“Please Open Your Hearts”: Kenyan Activist Elizabeth Wathuti Urges Leaders to Act on Climate Crisis


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Youth activists are taking to the streets of Glasgow today outside the U.N. climate summit. They’re demanding world leaders do more to avert a climate catastrophe. The protest is organized by Fridays for Future, which grew out of Greta Thunberg’s climate strike outside the Swedish parliament. She began the strike in 2018 when she was in ninth grade. Now Greta is 18 years old, and she’s in the streets of Glasgow today. She was speaking earlier this week.

GRETA THUNBERG: Inside COP, there are just politicians and people in power pretending to take our future seriously, pretending to take the presence seriously of the people who are being affected already today by the climate crisis. Change is not going to come from inside there. That is not leadership. This is leadership. This is what leadership looks like.

AMY GOODMAN: Youth climate activists have also been given a prominent role inside the U.N. climate summit this year. Let’s turn to one of the highlights of the opening ceremony Monday.

ELIZABETH WATHUTI: My name is Elizabeth Wathuti. I am a youth climate activist from Kenya. …

I need to tell you what is happening in my home country. Right now as we sit comfortably here in this conference center in Glasgow, over 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation. In this past year, both of our rainy seasons have failed, and scientists say that it may be another 12 months before the waters return again. Meanwhile, our rivers are running dry. Our harvests are failing. Our storehouses stand empty. Our animals and people are dying. I have seen with my own eyes three young children crying at the side of a dried-up river, after walking 12 miles with their mother to find water.

Please open your hearts. This is not only happening in Kenya. Over the past few months, there have been deadly heat waves and wildfires in Algeria and devastating floods in Uganda and Nigeria. And there is more still to come. By 2025, in just four years’ time, half of the world’s population will be facing water scarcity. And by the time I’m 50, the climate crisis will have displaced 86 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone. …

Please open your hearts. If you allow yourself to feel it, the heartbreak and the injustice is hard to bear. Sub-Saharan Africans are responsible for just half a percent of historical emissions. The children are responsible for none. But they are bearing the brunt. We are the adults on this Earth right now, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the children have food and water.

I have been doing what I can. Inspired by the great professor Wangari Maathai, I founded the Green Generation Initiative, a tree-growing initiative that enhances food security for young Kenyans. So far we have grown 30,000 fruit trees to maturity, providing desperately needed nutrition for thousands of children. Every day we see that when we look after the trees, they look after us. But these trees and the life-saving fruit they bear will not survive on a 2.7 degrees Celsius warmer planet.

The decisions you make here will help determine whether the rains will return to our land. The decisions you make here will help determine whether the fruit trees we plant will live or perish. The decisions you make here will help determine whether children will have food and water.

I believe in our human capacity to care deeply and to act collectively. I believe in our ability to do what is right, if we let ourselves feel it in our hearts. So, for these next two weeks, let us feel it in our hearts. The children cannot live on words and empty promises. They are waiting for you to act. Please open your hearts, and then act. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Elizabeth Wathuti of Kenya, speaking at the opening ceremony of the U.N. climate summit on Monday. And as we broadcast right now, thousands of youth are in the streets in Glasgow, protesting for climate justice.


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