Introducing the 350 Team: Shabani Ely Katembo

Is Climate Change somebody else’s problem?

Before getting involved with 350.org, I had never thought about working on climate change. A few years ago when I was a student in Kinshasa, Congo, as millions of young Africans, I thought the environment was only a rich country issue. Like any young African who grew up in a family who lived on less than a dollar a day, my dream was to be airline pilot, and astronaut or a banker, ignoring the effects that our current ways of life have on the climate.

Check out my video introduction (it’s in French, but click here for a subtitled version)

After working at an airline, not as an airline pilot but in information technology and communication, I decided to work at the UN programme for development. The United Nations has changed my life in the sense that I understood that there was much work to do at the local, national and international levels from people living with HIV AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, hunger and clean water to corruption and inequality.

I came to the USA to continue my master’s degree in economic development at Vanderbilt University because I wanted to further my knowledge in the development sector in order to contribute to the reconstruction of Africa.

Today, one cannot talk about economic development without talking about the environment and negative effects of economic progress on global warming. But the danger of global warming is not known by people living in small villages in Africa not only because the continent is a victim of the digital divide, but also because of misguided public awareness campaigns.

The first few pages of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on Africa show that the continent is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change; The situation is worsened by the interaction of multiple stresses such as disease, poverty and lack of appropriate technology.

By joining 350.org recently, I decided to make my contribution to spread information about the danger. The 350-team strategy is based on concrete actions involving local people, civil society and environmental NGOs. We can use 350 to effectively get the message about the dangers of climate change in Africa and the world.

A month ago, I started to call people in Africa to explain the idea of 350. The response of the last call I made in Africa was: “Yes, but the global warming is only a problem out there in the USA and other rich countries.” I know that it will take time to fully convince the world to spread the message, but 350.org has the potential to build an unstoppable global movement, and take the peoples’ messages and stories to the leaders.

 

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