When it is time for a regular visit to one of his tree planting clubs, Prince Goodluck Obi boards a canoe loaded with baobab and whistling palm saplings and begins a day long journey to a hard-to reach, impoverished Nigerian village. The journey is dangerous, and those who accompany him cannot be assured of their safety due to storms, floods, and violent nature of the communities they travel through.
On this particular day, Prince Obi arrives in a riverside community that he has visited before for a meeting with one of his already well-established tree planting clubs. The children, both primary and secondary school students, are eager to learn and the community is excited to get involved. This was not always the case. The first time Prince Obi arrived here, villagers were angry to find that he was spending his money on trees rather than food for them. However, with time, they learned to appreciate Obi’s work. These trees bring clean air and aesthetique to the riverside communities as well as providing a shady resting place for workers and students and medicinal uses.
Climate change affects all of us—and underprivileged areas like the villages Obi travels to are often hit the hardest. That’s what drives Obi, who is the president, CEO, and founder of Global Alert for Defense of Youth and the Less Privileged, a nongovernmental organization that promotes climate literacy among students in Nigeria. He wants to see all identities and social classes educated and represented in climate solutions.
Prince Goodluck Obi is actually a real prince from Lagos, Nigeria. He grew up in Eastern Nigeria in a wealthy family; however, Prince Obi prefers to spend is time among the common people. When he was younger, his father once told him “the best legacy you leave is sacrifice.” For this reason, day-in and day-out, Obi leaves his life of luxury to give to those who have less.
Obi remains frustrated that others are not willing to go to similar measures (although perhaps in different context) to find climate solutions. He is quick to point out that much of Africa has little or no contribution to global climate change, but is the “dumping ground” for most of its negative effects. He chuckled when I told him that the greatest climate change issue I’ve faced back home was when my sister lost running water for a couple days because of an algal bloom in Lake Erie. Both of us acknowledged that climate change’s negative effects are not nearly as harsh in the countries that pollute the most.
He wants wealthier countries to remember that climate change is about more than emissions: It is about people, and those people most affected are often out of sight.
It is important that we, as well as the negotiators, remember that the climate change solutions we need here at the Paris climate summit are not necessarily about those with the loudest voices.
Greg Margida is a senior at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, studying biology and French with the intention of going to medical school. He is representing the American Chemical Society at the Paris climate talks as a student observer.