Africa is at risk, yet glamourous climate change activists refuse vital inclusivity
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
As of the last count, there are 7.7 billion people on this planet. They squabble over religion. They fight over imaginary lines in the dirt. They kill each other over words in decaying books that glorify a mystical man in the sky. Some of them lack education, and many of them are poor—but every single one of them will be affected by climate change.
When there is no water, education won’t matter, and everyone will be poor. The preceding statement is nothing new in part due to the work of climate change activists spreading their word, but the statement is known also due to the efforts of one small Swedish girl: Greta Thunberg. She has been a keynote speaker at almost every climate major climate gathering of the past three years, she’s spoken to UN conferences, and most recently, she has been suggested for the Nobel prize.
One big problem, one big spotlight, one little girl. One small girl that has created a veritable vacuum that consumed all the light that many other more useful opponents of man-made climate change also deserve. Granted, she has not done so of her own choice—when she started sitting in front of her local parliament building, how could she know that millions of people around the globe were waiting on a messiah? How could she know that she would soon outshine even the scientists she claims to read? Thunberg became the face of a movement and the voice of resistance—in no time, all eyes were on her.
On January 26 a youth climate event was held at the World Economic Forum in Davos; in attendance of course, was Greta Thunberg. After the event a number of notable youths congregated for the photo above—the only difference between the two versions as posted by the Associated Press is the inclusion of Vanessa Nakate on the far left. Ms. Nakate found herself cropped out of this picture apparently because: “the building behind her was distracting.” The sole person of color. One of the few voices representing Africa lost her place in the world’s conscious because of a building behind her.
At least Greta Thunberg was front and centre.
According to current UN estimates there are 1.3 billion people on the continent of Africa. And they lost their place due to a building in the background. Africa has been ravaged by floods, then droughts, then switching back to floods again. Twelve million people spread through Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia are experiencing dire food shortage due to the region’s “worse drought in decades.” But, here we are with our bamboo toothbrushes and handmade Thunberg posters blocking traffic in downtown Vancouver.
Certainly, the protests need to happen—and outrage must be shown—but the commodity of anger and star power have quickly consumed the real need for solidarity. Everybody wants to tag themselves present, everybody wants to wave their flags, few really care about the suffering in the cradle of humanity.
Vanessa Nakate said it herself when remarking on the news feature: “It showed how we are valued. It hurt me a lot. It is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life […] Now I know the definition of racism.” The world has not forgotten to see Africa as a source for its own wealth and dustbin for its problems. The continent is a curiosity at the bottom of the map to be looted from and used as a scare tactic to berate children into eating broccoli. Ultimately forgettable beside climate change’s new favorite star—and to be ignored with the rest of the background noise.