We came to know Lekwa after reaching out to folks at The Eco-Anxiety Africa Project (TEAP) wanting to hear from young climate leaders about eco-anxiety and other climate-related emotions, different ways to cope with these feelings, and specifically African perspectives in relation to a changing climate. Lekwa Hope shares his personal story of understanding eco-emotions and more.
- How do you feel about climate change as an African?
Climate change in the African context has always been riddled with devastating impacts, rather than the adaptation and mitigation steps required to tackle its effects. It’s sad in Africa (without downplaying the impacts in other places). Because climate change is mindless in its impacts, when you bring its indiscriminate nature to a continent in which most of the population are young (70% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 30), and more than 60% depend on agriculture both for food and economic growth, the result is often felt in slow adaptation and mitigation, thus making much of Africa slack. Not to forget that many of the governments in Africa prioritise corruption indirectly and pay lip service to climate change and its effects.
- What events trigger your climate-related emotions?
Mostly impacts on vulnerable persons; the effects those people face are not as a result of their actions and it’s often felt deeply.
- How did you arrive at the feeling of eco-anxiety? Does that word fit right for how you feel?
Well, to start: eco-anxiety is mostly shrouded in strong negative feelings, which is how many people including myself get to first encounter those feelings. Without using the term eco-anxiety to connote strong negative emotions, but rather to share my deep connection with the environment, I can say my experience with climate related emotions has been happening for a very long time. I love seeing the greeneries and hearing the sounds of a blooming ecosystem, and travelling the steep valleys and high hills always makes me appreciate the environment and the life it begets. But now my eco-anxiety sets in with apprehensive concerns for the environment, because of the lack of action to protect vulnerable areas and communities from human-induced climate change. The term might be a little skewed towards negative emotions felt about the environment, but that doesn’t change the fact that it affects the human psyche as well the physical body, and that needs more light to be shed upon it.
- When did you recognise these feelings as being affected/caused by climate change?
When I was introduced to it, I did some research and realised that it was something I actually experienced except that it wasn’t on the scale that I initially thought it was. I had read quite a few papers that streamlined it to depression, anger, sadness, etc – which was right but not complete.
- How do you cope with these feelings, do you have any strategies?
I’ve been asked this question before and really there’s no strategy, except that my community Sustyvibes has been there for all of us that experience more difficult emotions. I also try to continue in the work that I do and know that many people are also feeling this. We get our strength from working as well as taking out time to rest. It’s a universal energy thing!
- What do you feel you need from your community and peers?
Understanding and support. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to pay attention to your mental health with all the noise going on, and it is also necessary to pay attention to the mental health of your friends and family.
- How do other people’s responses to climate-related emotions affect you?
From my friends I haven’t gotten any response that makes me want to bury my head, but I can understand those people who feel embarrassed when they express their feelings, because mental health is not something that is taken seriously here, let alone climate related feelings.
Lewka Hope is a sustainability champion and researcher with a focus on climate change and economic development. He understands the gap in climate education and knowledge of sustainability in Nigeria and chooses to devote himself to closing that gap with research and other systems of publication. Lekwa has worked with a number of networks including Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability (REES Africa), International Climate Change Development Initiative (ICCDI), Mock COP26, and finally Sustyvibes, where he leads the research team.
FIND OUT MORE / EVENTS
Join Shelot Masithi and Lekwa Hope In Conversation: Eco-anxiety informed by African Perspectives on 21 May, 4pm–5pm (WAT/BST). Please note this event is free but you have to register via this link. If you wish to donate then head to The Eco-Anxiety Project Africa (TEAP).
[Image description: a candid head shot of Lekwa Hope looking across a room where he is sitting relaxed on a desk chair. Lekwa wears a blue, red and white checkered shirt his hands resting are just visible in the bottom of the image. His inquisitive smile is framed by a goatee beard and the white cap he is wearing, with some indistinguishable orange text written on it.]
Posted on May 3, 2022
Categories: Arts, Health & Wellbeing, Climate & Culture, Decolonising Art & Culture, Education for Sustainability, Environmental Justice & Activism, Interviews
Tags: 2022, eco-emotions, Lekwa Hope, TEAP, The Eco-anxiety Africa Project