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Climate activism with Kevin Mtai

Kevin Mtai, a climate activist, shares his recommendations for others who want to take action on the climate crisis.
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So we’re back in the Minghella Studios, and we’re talking to Kevin. He’s a young climate activist, and he’s the co-founder and organiser of lots of different groups that get involved with his Climate Journey, and he works a lot with youth as well to inspire them to get involved with the climate crisis. Kevin also helped organise Mock COP 26 an online climate conference which was hugely successful, with hundreds of delegates around the world, which created a global climate declaration calling on world lead ers to take action. Well, Kevin, you’ve had a huge impact around the world. But what inspired you to become a climate activist? So I get involved in climate action during my childhood in Nairobi.
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I was living in the biggest slum city in Kenya known as Kibera. When two or three, my mother died because of drinking contaminated water, which was due to, in our slum, we have sewage and water. When this company, big company, and also city, they want to dispose of their plastic material and other things, they dispose of it in the slums area. That is the time I decided to champion for climate change and also to become an activist and also environmentalist fully. Have you got any goals for the future of yourself as a climate activist? What’s the kind of next step s for you? OK, yeah.
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So for my next step to this is just to make sure most of the world is a better place, not only in Kenya but around different places because for me, living in a village area where most of the people have not understand very well what is climate change. So I need to change that ‘cocoon’ or just norm in my village so that people can kind of understand that climate change is happening, and it’s not happening maybe later, but it’s happening right now. Absolutely, yeah. We’ve all got to do our bit and really fight for it. So yeah, brilliant. And it takes a lot to fight in this way. It doesn’t just require us.
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It requires nations, small states as well as the UN. Are there any policies that have started to help regarding climate change where you are and around the world? Yeah, so talking about policy, that’s why UN were able to build this organ known as UNFCCC so that they can come up with a different policy. And one of the things I think they were able to come up was COP to make sure that every year, each country, they were able to be gathered there just to talk more about what is affecting the world. But the problem is implementation and putting those policies at work.
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So I think the problem is not about the policy, but the problem is about these leaders and also the country. This policy are being amended because we shall find some people, they don’t want to amend this policy or put this policy into practice because they know that if they can go to put this policy in practice, they will not get, like, benefit or a profit, which is usually I think they wanted to do. Yeah, that’s really fascinating. And with these youth movements that are coming to light, has that kind of really helped to inspire the movement? Have you seen a real change in a lot of your activism?
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One of the big movements around, especially around the world involving strike and also demonstration, is Friday For Future, which has involved many youth around the world. We have been going most of the time in strike every Friday, every year, just try to pressurise our leaders, to pressurise our government, to pressurise everyone that climate change is real and we need to happen, right? And we need to see it’s real, and we need to act not later but now. Yeah, definitely. And I think that’s, as you mentioned earlier, that it is a global movement. It’s all of us together in this big kind of climate crisis.
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And it’s really interesting that you said, you know, you’re part of the–, you went on the strikes in Kenya. When I was living in Germany, we were part of the strikes. And then here in the UK, all over the world, we’ve had these Friday for Future strikes, and it really kind of brings everyone together and especially a lot of young people as well. It gets people educated on the issue. And I think that that’s really important, yeah. So how can young people get involved with climate activism, and what kind of work have you been doing with young people to help them get involved with the climate crisis?
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I think what they can do– because you shall have– like, climate change is happening everywhere in the world. So they need also to come up maybe with an initiative project and also different things related to the area because you don’t need maybe to go into big town to do a strike. You can do a strike even in your small village because you have different types of activism. You can protect the animals. You can fight for the plastic pollution in your area. You can fight everything. So it’s a matter of you having perseverance and working and passion in this thing so that it can come up out of you.
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So what I can tell you there, if you come up with a project, don’t give up knowing it may take even two years, three years. But one day, one person will see that you have a good project. And our slogan here with KEAN is ‘Keen towards environment’, and green is always our favourite.

Emily and Nick call Kevin Mtai a climate activist who helped organise Mock COP. They ask what he hopes to achieve through his activism, the challenges they face as young people, and his recommendations for others who want to take action on the climate crisis.

Kevin faced significant challenges to becoming a climate activist but despite this, has made an impact both nationally and internationally. Take inspiration from his ideas and think about the steps you might take to create a movement for change. Discuss your ideas with a friend of family member.

About Kevin Mtai

Kevin Mtai is a climate justice activist and environmentalist based in Kenya who is passionate about raising awareness in his community about the effects of climate change. He is the Africa Regional coordinator at Earth Uprising International and holds a number of other roles at other organisations including Fridays for Future MAPA, Climate Live and Loss and Damage Youth Coalition. Kevin is also the co-founder of Kenya Environmental Action Network.

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