food insecure,” according to climate scientist Mcunu.

The crisis is fueled in part by the lack of attention to these problems, despite African activist efforts. “The African perspective is always so under-reported,” said Thunberg in the conference.

“The biggest threat to action is the fact that those who are trying as hard as possible to speak up are not being given the amplification, they’re not able to tell their stories,” Nakate said. “If we continue the silencing of planet activists from different parts of Africa, it will be so hard for them to get their message across to our government leaders.”

I asked an EHRS junior what their thoughts were on the issue. “I do agree that a really important thing is for people’s voices to be heard,” they said. “I’ve never really heard anything about these African climate activists until now, and even then I only knew about it because of Greta Thunberg.”

“Social media is pretty effective in getting news around,” said another student, a sophomore. “Maybe some changes might actually start happening.”

As Nakate put it, “If 2019 was the year of creating awareness, then let’s make 2020 the year of action.”