“Climate change is more than statistics, it’s more than data points. It’s more than net-zero targets. It’s about the people, it’s about the people who are being impacted right now”-Vanessa Nakate
The future is filled with uncertainty and while most of us simply worry about the future or are resigned about our ability to change the future, there are many young people and youths who are taking things into their own hands and taking action to drive change. One such young woman is Vanessa Nakate. She is a climate change activist from Uganda recognized by the United Nations.
Vanessa started her environmental activism in January 2019 when she found out about Greta Thunberg’s movement Fridays for Future and started protesting around her city with her siblings. She then began to organize climate strikes in schools and urged government officials to stop investing in fossil fuels and coal and to take action to address the pollution in Kampala. By the end of the year, she had been invited to the United Nations climate talks in Spain. She founded the Rise Up Movement to galvanize the African climate activists and give them a platform to raise their voices. She also started the 1Million Activist Stories whose goal is to highlight and feature all the various climate activists working worldwide.
Vanessa truly found her voice in 2021 when she participated in climate talks with four other climate activists at the World Economic Forum and the associated press published a picture only showing the 4 white climate activists she posed for the picture with. She was cropped out of the photo. This injustice and act of racism prompted her to post a very personal video on her social media which highlighted the inherent issue of racism in climate change activism. The fact is that although the continent of Africa accounts for only a very small fraction of the greenhouse emissions that are causing the climate crisis, its population will be disproportionately impacted by climate change, and the voices of African activists are being left out of the climate change discussions, debates, and solution. As she has been quoted saying: “You cannot have climate justice without racial justice. It isn’t justice if it doesn’t include everyone.” Her video went viral and catapulted her to the forefront of the movement.
Vanessa is an advocate for the poorest people who are impacted the most by the severe weather events caused by climate change not only in Africa but around the world. She advocates for global funding to be made available for those in poor developing nations who will not be able to adapt to or recover from the impacts of climate change and who are overlooked.
She continues to educate children and young people about climate change and created Green Schools which is an organization that installs solar panels in schools and gives schools eco-friendly stoves to decrease their need to rely on fossil fuels. At the young age of 25, she has made an important mark on the global climate change advocacy stage by highlighting the intersection of race, poverty and impacts of climate change and the need for diversity, inclusivity and equity in the discussions to find solutions.
We acknowledge her courage and commitment to making the world a sustainable and inhabitable place for generations to come.