“This story was initially published as part of the The International People’s Platform for Climate Justice project”

Learning about climate change was not a choice for me.
In the last four years in Tanzania, we have witnessed climate impacts become more devastating. Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is losing its snow. Sea levels are going up, trees are coming down. I saw the challenge we face and realised I have a duty to tackle this, to tell my community that climate change is happening right here, right now.
Tanzania is losing more than 500,000 trees each year – for various reasons, but all avoidable. It contributes to so many other elements of climate change, including putting communities more at risk of natural disasters. What I am really excited about as the Reverse Deforestation Youth Champion for Action Not Excuses is our commitment to plant 10 million trees.

It is for us to show communities the way forward.

Here in Tanzania, we have an economy of food production. Temperatures are rising, floods and droughts are hitting our lands, and people are finding themselves in poverty. But the government does not acknowledge climate change to be a cause. Although we know climate change is well reported, we still work within a system that does not acknowledge it.
So, in the absence of our government being more proactive, it is on us to show communities the way forward. We must work on sustainable agriculture, irrigation, tackling the harmful elements of our lifestyles that contribute to climate change. It is not that the public do not understand – but they do not feel the urgency like we do.

Planting 1,000 trees to give young people climate education.

It is important to me to keep taking practical actions. On International Volunteer Day, 5 December 2020, we held a tree planting event in communities outside Dodoma. We planted 1,000 saplings and involved the local government and local leaders in making sure they see our commitment to taking things into our own hands.
We surveyed the local community to see where the most effective places would be to reforest. We chose a few local schools and community areas – the reason being that when people have engaged with planting trees, when they have engaged with caring about the environment, they are more likely to be invested in seeing them thrive.
It is the best form of environmental education we can provide.

Planting trees. Photo credit: Elibarick’s personal archive

We need to invest in green technology.

I am one single youth activist. I can work to influence my community, but world leaders truly have the platforms. It is time for those platforms to be shared so we can take advantage. We need them to trust us and invest in us. I would like to see nations outside Africa take an interest in youth platforms here in Africa and support our work.
And speaking of investment, we need access to new technologies. We are more than developing countries here in Africa. There’s so much potential for solar energy, reforestation, and recycling across this continent, but our progress will be limited without the collaboration of richer countries. Fighting climate change will be expensive. But the cost will be nothing compared to the price of not acting.

COVID-19 has shown us governments can take action quickly.

It is funny, when the pandemic arrived, we saw how quickly and effectively governments could act. Everyone was taking action – to protect ourselves, our families, the nation, the world. Every world leader talked about the issue within weeks – and not just talking but doing. If this is possible, it should be the same for environmental issues.
Climate change is an emergency. It is not just something to talk about and ignore afterward. I hope political leaders can start treating it with the same urgency as we have treated COVID-19. They need to introduce green taxes on industries that are not sustainable. We need to find ways for businesses to continue making money without causing harm.

We need to bring new ideas, not old weapons, to the climate battlefield.

If we really are going to the climate battlefield, we need to bring new ideas, not old weapons. And what that means is having tools to show the work that we’re doing—convincing others by sharing examples of the real-world things they can do to help the planet. We need sustainability checklists showing people the actions that they can do in their own capacity.
Half of Tanzania’s population is under 25 years old. We have a huge youth generation and a huge campaigning opportunity to truly influence policies. For this to be successful, we need policymakers to hear us shouting that we are in a climate emergency and outdated policies fail to protect us and our planet.

There is no time to wait until tomorrow.

Our generation will feel hardest the impact of climate change. And yet we are the one generation with the greatest power to combat those impacts. If the people in power are not listening, then it is our duty as the youth to tell them to listen to science. Tomorrow is too late. We need real action, not excuses. Stand with other young people. Join us today.
This story was originally published at Raleigh International 
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