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Applying ubuntu template in climate change

Opinion & Analysis
Ubuntu is deeply rooted in African culture; is encapsulated in the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which can be literally translated to “I am because we are.”

RECENTLY, Zimbabwe joined the rest of African countries in celebrating Africa Day.

On May 25 every year, Africans commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, now known as the African Union.

On this day, people reflect on Africa’s journey towards independence, unity and progress, highlighting the continent’s rich cultural heritage and their shared aspirations.

The commemorations are guided by the philosophy of ubuntu.

Ubuntu is deeply rooted in African culture; is encapsulated in the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which can be literally translated to “I am because we are.”

This philosophy is premised on communalism, interconnectedness and mutual care, promoting the idea that a person’s humanity and existence is affirmed through their relationships with others.

As the world grapples with the pressing issue of climate change, ubuntu provides a framework for collective action, ethical responsibility, and sustainable living.

Applying the ubuntu philosophy could be a gamechanger in achieving net zero emission, building adaption strategies and resilient communities.

In so many ways, the ubuntu philosophy can be harnessed to tackle climate change by focusing on community engagement, ethical leadership and sustainable practices.

At the heart of ubuntu is the belief that individuals are part of a larger community — I am because we are. This interconnectedness can drive collective action against climate change.

By fostering a sense of shared responsibility, ubuntu encourages communities, governments, and non-governmental organisations to collaborate by either working or funding projects that are aimed at achieving a shared environmental goal.

For example, community-based initiatives such as tree planting, conservation projects and local clean-up campaigns can significantly reduce carbon footprints and restore ecosystems.

In rural African communities, traditional practices rooted in ubuntu have long included sustainable agricultural methods and communal land management.

Modern applications of these practices can involve forming co-operatives for organic farming or renewable energy projects.

These co-operatives not only promote environmental sustainability, but also enhance social cohesion and economic resilience.

By embracing ubuntu, political and corporate leaders can adopt policies that promote renewable energy, reduce emissions and protect natural resources.

For instance, leaders inspired by ubuntu may champion legislation that supports green infrastructure, such as public transportation systems, energy-efficient buildings and sustainable agriculture.

They can also lead by example, implementing eco-friendly practices within organisations they lead and encourage others to follow suit.

Leaders lead by example. Ethical leadership extends to international co-operation, where countries work together to meet climate goals, share technologies, and provide support to those vulnerable to climate change.

Ubuntu encourages a way of life that respects the environment and promotes sustainability.

This can be translated into everyday actions and decisions that reduce negative environmental impacts.

Simple practices like reducing waste, conserving water, and using energy-efficient appliances can collectively make a difference.

Ubuntu also emphasises the sharing of resources through communal set-ups.

In many African cultures, traditional knowledge and practices have long embodied sustainable living principles.

For example, the use of organic fertilisers, crop rotation and water conservation techniques are all practices that align with the ubuntu philosophy.

Reviving and integrating these practices into our everyday lives can enhance sustainability efforts.

One key aspect of ubuntu is the transmission of knowledge and values across generations.

Education and awareness are critical in combating climate change as they are meant to empower individuals and communities to take informed decisions and collective action.

Incorporating environmental education into school curricula, community workshops and public campaigns can foster a deeper understanding of climate issues and the importance of sustainability.

Storytelling, a traditional method of teaching in many African cultures, can be an effective tool for conveying the urgency of climate change and the need for action.

Stories that highlight the impact of climate change on local communities, ecosystems, and future generations can resonate deeply and inspire change.

Additionally, leveraging modern technology to spread awareness and share solutions can amplify the reach and impact of these educational efforts.

Ubuntu can also influence policy and governance by promoting inclusive decision-making processes.

Climate change policies should be a product of a bottom-up approach where the views of all stakeholders, especially marginalised communities, indigenous groups and youths are considered.

This inclusive approach aligns with ubuntu’s principle of collective well-being and ensures that policies are equitable and just.

Policies that support local adaptation strategies, protect vulnerable populations and promote sustainable livelihoods can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change while fostering social and economic equity.

Climate change is a global challenge that requires international solidarity and co-operation.

The ubuntu philosophy puts emphasis on mutual support that can inspire countries to work together in addressing climate change.

This includes sharing technology and resources, providing financial assistance to developing countries, and collaborating on research and innovation.

The world is falling behind on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in efforts to adapt to the changing climate.

Actions and support to developing countries remain insufficient as climate risks grow and impacts increasingly devastate the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable countries and communities.

In the spirit of ubuntu, developed countries should contribute significantly to the Loss and Damage Fund.

Why? The fund was established by the Conference of Parties to assist developing countries respond to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Despite contributing the least to global warming, developing countries are the ones bearing the most brunt of the global scourge.

Despite that the Loss and Damage Fund pledged to top up US$700 million as of December 2023, such contributions have fallen far short of what developing countries require to tackle climate-related challenges, which are estimated at at least US$400 billion per year and expected to grow as the crisis intensifies.

The Paris Agreement, which calls for global action to limit rising temperatures and reduce carbon emissions, is a good example of how countries can collaborate to address climate change.

By embracing ubuntu, countries can strengthen their commitment to collective action and ensure that the burden of climate change is shared equitably.

Ubuntu philosophy offers a holistic and human-centred approach to tackling climate change it can drive the collective action needed to address this global pressing issue.

As the world faces the unprecedented challenges of climate change, the principles of ubuntu provide a powerful framework for creating a more sustainable, just, and resilient future.

Food for thought!

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