To address the climate crisis effectively, it is vital to engage young minds in environmental initiatives. Nyombi Morris, CEO & Founder of Earth Volunteers, emphasized the importance of this approach in our recent Q&A session. He explained how it can create a significant impact by educating people about environmental issues, holding those in power accountable, and advocating for urgent action. Nyombi also shared insights on how Earth Volunteers is working to make a meaningful difference in this critical area.

#CTS: Given the urgency of climate change, how essential is it to engage and unite young people in environmental initiatives for the future of climate action? What are your thoughts on this approach?

Nyombi Morris: To me, engaging and uniting young people in environmental initiatives is crucial for the future of climate action. As the founder of Earth Volunteers, I firmly believe that youth engagement started right from the day I got recognized when I challenged my government and stopped them from selling our forest to a sugarcane company in 2020. So it is not just beneficial but vital for several other reasons.

When I first brought up the issue of climate education on the internet back in 2020, not many people agreed that there was a gap. However, here we are in 2024, and everyone is talking about the need for a climate curriculum in schools. I have seen many youth climate activists in school spreading the message.

Additionally, some of the crises we see today are heavily fuelled by human activities, especially those in power and money. Young activists have already shown their power to influence global discourse and policy through movements like Fridays for the Future. Their voices are strong and persuasive, capable of holding leaders accountable and pushing for urgent action. When we involve young people, they become curious, and curiosity boosts innovation. We have seen people like William Kankwamba from Malawi, who harnessed the first-ever wind turbine through the use of multiple electrical appliances at just the age of 14.

Also, we need to remember that young people are the ones who will inherit the consequences of climate change, not only today but also in the future. Therefore, their involvement ensures that the momentum for environmental action is sustained over the long term, and as a nonprofit, we are pushing for this.

#CTS: As the CEO of Earth Volunteers, what are some of the most significant challenges you've faced in your efforts to educate communities on climate action?

Nyombi Morris: This is one of the most important issues. We have been struggling to spread information about climate change because the topic is still new in the country. Even teachers, who we think would be interested in educating students about this topic, need to be educated first. However, we don’t have enough resources to do so. In our nonprofit organization, only three of us deeply understand the issue, and we try to use our expertise, but it's never enough.

Another issue is the lack of resources. When we visit schools, it's not just about educating; we also promote ground action activities like fruit tree planting and establish earth clubs in every school we visit. We make sure to support them with the necessary resources to inspire other students to engage in climate action. However, all of this costs money, and currently, we don’t have any organization or company supporting us. We only receive occasional support from individual well-wishers.

Lastly, there is an issue with translating information about climate change into local languages. Uganda is known as an English-speaking country, but not all citizens know how to read and write in English. In communities, we struggle because some people don't understand English. We need people who can translate information about climate change into our local language. Surprisingly, even Google doesn’t translate our local language, Luganda. To help communities understand, we need more translation materials and technologies, especially because some communities we visit have access to the internet through their phones.

#CTS: In your experience, what are the most effective methods for convincing policymakers to prioritize environmental justice and integrate it into broader legislative agendas?

Nyombi Morris: I believe that, although it may sound far-fetched, it could be the only viable option. Over the past decade, discussions about the Paris goals have yielded little progress, while dishonesty among our leaders has increased. To address this, we must not ignore those who do not prioritize the well-being of the people through their actions.

Removing these leaders from office through voting may be the most effective solution, and putting an age limit on policymakers and decision-makers to open doors for young mindsets could prompt swift action. We already have all the necessary policies in place, but corrupt leaders, heavily funded by fossil fuel lobbyists, have hindered progress. Even the environmental justice movement has struggled to thrive, being perceived as an obstacle to progress. It is time to demand people-centered policymakers and take action.

Additionally, there is a need for substantial investment in the climate justice movement. In the past, significant successes have been achieved through large-scale strikes and demonstrations. We have witnessed fossil fuel companies like Shell Nigeria leaving after decades of exploitation, and banks withdrawing billions of dollars from fossil fuel investments in favor of clean energy scale-ups.

#CTS: What role do you believe technology and innovation play in advancing environmental justice and sustainability, and how does Earth Volunteers incorporate these elements into its initiatives?

Nyombi Morris: I love this, so I will give an example starting with my life. I studied IT and computer science, but you may wonder how I ended up in activism. During my job search, I found it difficult to secure employment in my country. I turned to the internet to look for job opportunities, and that's when I discovered the climate change movement known as "Fridays for Future," which was being led by an 18-year-old girl named Greta Thunberg. Since then, I have been deeply involved, and today I have even founded my nonprofit organization called Earth Volunteers.

Technology has played a crucial role in the climate justice struggle. Social media has allowed us to stay connected and expand globally, as well as acquire the resources we need to learn and innovate by drawing from different ideas being implemented across the globe.

Innovation is essential. As activists, we emphasize to our fellow fighters that climate change has no direct antidote. This means that even though we talk about renewable energy, there are still many solutions we need to implement to ensure that climate deniers have no excuses. At Earth Volunteers, we have a project focused on land restoration, including the use of food waste to make fertilizers. This local idea known as Terra preta, which has worked as far back as the early 1980s in the Amazon forest, could not have been discovered without the Internet.

We are also reaching out to companies to partner with us and help supply our members with gadgets like computers and phones. These tools will enable us to leverage digital technology to create interactive and engaging educational content. Virtual workshops, online courses, and mobile apps provide accessible environmental education to a broader audience, empowering them with knowledge and skills.

#CTS: How do you balance the immediate needs of communities affected by environmental degradation with the long-term goals of ecosystem restoration and climate policy change?

Nyombi Morris: I've realized that balancing both aspects is very difficult unless we make plans. So, what we've done is create specific projects that cater to each sector. We've initiated rainwater harvesting projects for the community that teach people how to utilize rainwater during the dry season. Additionally, for ecosystem restoration, we launched a tree planting project in 2020 to bring people together and have successfully planted over 50900 trees nationwide.

However, we face challenges due to a lack of funding, which sometimes hinders our ability to achieve our goals on time. To address the funding issue, we've decided to reduce the number of tree-planting events to two each year - one in March and the other in June.