Young Africans’ green fears grow

Pretoria News - - WORLD - |

DE­SPITE surg­ing cli­mate change threats, from wors­en­ing storms to grow­ing wa­ter short­ages, young Africans see unem­ploy­ment, cor­rup­tion and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity as the most press­ing is­sues fac­ing them, ac­cord­ing to a first-of-its-kind survey.

But en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cioe­co­nomic prob­lems are of­ten in­ter­re­lated – with cor­rup­tion and unem­ploy­ment driv­ing il­le­gal log­ging, for in­stance, en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts noted. And when they were ques­tioned on cli­mate change ex­clu­sively, 80% of those in­ter­viewed for the African Youth Survey said they were anx­ious about cli­mate change.

The survey, re­leased yes­ter­day, was based on 4 200 in-depth, face-to­face in­ter­views of Africans aged 18-24 across 14 coun­tries.

“There’s a se­ri­ous dis­con­nect in how the West views cli­mate change and the way this de­mo­graphic in Africa views it,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, chair­per­son of the South African-based Ichikowitz Fam­ily Foun­da­tion which funded the study.

“Less than 2% iden­ti­fied the term cli­mate change as a prob­lem. But as we drilled down we dis­cov­ered over­whelm­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns linked to wa­ter, pol­lu­tion and clean en­ergy,” he said.

Con­fronted with an ar­ray of po­ten­tial con­cerns, cli­mate change ranked low on the list of pri­or­i­ties for youth, he said. But as re­searchers en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tions with those sur­veyed, in­ter­vie­wees be­gan ex­press­ing cli­mate con­cerns. The prob­lem is many peo­ple don’t nec­es­sar­ily group their en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns – such as wa­ter short­ages – un­der cli­mate change, though the two are con­nected, he said.

“There’s a per­cep­tion that peo­ple don’t care and are un­e­d­u­ca­ble about cli­mate change. But this is not the case,” he said. From length­en­ing droughts to stronger cy­clones, wors­en­ing flood­ing and grow­ing food in­se­cu­rity, the im­pacts of the cli­mate cri­sis are be­ing felt acutely across the con­ti­nent, African lead­ers say.

That is de­spite African coun­tries be­ing some of the least re­spon­si­ble for the car­bon diox­ide emis­sions driv­ing heat­ing of the planet.

Ac­cord­ing to the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, Africa ac­counts for just 3%-4% of global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

In coun­tries such as Chad, Niger and the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, per capita emis­sions are more than 160 times lower than in the US, Aus­tralia and Canada.

De­spite this, the Ichikowitz survey found 57% of African youth feel all coun­tries have equal re­spon­si­bil­ity to ex­plore and use re­new­able en­ergy, no mat­ter how wealthy they are.

Wan­jira Mathai, a Kenyan en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and daugh­ter of Africa’s first woman No­bel Peace Lau­re­ate, Wan­gari Maathai, said she be­lieved

African youth cared about the en­vi­ron­ment, but wide­spread cor­rup­tion un­der­mined en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion ef­forts.

“At the core of en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion is a cul­ture of cor­rup­tion that fa­cil­i­tates the de­struc­tion of the nat­u­ral world,” said Mathai in the re­port.

“We need to in­tro­duce en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship as a core part of early ed­u­ca­tion, so chil­dren and youth grow up un­der­stand­ing and lov­ing the nat­u­ral world.”

When young peo­ple were ques­tioned on spe­cific en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, strong opin­ions emerged.

For ex­am­ple, 86% of African youth worry about wa­ter short­ages, 79% are con­cerned about plas­tic waste and 53% be­lieve eco­log­i­cal preser­va­tion is more im­por­tant than in­creas­ing farm har­vests.

The raw data from the re­port will be made pub­licly avail­able, said of­fi­cials of the foun­da­tion.

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