Black History Month: Race and Climate Change

During post-independence, Africans were left with a choice to define their rule based on the two ideological pathways that existed then, that is Communism and Capitalism. Kenya remained on crossroads for some time, as the two founding fathers each subscribed to a different ideological pathway, but overtime had no choice but to join the first President in the Capitalistic ideological pathway. With one of the characteristics of Capitalism being the gap between the affluent and the poor, the poor are always left guessing the kind of life the affluent live. Most of them always stare at the big mansions, wondering the kind of recipe on the dining table with rumours of modern tools used in feeding as opposed to the indigenous bare hands they are used to. In fact, even the few who end up in these homes still find it hard fitting and are unable to join the family on the dining table, sometimes even forced to feed on a different recipe. However sometimes, the dining table plays host to decision makers on issues that affect all the generational cohorts, hence influencing those left out to demand entry at least to have a feeling- even if it ends only with the aroma.

“The best way to speak to hearts and minds with an aim of influencing course is to speak in the basic primary language of your target audience”

This analogy paints the picture of the struggle young people go through to bring their voice to the table. However, it is also important to highlight the in-situ issues among the youth themselves, that have played a significant role in their occlusion from key decisions meant to affect their future either positively or negatively. Three key pillars anchor this problem with the first being the language barrier. The best way to speak to the hearts and minds with an aim of influencing course is to speak in the basic primary language of your target audience. With most issues framed and communicated in the National Language (which is hardly the primary language of many communities), ignorance continues to be a serious hurdle when it comes to environmental movements especially among the Black community.

The second pillar is access to education and the curriculum the youth are exposed to. It is a fact that quality universal education for all has not been fully realised among the Black community. Worse off is also the curriculum the youth is exposed to which reiterates learning as opposed to education, a problem that cuts across almost all the continents. This has created a dichotomy among the youth with everyone focused on his or her own niche of interest with very few left on environment as a niche which apparently affects the lives of everyone else.

“(another problem is) ‘paid activism’, where even movements are influenced by the powers that be, as long as their interests take precedence”

The third and last pillar is the competing interest of investors and social justice activists. With money as a key determinant of social and political power, the youth have and continue to be tossed around with lack of required knowledge to make informed and independent decisions on issues that may threaten their own survival. This problem has even created another called ‘paid activism’ where even movements are influenced by the powers that be as long as their interests take precedence.

But then the question is, how do we influence interest among the youth to be interested on what’s going on in the dining room, to be able to create or join existing movements to have a seat on the dining table? The senior cohorts have argued we don’t even know how to use the tools like the knife and fork while eating, or if we do, can’t even define the menu, hence the risk of embarrassing everyone. However, this should be the motivating factor to cut down all the pillars, which have played barriers to our effort, because on environmental issues, you can only learn while on the table. We must therefore focus on education which motivates a broader and diverse academic approach if we are to make achievements in influencing interest among the youth to join Environmental movements and Campaigns. Institutions and organisations with capacity must invest in education and dissemination of information packaged in a youthful manner, to ensure this vulnerable cohort which is easily exploited joins the discussion.

“The youth must therefore avoid the trap created…segregating them into races and social classes”

The youth must therefore avoid the trap created by the senior cohorts segregating them into races and social classes and work in meaningful partnerships to tackle the elephant in the room in a programmatic approach. And in this course, we must never insult the crocodile while our bottom is still in the water, because patience, consistency and hard-work stand supreme.


Fredrick Ouma is the National Coordinator for the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change which you can read more about here.

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