A year ago, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate joined me and three other European activists at a press conference in Davos. We were there to hold the leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum accountable for their continued lack of action on the climate crisis. At the press conference, an Associated Press photographer took a photo of all five of us—but Vanessa was cropped out of the final picture. Vanessa told the U.S. news agency: “You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent.” But Vanessa refused to be cut out of the conversation.
Africa is the most-exposed region to the adverse effects of the climate crisis despite contributing the least to rising emissions, and Vanessa continues to help lead the fight for climate justice. With her mantra, “We cannot eat coal. We cannot drink oil,” Vanessa has become a powerful voice calling for an end to all fossil-fuel investment across Africa. She started the Green Schools Project to transition schools in Uganda to solar energy. She is also a champion for educating and empowering girls and young women—the sixth most powerful climate solution we have, according to the experts at Project Drawdown.
In this moment of intersecting crises—from COVID-19 to racial injustice, from ecological problems to economic inequality—Vanessa continues to teach a most critical lesson. She reminds us that while we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat.
Thunberg is a climate activist