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Scientists Rebellion on Climate Change: the Other Side of Rebellion
Scientists from many countries protested against institutional indifference to climate change. How does this play out in some countries?
In Los Angeles, scientists trooped to the streets. They chained themselves to JP Morgan Chase building, among them Peter Kalmus, a NASA climate scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They spoke with voice shaking, highlighting the urgency and injustice of the world’s climate ecological crisis, a refrain they’ve been repeating for decades, that the world was about to lose everything. They pointed out the message of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) new report, that rapid and deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions were necessary by 2025 to avoid catastrophic climate effects. But in another part of the world, scientists failed to speak with a shaking voice, failed to chain themselves to buildings, failed to voice out their fears over the IPCC report, failed – except for a few – to troop to the streets.
Protesters in Spain, Credit: Anadalu Agency
In Spain, scientists threw fake blood all over the place. Anger gripped them, and they threw blood over the façade of the National Congress. Terrified for their kids and humanity in general, unable to believe the world wants to ignore another IPCC report, they threw blood all over the place, along with protesters from Extinction Rebellion They claimed scientists of the world have been ignored, their cries about the loss of forests and corals and biodiversity cast away. But in another part of the world, African scientists refrained from touching fake blood, refrained from crying about the loss of corals and forests and animals, refrained largely from expressing the danger about having gas emissions all over the place.
Malawi showed a difference. Members of its Scientist rebellion spoke out. They held a sit-on at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. They demanded that the world should listen to scientists, that they would fight as hard as possible to prevent the world from edging towards the precipice. They called for the end of the fossil fuel industry, hankered for a switch to renewable energy, frowned at the exponential quest for ever more profits at the expense of everything else, asked for climate justice now. But in large parts of Africa, including the coastal areas of Nigeria, scientists didn’t touch fake blood or speak with shaking voices or frown at the exponential quest for ever more profits or emulate the Malawian scientists in trying to show a difference.
“Listen to the scientists!” Amwanika Sharon, an Uganda Scientist Rebellion member said once to Common Dreams.
Perhaps African scientists didn’t troop to the streets because African leaders don’t listen to scientists. Perhaps it’s hard to convince people in Africa to care about the climate crisis, with so many socio-economic crisis at the same time, with so many political challenges, with so many cultural limitations. Perhaps it’s because some countries face gender-based violence and poverty and unemployment and xenophobia at the same time, and the resultant under-reporting of climate change makes it possible for African leaders not to listen to her scientists. No matter the reason, the perspectives of the African scientist cannot afford to be ignored, because even though Africa contributes little to climate change, even though the coastal areas of Nigeria’s contribution to climate change is disproportionate to the contributions from the West, even though so many socio-economic crisis happen at the same time, suffering from this part of the isn’t commensurate to its meager contributions to climate change. African leaders must be made to listen to their scientists.
Protests in Africa in 2019, Credit: Quartz
The world benefited in 2019 when the young and old left their classrooms to join the climate change protests. The world benefited when from Nairobi to Cape Town, Kampala to Lagos, the young and old joined the demonstrations. The world benefited when the young and old called on leaders to mitigate the effects of climate change, knowing the world can change if the masses exert some pressure or carry out protests or show of strength to make men of power shift so that the disruptions can go away. The world benefits too if African scientists can be made to join others in spreading paint and pasting up giant climate change information and chaining themselves to banks, especially as the gross inequality that the climate change inspires on the continent justifies scientists in taking part in the protests.
“This is the time for the world to listen to the activists and pay attention to their stories,” said Vanessa Nakate, an Ugandan climate change activist.
The vanishing Nile, Credit:AFP/ Getty
African scientists, not just from Malawi, have many stories to tell. They can tell stories about how the climate change threatens the River Nile’s critical water supply. They can tell stories about the slow and gradual drying up of River Niger, an issue that could lead to a major geo-political crisis in the coming years. They can better tell stories about how the coastal areas of Nigeria remain vulnerable to extreme weather patterns, despite mitigation efforts, despite the cries of activists, despite the conferences and seminars and workshops. Since they can better tell these stories, the rebellion of scientists would have been an opportunity for the majority of African scientists to do some justice to climate change issues on the continent, especially as graphic accounts of the drying of the Niger and the silting of the Nile and the effects of the weather patterns of Nigeria will be included in the stories they tell.
So many issues demand attention. So many problems need solutions, such as the fact that Cape Town in South Africa nearly ran out of water in 2018. So many occurrences need to be highlighted, such as the extreme droughts, such as the perpetual flooding, such as the famine, coupled with the fast-growing population already straining the continent. Across the coastal areas of Nigeria, scientists, both old and young, form an enlightened class to spotlight the droughts and famines and fast-growing population going on in the continent, and the events in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. and other places provide the platform to talk about the so many issues demanding attention.
The vanishing River Niger, Credit: Alamy
The future looks desperate in Los Angeles. The future looks desperate in Madrid, even without the scientists throwing around fake blood. The future looks desperate in Panama, where the scientists staged demonstrations at various embassies, expressing a deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and biodiversity. Just like in Madrid, Los Angeles, and Panama, the future looks desperate all over Africa, where the climate change threatens to set up major conflicts. With such a situation, African scientists may have been galvanized to highlight the desperate activities going on in the continent, about the need to deal with the locust invasion in East Africa, about the need to deal with the challenges in the coastal areas of Nigeria, about the desperation of the people in the Nile valley, just as Peter Kalmus demonstrated the desperation of the people in Los Angeles.
African scientists have desperate stories to tell. They should tell their stories, about the slow and gradual drying up of the River Niger. They should tell their stories, about the fact that Cape Town nearly ran out of water, about the extreme droughts affecting places like the Lake Chad. They should tell their stories, stories that made scientists look desperate in Los Angeles, stories that made people look desperate in Washington DC, stories that make people look desperate in Lismore. They should act like scientists from other parts of the world, since the situation with Cape Town and River Niger and River Nile will help the world deal with climate change as part of the desperation stories about the crisis that people have to tell.
For African scientists to tell their stories, the media should play a major role. The media should not ignore the African dilemma. The media should not allow climate injustice issues to persist, especially as the African perspective is so under-reported. The media shouldn’t silence climate activists from different parts of Africa, because it will mean their perspectives can’t get to their local leaders, to their national leaders, to international leaders, making African scientists feel all is hopeless to think they have a major role to play.
Ndoni Mcunu, a South African scientist gives advices on how to make changes. She said it should be a bottom-up approach. It should focus on what local people need, something suitable to their skill base. It should not be a top-to-bottom approach, or solutions won’t get implemented, or the problems would persist. The same attitude should be used on African scientists, because they can speak about the locust invasion in East Africa, about the oil pollution in the coastal areas of Nigeria, about the extreme droughts in parts of the continent, about the way for everyone to make changes.
The media should play a role in making African scientists voice out their challenges. A bottom-to-top approach should prove handy in making Africans tell their stories about climate change, because as the continent most vulnerable to the climate crisis, their stories come with a unique angle. Tailor-made solutions to the needs of the continent should also play a role in making African scientists emulate their colleagues elsewhere, because once they’re convinced to speak about the climate crisis, once people listen to them, once the world gives them a chance to speak, they’ll do very well in voicing out the challenges confronting them.