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.
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.
Read Full Story here: https://www.climateinteractive.org/blog/joshua-amponsem-from-ghana-becomes-a-world-climate-ambassador/
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.
Also featured on DW ECO – http://p.dw.com/p/2hDl7
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.
Earlier this year, I received a scholarship from Inclusive Leadership to undergo Earth Charter’s “Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics” training for young leaders. The training had lots of impact on my leadership and advocacy path. It introduced me to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), new ways of thinking, and a more robust approach towards achieving the SDGs and even beyond that towards a more peaceful and sustainable future.
As part of the training, participants organized individual workshops to expand the knowledge on the concepts of the programme. I organized my workshop in Kumasi – Ghana on the 22nd of March under the theme “Building Earth Leaders Today.”
I had a group of 25 people from 11 countries and from different backgrounds. The event started with introductions and we discussed ESD. Only 1 person out of the 25 had experienced Education for Sustainable Development. This emphasized on the need for ESD. We deliberated and shared several views on how to promote ESD. The discussion led us to Leadership (Earth Leaders) and Ethics. Participants named Osama Bin Laden as a successful leader (capable of driving people to follow his vision) but agreed that our planet don’t need such leaders but Earth Leaders – leaders who are ethical, concerned about the present and the future. I then led the team to dive into ethics and moved on to critical and system thinking.
We watched a video on system thinking – which illustrated how the earth is all merged together and that every single decision affects a much larger system. Following that, participants were grouped into five (5 groups of 5). Each group selected one local problem in their home country/community and tasked another group to use system thinking to provide a solution to the problem. At the end, we had beautiful solution to global issues such as terrorism, water scarcity and food insecurity, inequalities, etc.
A presentation on the workshop “ESD, Earth Leadership, and System Thinking” can be found here: Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics Workshop – 2017 SLIDES.
The debrief section was another great moment for me to hear what participants had learned. About 70% of feedback response showed that participants had no knowledge about ESD, 50% mentioned that they have heard about system thinking but had no understanding to it, 90% of participants pledge to promote ESD and to adopt ethical leadership towards sustainable development.
To conclude this blogpost, I want to express my gratitude to the Earth Charter for providing such wonderful opportunity for young leaders across the world, and to Inclusive Leadership for the sponsorship. Also, my appreciation to Sarah Dobson and Phat Tan Nguyen for coordinating the event, and to all the wonderful participants who made it as success.
In 2015, I was selected as Tunza Eco-generation ambassador to Ghana. The ambassador task is given to young people working on environmental related issues in their local communities and the task assigned to me was very simple, undertake one environmental activity each month and share the report on the Samsung Engineering and UNEP Tunza networking platform. Prior to being selected as the ambassador, I had demonstrated a big interest in educating young people (mostly junior high school students) on the pressing need for their involvement in environmental protection and sustainability. Taking on the task as a Tunza ambassador, I was super excited to use my activities in Ghana to inspire other young people across the world.
I still remember my first activity in September 2015, where I launched a campaign against plastics in a local community and educated them on the effects of plastics in their coastal ecosystem. Following that, I organized several education events for students and I started the eco-learners series where I awarded the most enthusiastic students with gifts. In 2016, I extended my term of ambassadorship for the 2nd and 3rd term as I kept meeting amazing people on the platform. I kept building intense connection with some ambassadors and it was amazing knowing that there are other young people who are passionate about the environment just as I am.
Arushi Madan and Bindu Bhandari, my favourite ambassadors; these young ladies have proven and inspired many young people through their commitment to protecting our planet. Other young ambassadors, including Xilola Kayumova, Ashtha Lamsal are not as old as I am but are driving change in their community through the opportunity provided by Tunza.
Today, as Tunza announce me as the best Ambassador for their ambassador program for over the recent term, I am filled with joy that my time as an ambassador affected the passion and interest of other young people to do more for nature. Although, I am no longer an ambassador, I look forward to staying in touch with the lovely people on the Tunza platform and offer my support as a mentor, a friend, and an activist for nature. Thank you, Tunza! Thank you, Samsung Engineering! Thank you, UNEP!
Inclusive Leadership Co-operative profile my passion for climate action after supporting my training at Earth Charter, Costa Rica.
“I am very grateful to the Inclusive Leadership Co-operative for your support towards my participation in Earth Charter’s training on Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics.” The ILC is proud to be sponsoring climate and environmental activist, Joshua Amponsem to join on-line with leaders from around the world who are preparing to implement Earth Charter-inspired action projects in their communities.
The Earth Charter is the ILC’s global framework for our work preparing socially and environmentally responsible global citizens who are actively contributing toward a more sustainable and peaceful world. Joshua became involved in the Earth Charter through his participation in the Fall 2016 UN Climate Summit in Morroco.
Joshua is the Africa Project Leader for Youth Climate Report and the Director of Green Africa Youth Organization (NGO devoted to climate advocacy, environmental protection, management and consultancy). “I am a speaker on indigenous knowledge and its role in solving some global crisis such…
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Strong El Niño weather event that ended only last year and poor erratic rainfall in recent months is driving food prices high causing food insecurity in East Africa