It was awesome seeing these climate change protests create change by raising public awareness and putting pressure on policymakers and corporations to take action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The Just Stop Oil and Formula E protest used their platform for climate activists and concerned communities to voice their problems with climate change and advocate for their rights in the face of environmental injustice and how collectively we can create such change.
However, the variation of the effectiveness of climate change protests is something I have had issues with, including the political and social context in which they take place. In Africa, even though we may want to use such, several challenges may hinder us.
The African continent has a chunk of its population facing many pressing social and economic issues, poverty, food insecurity, and political instability, which may take priority over climate change. This has made it challenging to mobilize people for climate change protests, especially in regions with unmet basic needs. I have seen many calls to protest met with lines like, “This country is one of the hungriest in the world, people are sick, women are marginalized, we are poor, why can't we protest about those issues that we have control over than something we
absolutely have no control over”.
Also, in some African countries, the space for civil society organizations and protests is limited due to government restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. This can make it difficult to organize and mobilize for climate change protests. We have seen over the years the arrest of people notifying the police of their intentions to protest climate change impact; a similar trend is
expected in South-East Asia. The risk of organizing a climate change protest in many African countries is high, and mostly, when taken in by authorities, you are on your own.
Furthermore, climate change is often viewed as a global issue rather than a local or regional one in Africa, which may make it challenging to mobilize people around the issue. For many African communities, institutions, and governments, the impacts of climate change are perceived as distant and abstract rather than immediate and tangible. Hence, it's challenging for protests to yield a sustainable long-term result in our strive for a tangible shift in policy or development
Finally, there is a lack of resources and infrastructure to support climate change protests in many African countries. This includes a lack of funding for civil society organizations, limited access to technology and social media, and a lack of expertise in organizing and mobilizing for social and environmental issues. Online protests have been effective in some places, reaching, thousands and even millions, yet, with little internet penetration in many African countries,
awareness will only reach the opportune few who can access the internet; leaving the chuck of the population in need of such information.
Despite these challenges, there are several examples of successful climate change protests in Africa, such as the Fridays for Future movement led by young people across the continent. By raising awareness and creating momentum for action, these protests can contribute to broader efforts to address climate change in Africa and worldwide.
It was great following the Just Stop Oil protest in the UK and the Formula E protest in Germany unfolding. Hopefully, it would achieve long-term tangible outcomes, already, they are building great public awareness of climate change and its impact; can such a strategy be used in a different context like those we have in Africa and be successful? I doubt it can be done without many spending some time.
This comment piece was written by Jeremiah Thoronka (CGLN Youth Advisory Councilmember for Energy)