Week 2 Update – Young Leaders in Malawi “How’s it all going?”

March 7th, 2019 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

When speaking to my mother on the phone the other day from Malawi, she asked that inevitable question: “How is it all going?!”

With all that I have seen, heard, learned, done, encountered… over the last couple of weeks, how am I meant to answer?!

Yet, I know that everyone will ask this question when we return from Malawi, and given how amazing this opportunity has been, I really ought to have a good answer!

How is it all going?

We have met many fascinating individuals and been welcomed into people’s homes with wide, open arms. It is true what people said about Malawian hospitality – it is so generous.

The Youth Leaders that we have met are innovative, driven, conscientious and sincere in the actions they are taking in their lives. From starting Environment and Wildlife Groups in local schools, liaising with village chiefs to plant trees to creating bricks from waste plastic, the Malawi Youth Leaders are spreading their message and taking actions in ways that they feel empowered to do so.

We were even lucky enough to meet some of the secondary school students that are part of one of the groups set up by Youth Leader, Ethel. These girls and young women showed determination and confidence that the actions they are taking will make a difference to their Malawi. Excitingly, they feel that gender expectations and pro-environmental behaviours are changing, allowing them to the space to create a more equal and progressive future.

How is it all going?

When I ask anyone – young or old, city or rural dweller, male or female – what their experiences of climate change are, they can tell me straight away. They talk of increased temperatures and limited rains impacting their family’s crops, of unpredictable weather events causing sudden flooding or droughts, and of temperatures being too hot to bear at the height of the season and the impact this has on more vulnerable people in society.

The impacts are immediate and they are causing practices that their families have used for generations to change today.

The people we have met ask “what are people in Scotland doing about climate change?”

I can, and do, talk proudly of the work of the 2050 Climate Group and the actions our Young Leaders are taking, as well as the efforts that organisations and NGOs are making throughout the UK to limit our climate impact.

Nonetheless, I cannot help but consider that the average carbon footprint of a British citizen is around 5.59 metric tons per person, when the average carbon footprint for a Malawian is 0.1 metric ton per person. This is quite different.

If it helps you to picture this via the tool of the ecological footprint, a UK citizen would need 2.8 ‘Earths’ to support their lifestyle, when, on average, a Malawian would need 0.4.

The people we are meeting, who have welcomed us into their homes, have a climate fingerprint compared to our giant boot! Let’s talk about this.

How is it all going?

Understanding the impact that climate change is having in Malawi and on its population, right now, has been completely eye-opening.

Granted, I am certain that any Malawian will tell you that some of the changes have come about due to their way of life. For example, the energy infrastructure is such that for decades people have been cutting down trees to burn for fuel, and as the public transport infrastructure is either poor or non-existent, many people that can drive cars, do. In both Lilongwe and Blantyre, we have sat for up to an hour in traffic jams, with construction sites on both sides widening the road.

Regardless, the numbers above are hard to ignore and in the UK we still drive cars unnecessarily, fly regularly, use energy as though it is endless and consume any food and product that takes our whim.

How is it all going?

So in a world where climate justice is so imbalanced, how do we have an honest and meaningful conversation about ‘How it is all going?’

I am certainly even more confused about this than ever before.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know what we can really do. Climate change is huge and scary, and it is causing so much damage – right now.

But one thing that I am not confused about is the power that young people have.

I know that we can have honest conversations about the actions that young people are taking all around the world. Striking from school, creating businesses, leading campaigns, standing up to governing bodies, being vocal and taking a stand on a subject that is important to us. It is our future and we will demand the change that we want to see.

75% of Malawi’s population are under 35. This puts an amazing amount of power in the hands of the country’s young people. So, with that number in my head, yeah, I think it’s all going pretty well thanks!

– Naomi Arnold

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