South African youth take to the streets over climate change

In Pretoria, about 150 people, mostly youth, from various environmental organisations picketed at the Union Buildings in an attempt to put pressure on government to act on climate change.

Some of the organisations included 350, Extinction Rebellion, Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre and Co-operative and Alternative Policy Centre (COPAC). The Well Worn Theatre Company, an organisation that uses theatre to bring awareness to climate change, also performed at the march.

But high school learners, some still dressed in their uniforms, and young children were at the forefront of the picket.

One of the organisers from 350, Alex Lenferna, said the upcoming Youth Day on Sunday was an important day to reflect on issues that affected young people in South Africa and one of those issues was climate change.

“Climate change is one of the gravest threats to young people’s future … If we do not act, we will be leaving them a world that is ravaged by climate change,” he said.

Solomon Kutumela from the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre said the centre brought some high school learners from Mamelodi township to the march.

He said it was important for the learners to be at the march because they were passionate about fighting climate change and the march was a space for their voices to be heard.

Kutumela said the centre focuses on teaching learners about waste, energy, water and biodiversity in Mamelodi. “It has also inspired learners to take part in marches like these and think about careers in sustainable energy and environmental work,” he told GroundUp.

One of the learners from Mamelodi East, 15-year-old Jeffrey Mashela, said: “I’m here today to show that the environment is very important to us and as the youth, we should think about the next generation and how it is going to be for them.”

He urged government to listen to the voices of the youth. “That is why we are here today, to make [the government] listen,” he said.