In the beginning, when the greatest of all scientists breathed life in all ecosystems and biodiversity, everything was in unison with each other, from the flying birds, to the flowing rivers and flora and fauna. Everything was normal, so much so that ecosystems were interlinked without any disturbance. The weather patterns were normal, the harvests were exceptional and the temperatures were moderate. Today that world is almost unrecognisable, deforestation has taken most of the trees, temperatures are extreme and the sea levels are rising. Everything is changing right in front of our eyes and it’s very sad that only a small number of people and organisations are doing something about it.

Scientists describe climate change as planetary scale changes in the earth’s atmosphere and ecosystems due to natural and human impacts. Many people see climate change as just another environmental issue that will only impact some countries. In fact, it’s far more wide-reaching than that. Namibia, being an arid and dry country, is already facing the wrath of climate change. Rainfall is low and excessive drought has killed a lot of livestock in the Northern parts of the country. Prior to this, farmers having been receiving a substantial decrease in the number of yields. This has not only affected the agricultural sector of the country but also the social wellbeing of its people. This is because drought comes with excessive poverty.

In 2012, a friend and I received a gold medal at the Erongo Regional Science Fair, for our project titled ‘’Global warming: Atmospheric surfaces that leads to a rise in temperature‘’. Many of my peers at school were so shocked and astonished by our achievement, because the topic seemed so simple and boring. That is when it hit me, they were not fully aware of the importance of the topic and how it affected us. For that reason, I started reading more about climate change and sharing my findings with my peers, through essays, poetry and later videos.

Why the youth matter in a warming world

Young people constitute a large part of Namibia’s population and many of them are unemployed due to lack of expertise, relevant qualifications or no education at all. Today they are heavily affected by poverty and many fall victim to social evils such as crime. If we have to look at our current economy, the economy runs on mining, fishing, tourism and agriculture and all of these sectors involve the growing, harvesting, extracting and sometimes processing of natural resources. Most of the available jobs in Namibia are contingent on those sectors e.g. industries need workers in manufacturing and production. As the impacts of climate change worsen, industries will be threatened in these sectors, as well as the goods and services they produce and the jobs and livelihoods of those who depend upon them. This means the number of unemployed youth will continue to increase due to shutting down of industries, because unsustainable approaches lead to resource depletion.

Sustainable policies concerned with resource protection and conservation, will not allow such approaches to continue. It is therefore very important to make the Namibian youth aware of the reality that our country faces in the coming years. It is also key that we realise we are the most vulnerable to environmental risks, although we may not feel the environmental impacts right now. Thus climate change needs to be properly installed in the mind sets of the youth. Currently, the term ‘’climate change‘’ is known to a large portion of the youth but we remain unaware of the seriousness of the matter. This is simply because we are not entirely sensitized and empowered due to a lack of proper platforms to define our future in a more sustainable fashion. Instead, too much emphasis is placed on matters pertaining to GDP growth and development without enough focus on how to sustainably grow our economy and create decent jobs.

The youth are the future leaders. Nelson Mandela, a true son of African soil, once said “education is the key to transforming the world” and I strongly believe we as the youth of today will be able to transform this world, into a world of innovation, technology and sustainability, through promotion of correct measures to protect and conserve the environment we live in.

Unlocking youth potential for green development

In 2013, I was part of an Environmental Auditing Workshop that took place on 6 July 2013 at the Habitat Research and Development Centre (HRDC). We were exposed to an interactive experience in which we got to share our ideas with the teachers, learn from the experts, and generated innovation towards our audits. We as learners were able to interact freely with the experts and learn about waste management, water management, energy efficiency and renewables, and awareness and outreach. It is very valuable for learners and schools to be part of such an activity because conducting an environmental audit helps you to utilize natural resources sustainably in becoming more environmental friendly, through re-use, reduce and recycle.

So with reference to my experience at the Environmental Audit workshop, I believe in order to improve this situation, it needs to begin in school with a curriculum which promotes understanding of climate science as well as pro-environmental behaviour. The youth are the foundation to stronger climate change adaptation and mitigation projects, thus they need to be aware and develop a cognitive understanding of the current phenomena, facing our current and future generations. This will allow us as the youth to be prepared to become environmental custodians in the present and future, in order to ensure environmental sustainability and the managing of our resources wisely. In this matter, teachers need to be aware of ideas that learners have which are inconsistent with scientifically acceptable ideas and be given the resources and skills to overcome them. As role players in promoting development of communities, I believe Government and NGO’s should help schools to educate the youth on sustainable environmental conservation through supporting various environmental related activities. These activities may include:

·      School debates on current issues facing our environment;

·      Science fair projects;

·      Environmental Auditing Competitions for all schools;

·      Clean-up campaigns;

·      Establishing science clubs;

·      Scholarship programmes with specific focus on innovative solutions for sustainable  development .

Ultimately, our world that is on the verge of being unrecognisable can only be saved if the youth become the keys to unlock the situation and turn it from a challenge into an opportunity by being properly educated and given the platforms for their voices to be heard. Furthermore, this can only be done if it all starts now, before the impacts become way too severe.

About the author

REINHOLD MANGUNDU is a 20 year old youth activist. He is busy completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Regional and Rural Planning at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and has joined Progress Namibia as part of his in-service training. He is very passionate on pro-poor development and is keen to learn creative and innovative ways to be part of progress in Namibia. Growing up in Walvis Bay, and always having been involved in environmental issues, he hopes to educate his fellow peers through poetry writing, vlogging and blog writing.