#UrbanBetter Disruptor, Dorcas Wakio Mugo, is a Kenyan environmental and climate activist studying Marine Resource Management at the Technical University of Mombasa.
We asked her to tell us about her personal journey into climate activism, what motivates her, and her advice for the current and next generation of changemakers fighting for a better, healthier, more sustainable world.
Growing up, I never knew much about the environment and the need for urgent action against the climate crisis in our world today. Sometime between May and June 2019, I saw how my country- Kenya – was being impacted by climate change. I saw people dying of hunger in the Northern parts of the country, floods in coastal regions causing havoc to settlements, house and property destruction, hot and unbearable temperatures, and our beautiful forests were being degraded mainly by human activities. For example, illegal extraction of forest resources has destroyed approximately a quarter of the Mau forest over the last 15 years. I realised that we were rapidly losing our forest cover in Kenya. In 2020, the forest area as a proportion of the total land area of the country was 6.34%; less than the 10% recommended by the United Nations. In addition to being important for biodiversity and air quality, research has shown that green spaces are important for our health by providing spaces for exercise, space to meet people and by improving our mental health. With climate change increasing temperatures, green spaces have also been shown to reduce land temperatures which reduce the risk of several diseases like high blood pressure. People have slowly begun to acknowledge the importance of green spaces in my country, and hopefully, we will attain 10% forest cover by 2030.
These reasons pushed me to become a climate activist as I believed that change begins with oneself. I also had a gut feeling that I could make a difference.
Inspiration from many young activists, like Elizabeth Wathuti, Vanessa Nakate, Leah Namugerwa, Greta Thunberg, Licypriak Kangujam, Kaossara Sani, Aarav Seth, Lamech Opiyo, Patricia Kombo, Ellyanne Githae, Tabi Joda, Charlotte Aumann, Eric Obuya, made me see that no one is too small to make a difference.
I started planting trees with organisations such WWF Kenya and Kenya forest service at Kwale county, Kenya. Together with my colleagues, we established a tree nursery consisting of 3300 indigenous tree species in 2019 to contribute to restoring our degraded forests. In 2021, I started an initiative called Adopt a Tree at Kwale, Kenya, and so far I’ve planted 500 trees. I have been visiting schools and educating young girls and boys on the importance of protecting the environment and its ecosystems, how to combat climate change, and how to plant and grow trees. My ultimate goal is to ensure that environmental education is prioritised in the school curriculum.
My biggest source of frustration is that many climate summits are being held, but nothing is happening on the ground. I am asking my government to walk the talk and involve youth in decision making in matters concerning our future. And I will continue protesting and striking for Climate Justice until our leaders act.
My climate justice journey hasn’t been easy. Sometimes my fellow environmental activists and I have struggled to continue, especially when it feels like we’re not being heard. But this has taught us that we need to stand in solidarity and support each other to ensure that no activist is left behind.
And that’s why I also joined the Fridays For Future Movement – a worldwide movement where participants strike for climate regardless of our location – and it has really helped me because I can see how our collective global efforts are making a difference. For example, the Dutch court recently ruled that Shell must cut their CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030. Little victories like this motivate me to continue fighting for climate justice because even though the climate fight is enormous, it feels like together, we can win this, beat fossil fuel companies and build a better world.
My message to all activists out there who feel like this journey is too tough is: Keep pressing, keep fighting for nature. We owe it to ourselves and the next generation to conserve the environment and to hand down a sustainable world to our children. Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to the UrbanBetter Movement for amplifying my story across our continent Mother Africa and giving me the opportunity to raise my voice to the world. 💚💚💚
Read more about work by Dorcas and other #UrbanBetter Disruptors.