10 August 2022
Climate change is a scientifically proven (Oreskes, 2004; Zhou, 2021) threat that will create huge suffering and risk for all human beings (Wallace-Wells, 2019), but specifically for the poor and marginalised, of whom there are many in both Kenya and South Africa, as well as general environmental collapse (Marques, 2020). Cultures of overproduction and consumption are a key piece of the puzzle of neoliberal economics that produced the problem; but the poor and economically marginalised justifiably aspire to better lives that feature the material objects, services and lifestyles that can be purchased through consumption. How then, do we move forward towards a just transition, a better life for all, defined neither by vast social inequality nor environmental degradation in a way that recognises the legitimacy of both problems? This is the epic challenge facing humanity at present, and we seek to engage with it by focusing on the narratives, understandings, and expressions of young adults in our two countries.
We invite young adults between the ages of 18-25 to partake in focus group discussions in various locations in South Africa and Kenya. This research aims to gain a deeper understanding of how young African adults see themselves, individually and collectively in relation to the climate crisis, in the context of the toxic mix of crises that define the age of the Anthropocene in Africa. Through an analysis of what young adults have to say about climate change, we hope to glean deeper insight not only into the hopes and aspirations for material betterment of life (which some theorists summarise as economic development) but also socio-cultural awareness and activism in relation to climate change (broadly understood to include environmental degradation and social inequality), and also personal psycho-social attitudes emanating from climate conversations.