Translating Awareness into Action
By Nosiphelo Nikani
Meet Gerald Esemonu, a Climate Reality Leader based in Nigeria, with a multifaceted career and full of enthusiasm for working with the youth in schools. Gerald began his career in the classroom as he saw an opportunity to demonstrate his love for knowledge transfer, mentorship, and inspiring young people – and has even received an award as an outstanding teacher. He is also a skilled organizer, content creator, researcher, mentor, father, husband, and Human Resource Manager with a Master’s degree (MSc HR). In 2020 at the Global Climate Reality Leadership Corps he added the title of Climate Reality Leader to his name.
Gerald’s dedication and commitment to creating awareness about climate change in Nigeria is clear, as he has been working in the climate change space for more than ten years. He is also a leader for the Global Shapers Community’s Climate and Environment Committee for Sub-Saharan Africa.
It has been 15 years since Gerald attended the 21st Century Waste Management Conference where he first heard the term climate change – an experience that led to him creating the Environmental Friendly Initiative; a non-profit organisation for climate action in Nigeria. This environmental education platform empowers students through school climate clubs to find solutions to the climate crisis, and develop the skills and optimism they need to tackle climate change in their communities.
Gerald incorporates climate and environmental issues in the school, community, and classroom as he actively engages on climate action at local, continental and global level with Environmental Friendly Initiative, Global Shapers Community and The Climate Reality Project. Seeing climate change boiling over in Nigeria, and the eco-sustainability in danger has motivated Gerald to be part of all these platforms and create awareness. Nigeria, like other developing countries, has a low level of climate change mitigation and adaptation capacity and needs support!
With the current conflicts in the Niger Delta, Gerald witnessed how the demand for energy has led to pollution, an ecological crisis, violent conflict, and community vulnerability – even though this development was proposed as a solution to many issues, including poverty.
His contribution on climate and environment action is through research, education, and advocacy. Gerald’s past research includes Climate change- an emerging reality in our biodiversity-the role of the Nigerian youth, Nigeria Natural Resource Management, Managing Illegal Logging, Harnessing the potential to mitigate climate change through nexus programming in Northeast Nigeria and many more.
Gerald also produces educational content for teachers to mobilise, inspire, and lead young people for resource conservation, reducing carbon footprints through responsible waste management, and tree planting activities to name a few. A milestone in Gerald’s advocacy was the 2020 launch of National School Climate and Environment Clubs across Nigeria that is aimed at educating and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders. The exciting programme engaged teachers, climate leaders, education and environment policy makers, local and international stakeholders, and in October 2020 Gerald learned through one of the school clubs that he formed, the programme was recognised at an international level, a proud moment for Gerald and other teachers at his school. One of his dreams is to see climate change included as an official segment in Nigerian school curriculums – and has been involved in making this dream a reality, but at the moment his main focus is using his platforms to create awareness and action for climate change.
Leading grassroot projects has made Gerald see a lack of knowledge turn to understanding, and then action. The joy of seeing people becoming informed and passionate about contributing to a better society is always a positive experience for Gerald when he gets involved in community activities.
When asked about his passion for climate change and why he feels the need to take part in this issue, Gerald says, “I believe that I am a Global Citizen, it matters to me to make the world a sustainable place, as a Christian man I believe that the earth was designed for man to take care of it”. Gerald also wants his children to know that he did everything he could do to contribute to climate action. Gerald aspires to be an example for community mobilization when it comes to the climate crisis. According to him, being a Climate Reality Leader is about being responsive and responsible. “You cannot be aware of the Niger Delta pollution crisis, water resource mismanagement in Northeast Nigeria resulting in decades of humanitarian crises and pastoralists and farmers conflicts affecting all parts of the country calling for ecological justice, and not respond or act – that would be irresponsible and unresponsive”. He believes that awareness should translate into action.
Gerald believes that the most important thing that can be done to tackle climate change is increasing communities and youths’ awareness. He believes that another way to increase awareness is supporting Climate Reality Leaders in being models for change the same way the entertainment industry has influencers, and raising awareness in meaningful, visible and impactful ways.
We asked Gerald to give one advice to his fellow Climate Reality Leaders and climate activists, and he says, “Don’t undermine your contribution to the bigger picture, set goals no matter how small and do not give up by thinking that your actions are too small”. Humans are social beings and are influenced by their surroundings, and our small actions can have a larger impact on those around us, said Gerald.
Connect with Gerald and his climate actions – follow the Environmental Friendly Initiative on Twitter here.
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