Archive Bridging the literacy gap between Africa and climate change

Bridging the literacy gap between Africa and climate change


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Kemi Busari

The past few weeks has been a busy one on the world climate map as countries of  the developing world and super powers prepare for the 21st Climate Change Summit in Paris. Firm on the lips of safe climate advocates is the best slogan of the conference “there is no planet B”. This literarily connotes the inevitability of compromise; the world must reach an agreement in Paris. Earlier, many issues have been identified as potential bane to the success of the summit. In one of his addresses, UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change Mr Janos Pasztor highlighted the major problems as finance, legality, sacrifice and commitment by individual countries. Worse still, many have come up with the question of if there will ever be an agreement at the summit.

However important they are, we continue to pay less attention to the very pressing issue of how to convey the message of climate change to an ordinary man in the street. In the third world most especially, how does a common man understand what climate change is or what he needs to do to keep the global warming at less than 2 degrees centigrade agreed threshold? What sense does the whole picture make to him?

While efforts to mitigate global warming are urgently needed, there is a worrisome and more pressing need of a communication link without which the whole energy will turn out to be another global tourism. The issue here is not about government policy, it’s not about calling on the UN to do what, for who, or where, it hinges on the interpretation of the whole situation to a common man.

Assuming the conference is over, the countries have agreed and actions plans have been identified, how do we convey the message to all and sundry on their role in keeping the planet safe? How, for instance do I explain what climate change is to my grandmother who will not make use of gas or kerosene stove to cook but her firewood? How do I explain to the old fisherman in my compound who not only generates harmful carbon from fumes discharged by his rickety motorbike but also from smoking his fish. How exactly do I explain? What would I say climate change is?

According to the United States National Center for Education Statistics, scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. In reality, very little percentage of people in the third world are scientifically-inclined. With a literacy rate of about 64 percent in sub-saharan Africa, 59.6 percent in Nigeria, the task seems herculean. Scientific literacy in this sense transcends being knowledgeable in one’s field or profession, it is about identifying the basics of climate change in order to challenge the simple and the complex. Many are well grounded in their fields but don’t even have the simplest knowledge of climate change. How do we incorporate these set of people in the global climate change goal? How then do we explain to them that they share a stake in the reduction of greenhouse gases emission? How do we educate them on the adaptation skills to be employed in the changing climate?

There can be only three solutions to bridging this gap; the first is education, second, education and lastly, education. The populace needs to be informed on the meaning, effects, control and everything that has to do with climate change. They need to be informed that the world must decarbonise, aiming for zero emission by 2100 and that the feat cannot be achieved without them.

Again, government has a bigger role to play in this sense. The task starts with the identification and analysis of the peculiarity of climate conditions of their societies in relation to climate change. African governments need to spend hugely on researches aimed at analyzing the carbon level in their atmosphere and device of means of maintaining standard. Although this has been incorporated into individual national plans, the research must be continual in order to give room for assessment, improvement and most importantly communication.

Moreover, civil society groups and NGOs must be more aggressive in the education campaign. They should be carried along in the whole research processes and a comprehensive result should be made available to them. This in turn will equip them with the necessary tool to educate the masses on individual, community and societal responsibilities. However, results of the findings of each analysis should not only be the message to be conveyed but also the global stand and reality.

More importantly, the message of global climate change should be made available in different languages as much as they exist. This responsibility should either be saddled by the UN or individual nations as the Paris agreement may dictate. Such messages should be available preferably in broadcast format to cater for as many that cannot read or may not have the luxury of time to do so.

Further, a Climate Change Club should be launched in every community. The role of this club is simple, educating the local people on climate change. A legal framework which clearly states retributions for climate change deterrents should also be devised, incorporated and well implemented.

As individuals, we should take up the challenge of identifying our roles in the climate struggle. There can never be a plan B because there is no planet B.


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