My first actions as a young climate change activist were, quite ironically, spreading information about climate skepticism i.e. I was a climate denier. It was 2009, I was an undergraduate and had just read J.E. Foss’ “Beyond Environmentalism” wherein Foss argues for the Solar Variation Theory of Climate Change, a theory which states that the variations in temperature, thought to be explained by anthropogenic emissions according to the IPCC, were actually better explained by increases in solar activity. Having discovered, or so I thought, that the climate change racket was a farce, I began to tell many of my friends in the hope of spreading the word and putting an end to the madness…
Luckily I wasn’t too successful, as otherwise my current work as chairperson of a student organization that, among other things, tries to raise awareness about the harsh reality of human-induced climate change, would be a lot harder. I was soon to discover that much evidence had since debunked the Solar Variation Theory and confirmed anthropogenic global warming. It took me a while, but I eventually swung back to not only being a believer in humanity’s profound role in causing climate change, but even more than that I found myself becoming more and more of a climate activist every day.
For just under two years I have been the chairperson and co-founder of the South East African Climate Consortium Student Forum (SEACC SF) – a lengthy title with a lengthy story behind it, but basically we are a student organization that spans across the four universities of the Eastern Cape of South Africa – our slogan is Sustainability through Knowledge and Action. We engage in activism, research, environmental education, fundraising, social marketing, greening initiatives and more; all of our work revolves around issues of environmentalism, climate change and sustainable development.
So, far from promoting climate change skepticism, these days I find myself voluntarily leading lobbying campaigns to push for a stronger response to climate change, chairing and coordinating lecture series around issues of climate change and the UNFCCC, coordinating youth environmental summits and launching environmental networks, working with various environmental organisations, and doing my utmost to avert the impending environmental crisis, while trying my best not to take my eyes off the human crisis we are living in, and realizing more and more how the two are connected.
I am also the lead tracker of the South African negotiating team during COP 17 for adoptanegotiator.com, and will be using that platform to help shed some critical light on what is going on inside the negotiations and its relevancy outside of them. I encourage you to follow me as I keep tabs on what the South Africa is up to in the negotiations, for given South Africa’s pivotal role as hosts and chair of COP 17, as well as our leading role in Africa and the developing world, and our status as one of the highest per capita emitters of carbon dioxide, alongside our great inequalities and poverty, we have a tough road ahead of us. Another piece of modern-day irony: as an environmentalist I spend a lot of time behind a computer doing environmental work, so please do feel free to contact me on seaccsf [at] gmail.com, find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter: @al_lenferna
But all of that is supposed to be done in my spare time. I’m supposed to be a student finishing off my masters in philosophy examining issues of environmental ethics and environmental law, and whenever I get time off from everything else I do try and work towards it. I wasn’t always an environmentalist, however, although I have always enjoyed exploring the natural environment. My philosophy work has looked at issues of global poverty, homosexuality, evolution and intelligent design, reconciliation, and I’ve come to realize that the underlying theme that generally ties all my work together is a craving for justice, although some of it was just plain compulsory.
Apart from my environmentalism and my own philosophy, I have also been a tutor, a volunteer teacher of critical thinking skills, a teaching assistant, chairperson and development officer of the Rhodes University Underwater Club, a finance clerk, a stage technician, and, of course, a waiter. In my spare time I like to mountain bike, play football, SCUBA dive, play guitar, hike, fly-fish, and regularly get involved in feminist protests – I’m an eco-feminist after all.
So who am I biographically speaking? I am a 24 year old Mauritian, born and bred in South Africa, and so consider myself South African. I was brought up in the smoggy city of Johannesburg, which is now facing the onward surge of acid-mine drainage. I am a white-male (AKA mlungu) trying to navigate my way around racially charged post-apartheid South Africa, while at the same time trying to dismiss the notion that environmentalism is a white European past-time. Most importantly, I’m another overwhelmed human being trying to make heads and tails of this confusing world, and do some good while I’m at it, and I was fortunate enough to be named a Mandela Rhodes Scholar while trying to do so.