As the world grapples with the issue of climate change and trying to save the environment, the focus is slowly shifting to the Global South. The fact that we are still losing lives and properties to floods is appalling. Zambian Meekson Mwamulando, a victim of the effects of climate change, has made it his life mission to ensure that no one, let alone a child, should ever go through what he did.
From a young age, Meekson—the second last born in a family of seven— always wanted to be a car salesman. ‘I love cars. I used to admire them on the road, praying that one day I would own one and even sell them to customers,’ he says. ‘Life was great back then. Unfortunately, everything came to a screeching halt in 2008 when the place we used to call home started flooding. Over time, whenever it flooded, we would have to move to higher grounds with all our belongings so as not to lose them.’
‘This situation became the new norm whenever there was a heavy downpour. Due to the frequent flooding and the loss of livelihood, my parents were unable to resume their work schedule. The situation was so dire that the government had to declare a state of emergency. We ended up being relocated to a camp which wasn’t an easy thing. At the tender age of 14, I had already lost my friends and the place I had called home all my life. By then I had no idea what climate change was, though I used to wonder why our homes were suddenly being flooded. As we speak, I stay in a different place, Lusaka Matero North, all because of flooding,’ he says.
Despite the fact that his passion was for cars, Meekson never stopped thinking about the displacement of his friends. He came to learn about climate change —the fossil fuels, carbon, and industrial emissions—in 2011 through the internet. He came to learn that the Ozone layer was at risk because of human activities, hence the abrupt change in weather patterns. He also learned about environmental protection which he says was the most important thing that one can learn because we all depend on the weather and climate for life to exist. His passion for cars had to take a backseat, he would now embark on the journey of saving the environment; his goal was that no one should ever lose their home due to floods.
At 27 years, he is now an environmental protection advocate, a path that he chose more than 9 years ago. He mobilized other young people who he started working with and together, they managed to register an organization, Citizen Network for Community Development Zambia. They are now climate activists focusing on environmental protection and advocacy in their local communities by planting trees and creating awareness on the matter. They are also working with schools like Mt Sinai, St Paul, and St Francis to educate students on the importance of protecting the environment and creating climate change awareness. So far, they have reached out to more than 900 students in these schools.
‘We have gone ahead and planted more than a thousand trees. We also use music to create awareness around the subject by coming up with songs that speak on it. This is because music is a universal language that resonates with the majority. Despite this, we still face challenges like lack of material support, such as booklets that touch on the topic, which we can give out to students. The numerous engagements we get online means we have to be online at all times, which is very expensive, so at times we end up missing important meetings,’ he states.
Advice to Young People
Every young person should know that climate change is real and it’s upon them to take the first step in keeping our planet safe. Change starts with them. It’s time that they start preparing for the future and a better tomorrow since time is not on our side.
They should also take note of the 3Cs:
Change our environment by making sure it’s clean and green. Let’s change our behavior towards the environment.
Challenge everyone in our society, even the old, to take climate change seriously and also make sure they plant trees and embrace green energy.
Cohesion since everyone is affected by climate change, we should stop looking at age, race, or religion. It is everyone’s responsibility to think and care about our environment.
Meekson wants to cycle through Africa so as to create awareness around climate change. He says that for decades, climate conversation was always at the global level, with complex jargon that the Global South’s populace couldn’t relate with. ‘It’s time we localize climate change and this will only be achieved by creating awareness and I’m sure I will achieve this through cycling. I also call upon organizations and individuals to join me in this,’ he concludes.