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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Climate action in Nigeria universities as a sustainability strategy

One odd afternoon, slightly cloudy and breezy just after our vertebrate biology class on birds, we were invited to an inaugural lecture by the Faculty of Life Sciences on energy transition. The outcome was dissatisfactory to me and probably a few students like me who are passionate about climate change. I said “probably few” because there is a high possibility that nobody in that auditorium cared about climate change.

University of Benin
University of Benin, Benin City

The invited guest speaker is a Shell employee, that’s why it made sense to me why instead of discussing energy transition he proceeded to talk about his achievement and success in life as an employee of Shell. Congratulations to him, but that was not the reason I was there. I was pressed, but I think I was the only one. Given the controversy of Shell activities in Nigeria and the consequences of environmental pollution being faced in the Niger Delta coupled with climate change risks and present impacts, the topic of energy transition is a pressing one and the Nigerian student must hear of it.

Do Nigerian students care about climate change and energy transition? They obviously don’t, they rarely do. My hypotheses are: Nigerian students are frustrated and overwhelmed by Nigeria’s problems that they cannot bring themselves to worry about pressing social issues, so they avoid it and rather busy themselves with entertainment.

Second is that they’ve heard of climate change, but it’s just another school nonsense, that is to say they do not understand the implications of climate change on their livelihood, they don’t know who is largely responsible, who should be held accountable and what climate change will cost them, well, not until the heat wave that struck the country. The heat wave has been a learning moment for all Nigerians on the reality of climate change, a student in Abuja quoted me on X, saying that people responsible for addressing climate change should really do something pretty damn fast because the heat is unbearable, and many more tweets like that.

How can we bring climate action to the universities in Nigeria? Engaging university students in climate action is an effective strategy because, first, students have the disposition to be volatile or take action at slight discomfort. Second is, university students possess in-depth knowledge which may compliment and sophisticate climate action in Nigeria. Third is that university students may possess the skills and qualities like critical thinking skills, communication skills, etc. which would strengthen climate action in Nigeria. Let us never forget that the goal of climate action is better negotiation with international and local bodies/companies, and to regulate and properly manage the causes of climate change and risks.

Engaging university students in climate action appears to be very effective and achievable, mobilisation is quite easy because a single pack of hungry-man sized indomie noodles would do the trick, it is not solely because they cannot afford a pack of noodles, it is just how we behave.

Depending on the quality of instructional delivery and engagement, students can be imparted with knowledge about climate change, environmental pollution, climate dialogued, etc.  Given the urgency of achieving a net zero world, environmental CSOs have to engage more university students.

By Greatson Odion

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