Maverick Citizen

THE ACTIONISTS

Otsile Nkadimeng – Young activist bridging the gap between a laggard state and setting SA’s climate change agenda

Otsile Nkadimeng – Young activist bridging the gap between a laggard state and setting SA’s climate change agenda
Otsile Nkadimeng. (Photo: Thom Pierce)

Actionist Otsile Nkadimeng is the co-founder of the Sundial Movement and believes youth involvement is critical in setting South Africa's climate change agenda.

The urgency with which Otsile Nkadimeng talks about global warming echoes his fears about the impending climate crisis. He needs to get his message out before it is too late but the problem is that most of the solutions that he offers are grounded in the knowledge that policy change takes time, way too much time.

Otsile believes in the South African youth. He knows that they have the capacity to care about their future and about the future of their country. And he knows the importance of getting the youth involved. He is a clear example of how engaged, switched on and powerful the young people are in this country. They have the tools, the energy and they are starting to find their voice. 

His own journey into climate activism started five years ago when he heard a talk about climate change by Professor Coleen Vogel at a model United Nations conference for school students, hosted by Wits University. He was so affected by the powerful presentation that, after the event, he went straight home and joined Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion.

In 2022 Otsile, together with his friend Pètra de Beer, started an initiative called the Sundial Movement, a collective of young people around the country who care about the climate and understand the impact that it will have on their own future. 

The movement connects high-school learners through instant messaging groups and appoints point people at different schools who are then responsible for mobilising other students to synchronise marches and protest action, all based around climate issues. 

“There is so much energy and potential in the youth. We need to be part of the process because this is our future.”

They are also developing a climate training workshop called Talk in Twenty which teaches about the causes of the climate crisis whilst, at the same time, engaging with the real-world aspects of how it will affect everybody’s lives. The aim is to reduce climate anxiety by walking people through all the issues and guiding them on how to take action.

“We need to tie climate change to people’s everyday issues, people are more concerned about what they are going to eat. We need to show people the impact on food, weather, and socioeconomic problems and how they are all interconnected. “

The solution, Otsile says, is the Just Energy Transition, a government initiative to move away from coal and towards cleaner sources of energy. But he is quick to point out that this is a slow process that is not accessible to most people. It is a high-level, policy-driven initiative that puts the power for change in the hands of the government. 

“Climate will never be a sexy issue, I have tried to make it that for a long time but it takes a lot of energy and a lot of effort.”

As a bright young student, passionate about the future of the world, Otsile is in a good position to bridge the gap between the inaccessible government-level decisions and the growing masses of youth, on the ground, with the energy and determination to make a real change for the future. DM

The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who engage in direct action. They are people anyone can turn to in difficult circumstances: a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa. Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles these people. Through a website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide ways for people to get involved.

Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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  • babette gallard says:

    Excellent, Thom. He’s an important part of Extinction Rebellion and the voice that has to be there.

  • Brian Kritzinger says:

    A vital part of lowering carbon emissions is transitioning to plant-based eating. Meat and dairy are amoung the biggest contributors to these emissions and reducing (ideally eliminating) them from our diets is something that we can all do, and it has a significant individual impact.

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