“My own state of mind synthesises these two feelings and transcends them: my mind is pessimistic, but my will is optimistic. Whatever the situation, I imagine the worst that could happen in order to summon up all my reserves and will power to overcome every obstacle.”
Antonio Gramsci -From the Prison.
I am a climate activist – and I walk. In the last 11 years I have walked over 35 million steps in the name of climate action. And in that time, I meet people and I listen.
During the climate conference of 2022, instead of walking in Egypt, I walked with communities in Zambia, and I listened.
This is a story of what I heard:
In the remote village in Southern Kafue-I met Lloyd. Lloyd sang songs for rain as the sun blistered his crops. We walked furiously to check on his withering seedlings. To replant them. And we walked to fetch water to keep the delicate things alive. He told me that he and his community are so desperate for income they are forced to cut trees for charcoal. He knows climate change is happening. He is experiencing it. Lloyd and his community think climate change is occurring because of the small number of trees they are felling. They blame themselves. He would prefer to be planting trees, but he needs the money. He wants to be reforesting and he needs help.
As I walk on, I see herds of livestock struggling to graze the dry and parched grass. I see the low water levels in lakes and rivers that in the past contained enough fish sustain many.
How do we make the flats of Kafue regenerative? What do we do with the uncertain and often lethal rains or the ever-enduring dry periods?
What I also see during my walks are people creating localised solutions. Figuring out ways to survive and possibly even thrive.
Women-owned collectives – selling their seeds and compost in central city retail outlets; climate adaptive seeds surviving the difficult conditions; and regenerative farming techniques – using organic products to create poultry feeds.
I have seen on my previous walks how localised solar energy production can ween communities away from cutting down their trees and provide clean smokeless cooking methods. I have met farmers in India pioneering new techniques to make their farms resilient to climate action. And I keep wondering how we can better share these great ideas and innovations.
I am not a specialist or an expert. I write this article to ask you to keep sharing your innovations and ideas too – so that we can all learn from one another. We need to all get better at sharing what works and more importantly, what doesn’t.
We need to be on a climate change war footing. Climate change is exacerbating the conflict between nature and humans. Instead, we need to work for our nature and our environment. They are our only hope.
How can we make this happen? The answer is blowing in the wind- as the singer Bob Dylan would say.
It is the darkest paradox of our times that those who caused so little to the climate crisis have paid with life and livelihood, but yet they are able to show us, with just a little power and voice – a clear way forward to adapt and mitigate as well as deliver Justice.
Leaders, businesses, civics and anyone listening – let us act together. Please take a step, as I have been doing since 2009. As I began my journey, by walking from Oxford to Copenhagen for the climate conference and I continue to do so in the 11 years since. I have spoken with more than 600, 000 people in that time and I won’t stop now. I encourage you to get walking and listening too.
If you enjoyed this, you can listen to more from Push in this podcast interview.