Climate activist pushes back on media

She went to the World Economic Forum to make an impact — but ended up cropped out of a photo next to Greta Thunberg and other global climate activists. Here's how Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate is fighting climate change in Africa.

Discrimination in the media

Vanessa Nakate was purposely scrapped out of the photos from an event she was attending as an activist by the AP news agency. She is Uganda’s first Fridays for Future climate strikers and has been an activist since 2018. She explains one of the reasons she became an activist for climate change is because “Africa as a continent is the least emitter of carbons but it is going to be the most affected by the climate crisis.” She elaborates, “In Africa, we have the Congo Rainforest that rarely appears in the news but it was estimated that by 2100, it would be gone and the forest has indigenous people, the forest has various species, so we all need to stand up for Africa.”

Young activists inspiring one another

She was also inspired by Greta Thunberg and began striking alone against climate inaction in January 2019. The destruction of the Congo Rainforest, food insecurity, and climate injustice have been central to her activism. Uganda has some of the lowest fossil fuel emissions in the world but is already dealing with first-hand consequences of the climate crisis. The country relies heavily on agriculture. Farms have been destroyed by both droughts and floods due to global heating which leads to food and economic insecurity. Nakate traveled to Davos and slept outside for the World Economic Forum with Arctic Basecamp, an organization raising awareness of the melting polar ice caps. There, Nakate also took part in a news conference alongside other climate activists.

Advocating for change on behalf of those who can’t

She recently shared why it’s so important to her to be an activist and revealed, “I was just thinking about the people from my country and how I’ve seen people die and how people lose their families, people lose their children, people lose their homes, and everything that they ever dreamed of and hoped for. Who is going to be able to speak for all these people? Who is going to try and help these people bring their message across? Because even the people we expect to share our message, that’s the media, they’re so disappointing.” AP said the photo was cropped on composition grounds, and the executive editor of AP has since apologized. Other agencies like Reuters misidentified Nakate in a photo caption, mistaking her for Zambian activist Natasha Mwansa. Reuters has since posted a caption correction. “This is the first time in my life that I understood the definition of the word “racism”. You erasing our voices won’t change anything. You erasing our stories won’t change anything,” Nakate concludes.