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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Environmental literacy: Youth engagement as panacea to climate change

  The fundamental role of public education in responding to the numerous environmental challenges that are threatening the entire planet continues to task global leaders, environmentalists, academic institutions, including development experts on the need to accelerate mitigation and adaptation mechanisms through sustained and enlightened citizenry.

In this interview with Etta Michael Bisong, the executive director of the Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), Mr. David Terungwa Michael, sheds light on his newly published book titled: “Understanding Climate Change”, the responsibility of religious and traditional institutions, passage of the climate change bill, as well as the role of young people as key stakeholders to the solution.

David Terungwa
David Terungwa

What motivated this book?

I am a product of the federal capital territory (FCT) school system. And I can tell you confidently as a member of the environmental club that the level of knowledge shared back then in 1998 when I finished from one of the schools is not as detailed as it is now.

So, that is why I decided to introduce this book to break climate change into very simple knowledge that anyone reading can understand, and not just understand, but can carry out practical actions on adapting to issues in their schools, communities, and everywhere.

Can you cast more light on the nexus between art and climate change education?

The aim of the exhibition is to allow the students to look at these issues themselves, think and come up with their own ideas on how best to solve the problem. And, from what they have displayed, it is a clear example of what young Nigerians can do if given the opportunity and right platform. It is just a simple testimony that the youths are very innovative and can contribute immensely to the knowledge sharing of climate change, and even coming up with ideas themselves on how to solve this problem that affect them most.

Watching the exhibitions, I was just thinking of how we can translate this into some form of entrepreneurship skill or opportunity for the young ones so that we don’t have to keep looking at global warming and climate change as a problem. Yes, it is a problem – but it is also an opportunity.

And it is the young ones with innovative ideas that can bring about innovation for that change for mitigation and adaptation that we are in dearly need in Nigeria.

Tell us your position on the passage of the climate change bill?  

I congratulate Nigeria especially the President who made history on signing the Climate Change Bill. The unpacking of that bill as it would come will also provide the opportunity for young ones such as these to impact and become part of this global problem.

The Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow just ended and a lot of people felt disappointed for Africa. But, the truth is that these issues are already here with us and we cannot continue to wait for the global north for adaptation funds. We need to carry out initiatives that will empower and help our people adapt while waiting for climate finance on loss and damage.   

Consequently, involving critical stakeholders like the youth is very important, which is the reason why we launched this book. My joy knows no limit because I had this idea all along knowing that it is difficult to explain the science of climate change to even people in high places.

For me, simplifying climate change knowledge into a textbook to ease the understanding of young people in secondary schools serve as a foundation for bringing people to work together as professionals who can handle this problem.

How can stakeholders be mobilised to promote environmental literacy?

No amount of awareness is enough because it is an upcoming issue that is already here with us and it is very dynamic in nature.

As you are thinking of adapting this way, it is happening on the other side. The enlightenment needs to be sustained; leaving no one behind and that is the basis why we felt it was important to start with the young ones.

Climate change as you know is a gender issue as well. Thus, from the youths to the women and then to everyone must be involved especially the religious and traditional institutions.

Our people respect traditional and religious leaders in this country very well, so I believe it will go a long way in stepping down climate awareness everywhere if they decide to speak on the issue.

We need to continue, there is no amount of awareness that is enough or too much. In your own small way start from your home, family, anywhere you are always chip in these things because it is a setback that is affecting us.

All the northern states this year experienced early cessation of rainfall and most of the crops were not ripe for harvest, and then the rain went. Farmers would not know what the true cause of this is.

Hence, we need to step down this awareness to those people we feel are not important because they bear the brunch of the crisis. We need awareness while we wait for the finance, technology, and other things we require to adapt.

How do you improve climate education when there is a shortage of finance to strengthen adaptation?

The challenge really is that we keep looking at finance as something that must come from the global north and the developed countries which is highly problematic.

This year Nigeria showed an example with the green bond that we can also raise funds for climate action locally. We need to start up something, and that is why I am happy that the climate change bill has just been passed by the president.

The states, in particular, are the ones that need to step down and begin to budget for some climate projects no matter how small, so that eventually when funds will come and we hope it will, then it will now just be an addition.

But, if we just sit down and keep waiting for the global north to support us why the issues are already here, then we will be in big soup as we are already experiencing.

Would you rate the just concluded COP26 in Glasgow as a failure or success?

Personally, I wouldn’t say Glasgow failed totally. As an African, and someone who wanted loss and damage, yes there is that feeling that Glasgow failed.  But, yet I can tell you that this is the first time that nearly all the countries of the world including the media focused their attention on the issue.

Everyone now agrees that the problem exists and that we need to reduce our use of coal. I know the language of phase-down and phase-out is very contentious, but for us in the global south, and Nigeria in particular when you say just transition – do we really have anything that we are transiting from?

There is actually nothing, and phase-down for me is actually a good start. And the reduction of methane which some of the countries promised is a good beginning. This is the first time that all these things are coming up, and so we cannot get all of them at once.

We have COP27 just around the corner and the conversations on loss and damage have commenced, now if countries that promised adaptation finance are able to fulfill their promises, it will be a big win and a great starting point. Overall, I wouldn’t really say Glasgow was a complete failure, the conversation has started very strong and it would continue.

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