Inspired by the Power of Storytelling
by Raeesah Chandlay
Raised by a journalist and a BBC presenter, Sam was already aware of environmental issues and the concept of climate from a young age. But the turning point was when he was around seventeen years old, and An Inconvenient Truth was played in science class at school. The film had a profound impact on Sam’s life as it was the first time he learned about the extent of the crisis.
In his community, climate change has never been a direct threat, but rather a passive issue, which makes it more difficult to address.
“It’s not like a leopard, or a lion, or an elephant coming at you.”
Despite this, Sam has found that the concept of climate change has become more cognitive, and people now have a better understanding of the science behind our impact.
Laying the Foundations through Soil & Soul
With a spirit deeply rooted in science, biology, and the natural world, Sam looks to nature for the blueprint on how to live. He understands that we have to be critical of the way in which we do things in order to adopt a more efficient way of living. From this mindset, he has found the concept of biomimicry to be a useful tool, as he believes that from nature, we can find more efficient ways to live. From this elegant system, we can learn how to reduce friction with our environment. And in doing so, we move beyond seeing the restoration of our natural spaces as a solution but also as a way to connect with ourselves and the world we live in.
Sam’s inclination for the natural sciences led him to study Development and the Environment at the University of Stellenbosch. He has a particular interest in food systems, believing that food is a direct way we can address the problem of a changing climate. After all, agriculture is one of the most significant ways in which we are impacting the land and causing a loss of biodiversity.
Through his studies, Sam has learned that in building a diverse ecosystem lies the dual solution to both biodiversity loss and climate change. And he believes that it all begins with our soils.
“The soil is where we should start. Our soils are the foundation of everything.”
Sam is passionate about our relationship with land—not looking at land as something to own, but rather advocating for stewardship over ownership and optimising that relationship instead of maximising profit.
These concepts became deeply rooted during his time at Schumacher College, where he completed his Master’s degree in ecological design. Sam was fortunate to have studied under great mentors like Satish Kumar and Stephan Harding. During his seven months at the institute, Sam learned about concepts such as Deep Ecology and Gaia Theory that look at the Earth as a complex living system.
It was during these inspiring months that Sam learned the fundamental principles that would lay the foundations of his learning and future ventures, and the concept of “re-wilding” became deeply ingrained. He went on to create ReWild Africa—a platform using education, experiences, and storytelling through film to regenerate, restore, and transform the world. Sam sees great value in engaging people to “re-wild” themselves because he believes it creates empathy, based on the notion that you can’t conserve something you don’t know.
Building a Network through Climate Reality
Sam finds an immense amount of purpose in becoming involved so that we stop the drastic altering of our world, creating suffering for future generations.
“We share the planet with each other and future generations. What sort of life will we leave behind?”
Sam often seeks out projects that focus on community development through education. Believing that building a network is as important as education, he endeavoured to connect with organisations that are making strides in Africa around climate and social justice.
His quest for linking up with aligned organisations led him to the African Climate Reality Project, and this was when Sam learned about The Climate Reality Leadership Corps. He trained as a Climate Leader in 2020 and took the opportunity to upskill and empower himself to become an effective leader.
Not on Our Soil
Thinking back on when he watched An Inconvenient Truth, and how it had impacted him, Sam understood the power of storytelling and the significant ways in which it can empower people and inspire change. Through connections he made via the Climate Reality training, Sam found an opportunity to bring people’s stories to life through the creation of a docuseries that focuses on the nuances of the climate crisis on specific groups, and how climate change affects different communities in varied ways. The docuseries entitled Not on Our Soil – A Climate Justice Reality was co-funded by the European Union and the Climate Reality Project.
The docuseries has since been shared and screened in watch parties by climate leaders and climate justice activism groups across the continent. Sam encourages other climate leaders to tell their stories and build community through sharing their narratives.
“Storytelling is at the heart of creating change and making a difference.”
African Voices for Africa’s Future