The Two-Class Activism

According to Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe, Greta Thunberg is so vehemently drawing attention to climate change. Why, however, are all the environmental activists of developing countries being subjected to media attacks? They, as less privileged fighters for the environment, need media attention, but they are denied. Why?

Ridhima Pandey was just nine years old in 2017 when she sued the Indian government for not doing anything about climate change. Pandey’s fighting, remarkable passion for the environment is not by chance. Her mother is a forest keeper and her father is an environmental activist. In addition, the whole family became homeless because of the flooding in Uttarakhand in 2013, which claimed hundreds of deaths.

Kaluki Paul Mutuku has been actively involved in environmental protection in Kenya since he was a member of an environmental awareness Association. Since 2015 he is a member of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change, the African youth initiative against climate change. Raised in rural Kenya by his mother alone, Mutuku’s eager activism grew out of the direct challenges his family and his wider environment faced with climate change: “when I grew up, I saw mothers who had to walk miles to get water.”

For years, young people around the world have been working to raise awareness and tackle the crisis of our planet. And yet the media seem to be interested in only one climate activist.

The remarkable Greta Thunberg is undoubtedly a Superstar. In only one year she brought it from the unknown Teenager who is at home in the cozy Swedish middle class, to one of the most famous faces on the planet. She is intrepid, honest and passionate about our earth and she is determined.

But these are their competitors too. Born in a rich country and in a culture where children are encouraged to open their mouth, and with parents who can afford to support their daughter’s beliefs, Thunberg enjoys many privileges. She is aware of this, and she regularly mentions her fellow campaigners in her speeches — so as not to make journalists forget that there are others fighting alongside her.

People like the Teenager Aditya Mukarji, who in March 2018 announced the plastic straw the fight. Within just five months, he has helped replace more than 500,000 plastic straw in restaurants and Hotels in New Delhi. He says: “people are more likely to listen to children who have environmental concerns.”

The indigenous [Nina Gualinga from the Ecuadorean Amazon region, since the age of eight, an activist, has been awarded last year, the highest youth environmental award of the WWF. At the age of 15, Autumn Peltier from the Canadian people of the Anishinaabe as a defender of clean water and the climate is already a veteran. And Leah Namugerwa is a 15-year-old activist from Uganda.


There are many more whose names we rarely hear. However, these activists are frustrating in the media to be called the “Greta Thunbergs” of their countries or they are said to follow in Greta’s footsteps, even though they had already begun much earlier with their public activism.

Thus, their own identities and their work are almost completely erased by the Western media, which rarely recognise progress outside their own sphere of the world.

The tendency of the media to present Thunberg as the one that gives the tone, and the others simply as those that follow only their reputation, is problematic. This is especially true for those activists of darker skin colour, whose invisibility in the media causes them to become invisible even to organisations whose help they could greatly benefit from. This narrative of the" white saviour “debunks the effect of the locals in their communities and maintains the stereotype of the” Native without representation", which cannot help itself. As an African, I find this statement to be profoundly offensive. It is a disgrace to me that the members of the communities, who are most at risk of climate change, are portrayed as passive spectators, who are only now enraged by the “Thunberg effect”.

Why it was necessary to Thunberg, the UN’s first youth climate summit organised? Those who are most affected should not be marginalized. These other activists are told that their work, their contributions, are worth nothing. The preference for the narrative of an activist over those of others creates a world in which Namugerwa mentions a Swedish Teenager as an Inspiration, of which she had only heard a year earlier, but not Wangari Maathai, the environmental activist of neighbouring Kenya, who had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. One might argue that it is normal for Namugerwa to be inspired by a young girl of the same age — but it is also likely that Maathais Green Belt Movement influenced her and her friends ' decision to plant trees on their birthdays to help the environment.

The planting of trees. The Pick-up of garbage. Strikes for the environment. I admire all these young people who draw attention to a very real and urgent Problem.

I applaud all of you for what you do in a small or large scale to combat climate change. I must also recognise the children in Kenya and Nigeria and other developing countries who produce toys from recycled plastic and metal, and who would probably not have the idea of calling themselves climate lawyers.

I pay tribute to Bangladesh as the first country to banish plastic bags in 2002, as well as to Rwanda, which disposed of biodegradable plastic in 2008 and Kigali, which was appointed Africa’s cleanest city by the UN. Step by step, our joint efforts may still be able to save our planet.

And while we are working towards this goal, it would be a matter of morality for the Western media to also highlight the contributions of rescuers with black or brown skin for this goal — so that this does not remain the Story of a single narrative when future generations talk about it.