Joshua Amponsem becomes a World Climate Ambassador.

Joshua Amponsem found Climate Interactive’s tools essential in his work as a young environmental activist in Ghana. In the last three months, he has been mobilizing young people, social entrepreneurs, and universities across Ghana to experience World Climate simulations, and hence, inspiring them to take climate action. We asked Joshua how World Climate simulations were relevant for building the capacity of new climate leaders in Ghana.


Grace: How would you describe the climate challenge in Ghana?  

Joshua: Ghana’s government efforts towards climate change adaptation and mitigation are currently progressing steadily with the support of international organizations and civil society activism. However, there is a huge knowledge gap among citizens. Over the few past years, civil society organizations have increased their climate education efforts. While policies reflect climate action, implementation has not reflected much effort. Sustainable production and consumption is neither implemented nor communicated adequately. Water bodies are being destroyed and water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure is poor. It’s even worse when we experience floods. Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) acknowledges that more needs to be done. World Climate is helping us bridge this knowledge gap and inspire climate action.

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World Climate Simulation with High School Students in Ghana

Ghana: A critical look “Ecology versus Economy”

Ghana is about to trade 5 percent of its bauxite deposits to China for $15 billion. In a guest commentary by environmental advocate Joshua Amponsem, he questions the motives and long-term impact of such a move.

As an environmental activist, I have come to appreciate that nature gives us everything. Our basis of life is dependent on nature and thus, it’s important that we see nature as our source of life rather than a resource for mere exploitation. It is this second line of thinking, which I believe has the people of Ghana troubled as the country’s vice president enters into an agreement to acquire $15 billion from China. The weariness of the citizens is very strong as the country strives to stop illegal small-scale mining which was largely driven by Chinese immigrants in Ghana.

The deal which has been described as a joint partnership between Ghana and China, and later termed a “joint venture” by the vice president, has received intense criticism from the public. As per the details provided by the government, the $15 billion will be a joint venture where China will receive less than 5 percent of Ghana’s bauxite reserve as said by the vice president at the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Programme on the theme: Building resilient industries and infrastructure for economic transformation in Africa: The role of China. He said, “This agreement will not add to our debt stoke but will rather help boost development because it is a win-win venture.”

How Ghana intends to use the billions

China has built a reputation when it comes to partnerships involving the exchange of money for natural resources in developing countries. And such partnerships have often been later regretted by many under-developed and developing countries that have entered into such agreements. Ghanaian citizens are worried, social commentators are not sure of the outcome of the partnership.

Generally, the government is planning infrastructure development with this money. The projects made known so far span across supporting the government’s one-district one-factory initiative, road construction, railway development – including a railway line from Takoradi to Kumasi (two trade cities in the country), interchange, purchase of vehicles and other resources for the security service, building regional hospitals, and an inland port along the Accra Kumasi road. The plan for the money is to strengthen the country’s infrastructure sector and enhance trade within the country.

The big question

If China finds it profitable to trade $15 billion for less than 5 percent of Ghana’s Bauxite, then it is important that Ghana develops a sustainable strategy to reap the same amount from their natural resource while regulating it at their own pace rather than trading it away.

What happens when the $15 billion runs out? Will the country keep trading its natural resources to acquire money for development? What is Ghana’s approach to becoming self-sustainable? It is important for the leadership of Ghana and its people to realize that the country will not be built on the foundation of extractive industries. These riches have not translated into wide-ranging job creation, social welfare or stability.

Economy versus Ecology

It comes across very often that environmental activists do not understand the need for economies to grow. However, this is not the plain truth. The quest to develop economies via unregulated and unsustainable exploitation of natural resource does not build our economies – it destroys our life source (fresh air, water, food, and functioning ecosystems) and gives us nothing more than a short term representation of wealth.

Building the economy should not rip up our quality environment which translates to quality health conditions and less cost on healthcare. Already, our forests, water bodies, and arable lands have suffered severe damage which is (and will) cost us millions of Ghanaian cedis. Polluted air, water, and food mean that a higher percentage of income will have to go into healthcare.

The bigger picture should be our focus – the very reason why there have been initiatives like “green economy” and “sustainable development.”

The land – especially for a country like Ghana where 57 percent of its total land area is classified as agricultural land – provides us with healthy and nutritious crops. These lands need to be protected and used wisely.

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Education for Sustainable Development Workshop at Africa Clean Up Conference 2017

The workshop which was held on the 7th of July, 2017 started with a brief Q&A on the importance of diversity and inclusion. In about 15 minutes the group had given a lot of reasons why diversity is important but only a few people mentioned inclusion. This was good and this formed an integral part of the workshop. It was my objective that by the end of the session, participants will not only appreciate diversity but also understand the need for inclusion.

I projected a slide which talked about diversity and I used my obsession with nature (particularly the ocean) to explain the reason why diversity is not enough until inclusion is established. I said, “When I watch any documentary about the ocean, I get excited and I think you all do – why? Because the ocean gives a lot of beauty – it’s colorful with a lot of species. The beauty of the ocean is possible because of the diversity of organisms. Some are colorful, others are not. Some are fascinating, scary, beautiful, amazing, ugly, and think of all the adjectives you can use to describe all that we see in the ocean. If the ocean chooses to accept diversity but refuses to foster inclusion, we will not see its beauty.”

This analogy helped to paint a good picture to the audience. Additionally, I made it known to them that inclusion is very important for humans to enrich our understanding in the reasons why people do what they do – helps us to understand and appreciate different cultures.

Moving on, I launched into Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). So no one in the room had an idea what ESD is. This was another thing that made me happy – the session was really impactful. I explained ESD, then furthered to mention the need for ESD in modern education and how Africa, in particular, is far from attaining a sustainable economy because we lack ESD in our education system. ESD provides an environment for people to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to build a sustainable future – we lack this in our systems. We only give the knowledge to students and that’s it.

It was very interesting when participants from the University of Lagos – Nigeria, reacted to the session on ESD. They were very interested to have learned about ESD and totally agreed that ESD is needed to build the future of young people in helping Africa to reach a sustainable future. At the end of the session, they extended an invitation to me to deliver the Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics Workshop in University of Lagos, Nigeria.

Following that, participants were divided into four groups to undertake an exercise in system thinking and critical thinking. The task was simple – most often our solutions to the problems we encounter in life leads to other problems in the future. In view, we need to make thoughtful decisions which take into consideration all factors that could be affected via the solutions we make. I showed a video of system thinking based on a story of cats in Borneo and based on that participants were asked to provide solutions to increasing crime rates, traffic congestion, and air pollution.

Participants did a great job delivering critical solutions to these problems. I advised that participants keep practicing system thinking and critical thinking in every problem they encounter in life – no matter how small it may be. “Always keep your eyes on the larger picture, focus on the long term and make decisions based on that,” I said.

Now, I am waiting to deliver the Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics workshop in Nigeria.

Thanks to Earth Charter, University of Peace, and Inclusive Leadership Cooperation for their support and online training they offer to young people across the globe.

Interview With Sharon Mijares on Ecopsychology

This is an interview I had with Sharon Mijares, a passionate environmentalist, an author, and a tutor of Ecopsychology at National University, California. The interview was to help her students to get a broader understanding of Ecopsychology and what other young people are doing at the grassroots level to help restore our relationship with Nature.