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Meet 6 young Africans shaping the future

by | Jun 16, 2021

It has been 45 years since the oppressive, racist and murderous, apartheid government killed hundreds of young people in Soweto who were amongst the thousands protesting an education system designed to ‘train and fit’ Africans for their roles as labourer, worker, and servant only. The architect of the Bantu Education Act (1953) Hendrick Verwoerd had said, “There is no place for [the African] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim, absorption in the European community”.

The six young African people featured below all recognise the devastating effects of climate change caused by human activities and the vulnerabilities of people living in unstable communities. Thando Mazomba says climate change affects vulnerable people the most… they have an incredibly small chance to recover from losses. The devastating reality of this is clear. Yola Mgogwana who lives in an informal settlement in Khayelitsha, says, “When science says we have 10 years to prevent catastrophe, it is a lie because for someone like me… I am already experiencing the effects of climate change. It’s getting worse.”

Today we commemorate the role played by the clear-thinking African youth in their struggle for freedom in the 1970s – those who lost their lives and the many more who lost their youth. Forty five years later, it remains the youth who are demanding change for a brighter, kinder and greener future.

Thando Mazomba

Marine Biologist + Oceanographer | Cape Town

My hope for the future is that we rethink the meaning of success. Currently we do everything we can to increase the profit margin. This not only has negative effects on our natural environments, it has a major effect on our quality of life.

The wealth of a community is measured by the health of its environment

I hope in the future we prioritise the resilience and health of our natural environments so as to enjoy a more sustainable and inclusive society.

In ten years’ time, I would like to see the inclusion of diverse perspectives in decision-making spaces relating to climate change. Climate change has different effects on communities; so solutions look different for different communities. It is important that these communities are well-represented in decisions made about climate change mitigation and that these decisions are applicable and relevant to each community.

I want a drastic increase in access to information and resources to marginalised communities. Information is not only important to educate, but it is vital for true empowerment, allowing people to make independent decisions based on their own experiences in life and how they would like to see their life evolve. To obscure or make it difficult to access information about the consequences of human activities on our natural environment is to marginalise minds. We must work hard to share information and engage with one another so as to build robust conversations around climate change.

I carve out time with nature by hiking, trail running and free diving. I enjoy spending the day under the trees at the dam in the Silvermine Nature Reserve with friends. Sometimes we go camping for a couple of days to just be and play in nature.

I try to purchase products that feed back into the circular economy by recycling or repurposing; eco-friendly and natural soaps and cleaning agents; locally produced products, as well as buying items I know I will use for a very long time. (I still have and wear a swimming costume I bought in 2005!) I absolutely love thrifting!

Follow Thando on Instagram @thandomazomba 


 

Megan-Rose Francis

Mermaid + Marine Conservationist | Cape Town

Growing up, my parents took my sisters and I to natural spaces as often as they could. My favourite times were exploring rocky shorelines, looking for as many plants and animals that I could find. Now I explore the Great African Sea forests. The ocean is such a beautiful place – there is so much to see and to explore. It’s where I go to clear my mind. With a community of free-diving women, I regularly dive at sunrise at various beaches. Sharing this space with these amazing women has changed my experience of the ocean. I feel more at home and comfortable.

I spend most of my time working and volunteering in environmental education. I am the operations manager for The Beach Co-op which connects people, institutions and organisations to nature through evidence-based education and experiential learning. We focus on activities that support the elimination, reuse, redesign and recycling of single-use plastic, which often lands up in our oceans and on our beaches.  This quote by Senegalese forestry engineer, Baba Dioum inspires my love for teaching and sharing environmental and ocean experiences:

In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught

Knowing that I can inspire a young mind to help conserve the environment, gives me hope for the future of the planet. It is so rewarding to see how people – young and old – change their mindsets completely.

At home we use as little single-use plastic as possible, we recycle all things that are recyclable and our organic waste goes into our compost pile. I try my best to live an eco-conscious life.

My hope is that everyone starts seeing themselves as integral to the environment and ecosystems. This is the first step people need to take in order to change the way they live, for the benefit of the planet and its people.  In order to reduce our carbon footprint, I hope that the 100 companies that are responsible for over 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions will take responsibility and either reduce the emissions or start making use of green and renewable sources.

Follow Megan-Rose on Instagram @meganrose_f 


 

Enock Mwewa

Climate leader @climatereality | Lusaka

Despite being landlocked, Zambia is abundantly blessed with water bodies and I really do enjoy the beach.

I host and participate in routine cleanups to reduce plastic pollution. Plastics are a threat to plant, animal and human life so I avoid using single-use plastics. I also plant trees. Trees give us life so it’s only right that we plant more of them.

I hope that in the future preferably by tomorrow, Africa starts taking climate change seriously. We need a just transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. Governments should prioritise circular economies too.

I hope for climate literacy to be implemented in our education systems starting at pre-school to university

I would like to see resilient structures that protect people from extreme climate conditions. I would like less concrete surfacing so that water is absorbed by the ground to prevent floods. I would love not to see a single piece of plastic lying in our environment. I also would like to wake up 10 years from now and learn that we met the Paris Agreement.

Follow Enoch on Instagram @enockheights 


Stella Hertantyo

Slow living and slow fashion enthusiast | Cape Town

I’ve always loved spending time in nature. There is this inexplicable feeling when you’re in the water or you’re walking in the forest, with no cars, no airplanes, and no noise. That feeling is something that puts me at peace. During busy days of studying, enjoying nature means having lunch in my garden or taking my dogs for a walk around the block in the evenings. But, usually on the weekends, I love going for a walk in the forest or on the mountain, and my favourite way to start a summer morning is a sunrise ocean dip in a local tidal pool.

If everybody appreciated the world around them more, we would think twice before making decisions that negatively impact the planet and the people on it

Climate change is due to the vast emissions of greenhouse gases (including CO2) produced when fossil fuels are burnt. Our excessive reliance on fossil fuels is due to a cultural addiction to continued economic growth among the already well-off. This is important to note, because the world’s richest 1% cause double the CO2 emissions of the world’s poorest 50%.

I constantly asking myself the question: How can I minimise the harm I do on the environment and the people around me while maximising my positive impact? In practice, that takes various shapes and forms such as supporting small, local farms and businesses, thrifting, home cooking, using seasonal vegetables and low-waste toiletries, and trying to cut down on packaging.

Low-impact living doesn’t look the same for everyone. Not everybody’s situation is the same, and so not everybody’s low-impact habits will look the same. The most low-impact option is always to use what you already have, for as long as possible.

I believe that the shift towards a greener, cleaner, more just future requires an emotional shift in each person. If everybody understood the extent and reality of the climate crisis, and the fact that climate justice cannot be separated from social justice, we would be adjusting our lifestyle habits rapidly.

Our individual actions need to be carried out in tandem with larger systematic changes. For change to occur, the alternative needs to be incentivised and convenient. I would like to see the government legislate incentives for more low-impact production processes and make greener alternatives convenient for everyday citizens. For example, leadership should drastically improve the public transport system. Fewer people would need to use cars, which would lower the collective carbon footprint.

My biggest area of fascination is the textile industry and I would love to see a thriving textile recycling industry in South Africa – both mechanical and chemical. I want to see a return to our local, thriving textile manufacturing industry and I want to see a boom in new circular economy jobs (such as tailoring, mending, repairing, etc.). I want to see African fashion at the forefront of the slow fashion movement, and I want all of us to redefine our fashion role models and aspirations, so that we are not wanting after international brands, but rather celebrating the incredible work of local makers, creators, designers and artisans.

I hope that we will make progress with dismantling the oppressive systems that cause so much hurt, harm and loss of innocent life. In doing so, I hope a greater sense of collective community and responsibility is created, as we realise that no one is free until we are all free.

I hope that the Earth will no longer be taken for granted and that we will have understood that nature is a life source, not a resource. In doing so, we will realise that we are stewards of nature, not beneficiaries and that the ideals of reciprocity and regeneration will permeate all that we do – in the ways we do business, dress, interact, show up for one another, show gratitude and in the ways we exist.

Follow Stella on Instagram @stella_hertantyo


Yola Mgogwana

Learner and climate activist | Cape Town

Climate change It mostly affects people living in under-resourced communities like mine {Khayelitsha]. The ecology of these areas is already vulnerable and human needs have not been met. When natural disasters hit, people here are affected hard and often displaced. In Khayelitsha 70% of the people stay in informal settlements. I am one of them.  When science says we have 10 years to prevent catastrophe, it is a lie because for someone like me..

I am already experiencing the effects of climate change. It’s getting worse

I love being outdoors, especially when hiking. It gives me an opportunity to connect with myself and appreciate nature. I spend a lot of time making eco bricks and maintain my garden.

I spread awareness and call on the government officials to act and take this matter seriously. I also run an eco-club in my community, teaching children and my peers to take better care of our environment. I engage with people making them understand the impact of climate change.

In ten years, I would like to celebrate our resilience and transformation. I would like to see more young people seated at the decision-making table and to see policies and funding that protect our environment. And hopefully I will be working for the United Nations or serving as the minister of environment.


Dumisa Mguda

Intern at Co-Create SA | Mfuleni

Climate change worsens poverty, and inequality, because the poor people bear the brunt of the impact of climate change.

I enjoy nature by hiking, going to the beach and visiting my family homes in rural areas. When I’m in the wild I enjoy drinking the pure spring water, filtered by natural processes.

I am involved in tree planting and food growing initiatives in Cape Town.

I hope for a zero-hunger world, a green world not built by privilege, but created by the community and plastic-free oceans

I would like a world that is committed to recycling products and one where everyone plants a tree in their yard.


Images: Supplied – feature image is of Thando Mazomba and the image of Yola supplied by Faithful to Nature. 

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