Meeting the Climate Crisis with Activism

“Historically, Africa is responsible for only 3% of global emissions. And yet Africans are suffering some of the most brutal impacts fueled by the climate crisis. While the African continent, while the global South is on the front of climate crisis, they are not on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. We have seen activists from the areas most affected being erased from pictures, from conversation, and removed from rooms. But how will we have climate justice if people from the most affected areas are not being listened to?”

-Vanessa Nakate, speech at COP 26, November 5th, 2021.

Watch Vanessa Nakate in an inspirational video: Climate Change is about the People

Vanessa Nakate speaking to former Ireland President Mary Robinson on Ted Women: The Global Opportunity to Accelerate Africa’s Sustainable Future  

Temperature Rising

A powerful new documentary coming in 2023 about three Southern African activists who grapple with what thinking globally and acting locally means in practice. Taking place between two major climate conferences – COP26 Glasgow and COP27 Sharm el Sheik, Temperature Rising uncovers the barriers to climate action and calls loudly for movement building from below, at a time where the very survival of large numbers of people depends on what activists can get political leaders to do.


How Climate Change Turned This Moroccan Village Into a Ghost Town

A Moroccan journalist returns to the oasis community where he grew up—parts of which are now abandoned by the effects of climate change.

Khalid Bencherif is a Moroccan freelance journalist on the pulse of environmental, social and political issues in the Middle East and North Africa. He won the 2022 Michael Elliott Award for a story titled How Climate Change Turned This Moroccan Village into a Ghost Town. The story exposes the connection between rising temperatures in North Africa, subsequent desertification, and forced mass migration.

Youth Rise Up Against Climate Change: The Conversations

In 2020 and 2021, the African Studies Association Teachers’ Workshop led key conversations with youth about their work against climate change, “Youth Rise Up Against Climate Change.” Below are the resources compiled by Elsa Wiehe Ed.D. for the 2021 event. To see the 2020 resource list, click here

Watch the Youth Rise Up Against Climate Change conversation at the 2020 African Studies Association Teachers’ Workshop:

The conversation continued at the 2021 African Studies Association Teachers’ Workshop:


Music galvanizes our students’ intellectual, social and political activity. To accompany the work of bringing awareness of African people’s activism in tandem with a real global struggle against climate change in our students’ localities, we recommend Angelique Kidjo’s Mother Nature, 2021. Listen to the whole album here.


Activity with students: Distribute this list of intentionally broad actions with students and in groups, ask them to specify what each action means to them, in their understanding, and in their contexts. This activity makes for a rich discussion of the diversity of possible strategies, and helps build knowledge on how to act.

Speak out.

Engage with gender, race, and class in your struggle.

Participate in a movement.

Advocate for issues.

Dare actions that make the struggle visible.

Center environmental stewardship in your communities.

Partner with individuals and organizations across the globe.

Co-produce knowledge: what knowledges do others bring about the issue?

Represent stories of environmental justice in ways that amplify the stories of the most vulnerable.  

Name the responsible parties clearly

Use music, dance, art, poetry, to tell your stories.

Envision new worlds.

Affirm nature-human connections, always.


What do Teachers Need to Know? Environmental Africa: Climate Change, Conservation, and Communal Cooperation. Climate change, habitat loss, and the endangerment of wildlife has brought about international interventions and conservation efforts throughout Africa. However, policies and programs are not without their problems. Throughout Africa, questions of environmental and climate justice are raised when communal lifestyles are threatened by initiatives that are not designed with a mindfulness of the needs of people throughout Africa. In this episode which was developed by Primary Source with the support of Boston University African Studies Center, we explore the human toll taken by climate change and sometimes even by efforts to protect the environment.

Learning about Climate Change in Africa

Climate change causes us to rethink world history, Dr. Olúfémi Táíwò on climate change and reparations.

To achieve racial justice, we must rebuild the world, and save the planet, another insightful piece from Dr. Olúfémi Táíwò on why the climate crisis is connected to racial injustice.

Watch a video of Dr. Olúfémi Táíwò,  Justice in an era of Climate Change

A bank of videos by Dr. James Boyce to understand the political economy of the climate crisis. An excellent resource for teacher professional development and appropriate for high schoolers as well.

Sahara desert is expanding (Science Daily)

Senegal’s Capital Partially Submerged Following Rainfall (Democracy Now, September 9, 2020)

How Africa will be affected by Climate Change (BBC, December 15, 2019)

If the Climate Stays like this, We Won’t Make it (CNN, featuring Nkosi Nyathi)

Rain brings Relief as water again flows through Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls (featuring Nkosi Nyathi)

Food Security in Nigeria’s changing climate


Activists’ links and speeches

Oladosu Adenike interviewed on Channels TV about COP 26 and a gender sensitive eco-politics

VOA interview with Oladosu Adenike at COP 26: African Youth Demand Climate Justice

DW interview with Oladosu Adenike at COP 26: African activists demand action on climate change.

Ecological Justice Kenya Facebook page, an organization led by Irene Asuwa

Youth vs. Apocalypse  the organization Aniya Butler is active in.

Oladosu Adenike: “Africa is the only continent that climate change is leading to armed conflict most especially countries within Lake Chad region. This is how critical the shrinking of#LakeChad is affecting Africa’s peace and security.”

Vanessa Nakate speaking at the Youth U.N Summit ahead of COP 26 (2021)

Vanessa Nakate speaking at COP 26 (2021) “Another world is possible and this is just a glimpse of it” – an inspirational short speech setting a vision for imagining a just and green future, now.

Evelyn Acham speaking at COP 26 (2021)

Nowhere to run: The climate crisis in Nigeria (full length documentary, 2017, Core Productions).

Zina Saro Wiwa’s on her art and engagement with environmentalism and her father’s legacy (interview excerpts, 2018)

Yola Mogwana & Xoli Fuyani discussing climate change

SABC 2 – 

Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (Nkosi Nyathi)

Rain brings Relief as water again flows through Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls (featuring Nkosi Nyathi)


Select Bibliography

Children’s Books 

Sankofa Reads Youtube Channel – a great repository of online read-alouds

Africa Access – a comprehensive resource to turn to for book awards, reviews, and lesson plans

The best beekeeper of Lalibela – Christina Kessler

Wangari Maathai: The woman who planted a million trees – Frank Prevot

Gizo Gizo – Emily Williamson. A Library of Congress interview with Emily Williamson which includes her reading the book out loud.

I am a farmer – Baptiste and Miranda Paul

I am a farmer – a short video about the real farmer Tantoh in Cameroon

Seeds of change: planting a path to peace – Jen Cullerton Johnson

I will be a hummingbird – an exquisite animated short film narrated by Wangari Mathai

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia – Miranda Paul

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai – Claire A. Nivola

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer

We Planted a Tree – Diane Muldrow

Kenya’s Art – Linda Trice, Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell

Middle & High School Books

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition – William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer

Unbowed A Memoir – Wangari Maathai


THIS IS THE TIME © Aniya Butler

Aniya Butler read her poem at the ASA Annual Teachers’ Workshop on November 14th, 2020.

To take the broken pieces
From the crumbling foundations
mold them
I am impatient
The time
To recognize
These failing systems
So deeply despised
Mold them
Into what we need them to be
To a world that is just and free
Our leaders do not see
That we are on our knees
Begging for air
So we can just breathe

Our world
being destroyed
Hands of people destroying
We are the destroyers

I’m impatient
A world people deserve to see
Time disappearing
like people’s hope
Across the globe
People dying
Because of our leader’s choices
Is this what we are proud to be

To change things
Enough damage has been done
It is our turn
To show you
How we like things run

I am impatient
I know this is the time
To say goodbye
To the oppressive systems
Keeping us silent
Now saying hi
To the movement of survivement

Oceans rising
Like my anxiety
Increase in heat
Increasing my thoughts
I can not think
Is this really a world you want us to live in

You say I am so inspirational
sit in a seat of power
And still create no change
I don’t want to be inspirational
I want you to do what we demand

The truth
That we need to know
Systems that will help us grow

I am impatient
I want to live in a nation
Where my leaders actually lead
They see our lungs are being filled with the last breath from burning trees
Drowning in ashes
More flames than people
If we don’t do something now

The ratio between living things and air will be unequal

The people’s blood flooding through the streets
Gunshots and screams on repeat
The system’s our country lie on aren’t concrete
War between governments
That the people are hidden from
What are we trying to become

We mistake weapons as our protection
We are still unshielded
The reason concealed
But today it will be revealed
The climate crisis
Making the Earth’s clock tick faster
People with power fulfilled with laughter
But I’m not laughing
We’re not laughing
We’re not protected
Fossil fuels
Cutting down trees
These are the weapons

The probability of our future
Is less to happen
Everyday we sit back and do nothing to solve this climate crisis

We are tired
Of watching you sit back
You have the power to literally save our lives
But you sit there and say our facts are lies

I am impatient
This is the time
To make these ugly systems ancient
This is the time
Taking the broken pieces
putting them back together with the tape of passion
Is the time
To take action