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Reflecting on the Western roots of the climate change crisis

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Eight Project 90 staff and volunteers were invited to attend the Climate Reality Leadership Training in Johannesburg last month. Al Gore and his team are travelling the world to teach and share experiences of climate change to create climate leaders across the globe.

The training was held by Al Gore and a group of scientists, strategists, communicators and organizers to teach about the the science of climate change and to share how to talk to people across the continent about the ways this crisis affects them personally as well as what can be done to solve it. The training covered how to combine science and solutions, organizing social movements, outreach through storytelling, public speaking, social media networking, and media engagement.

Blessing Mutiti, a Project 90 volunteer,  reflects on the Climate Reality Leadership Training in Johannesburg.

I did not know what to expect, the three days of training were a blank canvas and I planned to take as much as I could, while preserving some space for observations and debate, too. The excitement was undoubtedly skyrocketing, sending the vibes through Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook, Sandton conference center was full of energy and the buzz was all about the “Green Man”: Al Gore and his movie: An Inconvenient Truth.  Activities of the first day were aimed at equipping participants with the communication channels for specific target audiences. Understanding oneself was highlighted as important, whether you are a person who looks at issues from a general or specific perspective.

In the room, it was evident that there were mixed feelings about the Western roots of the climate change crisis.

To many observers, the urgency to act upon the crisis by Africans was interpreted as a  smokescreen of the big agenda; a new concept of colonalism of the civilised, colonization of the brain. Some would call it brainwash. As the training proceeded, some concepts presented by Al Gore and his partners emphasised this idea in many ways. For instance, considerable parts of the presentation zoomed on the problems that America, Britain, China and some other Asian countries are already facing because of the climate change crisis while only a few examples referred to the African context. More could have been reported, seeing that the training was being held in Africa. The presenter also did not put enough emphasis on the work already being done in South Africa in finding solutions towards this crisis.

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The Project 90 team at the Climate Reality Leader training

At this training, it dawned on me that a new age had begun in Africa where the climate change responsibility feels like a European burden thrust upon Africans’ shoulders. Africa does not have as much technology or infrastructure as Europe, therefore the crisis will be a lot harder to solve here. In South Africa, we have attained 20 years of liberation (a heart beat in historical terms) and yet we are still faced with challenges that were brought by the apartheid regime.  Now it seems were are facing climate challenges brought by the West. There is a perception that this “new crisis” is brought by Al Gore and his team to prevent developing countries from moving towards development as Europe and America have done. However, countries should see that there are great opportunities and benefits in green economies, rather than seeing it as stifling and hindering development.

The question is: what have the countries who have benefitted from the industrial revolution and caused climate change done to facilitate the green revolution?

Are Africans ready to deal with the climate crisis with the required urgency?

In a nutshell, on the last day I was convinced that there is still much to do in educating my society around this topic of climate change for only one purpose: empowerment to drive change.

Though the climate change message can be quite depressing and not always welcome, as a Climate Reality Leader I need to educate people in a way that they are left feeling empowered to advocate for change.

Choosing environmentally conscious leaders for our country should be considered as a major priority. In the end, it is all up to me; either sit with the information to ensure I’m not judged or attacked by naysayers or be informed thoroughly in order to defend the truth about the reality of the climate change crisis. Different approaches can be used for different audiences; sometimes what totally matters is the manner in which the information is framed or pitched so that the audiences realize the truth within.

Blessing Mutiti – Project 90 by 2030 volunteer

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