A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis 

“We believe that at the center of this effort must be a genuine commitment not only to environmental, racial, and climate justice, but to the empowerment of girls and women, who are facing the crisis most acutely and are at the forefront of efforts to combat it.”

Vanessa Nakate’s book A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis is a long-awaited addition to recent books by young climate activists. Nakate is a Ugandan activist in her early 20s who writes in a compelling voice about her youth climate activism, the national and international barriers she has faced, and the importance of inclusive movements for climate and environmental justice. 

The book opens with Nakate telling the story of being omitted from a news photograph when she was at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland alongside four other young activists: “of the five women who’d posed for that photo, I was the only one who wasn’t from Europe and the only one who was Black. They hadn’t just cropped me out, I realized. They’d cropped out a whole continent.” She uses the story to help make clear “why it’s crucial that the fight against climate change includes voices like mine.” She discusses the “environmental catastrophes” in Uganda that continue to motivate her climate activism, and the need for better representation of voices from Africa and elsewhere in the Global South, where people are facing the harshest and most immediate effects of climate change. 

Nakate provides an in-depth view of the challenges she has faced as a climate activist in Uganda, where such factors as government restrictions, gendered expectations, and schooling practices pose challenges to pursuing activism. She discusses how she adapted forms of climate activism used in the US and Europe toward methods that are feasible in Uganda, such as holding “climate education” sessions within school contexts rather than expecting students to leave school for climate strikes. She talks about her leadership in initiatives including the Rise Up movement (“an umbrella group for climate activists in Uganda and across Africa”) and the website and podcast 1Million Activist Stories, and her involvement as one of the United Nations’ “Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals.” She devotes space to discussing the importance of education, gender equality, racial justice, and women’s rights as necessary parts of solutions to the climate crisis, and she addresses the implications of global North-South power relations for understanding and addressing the “climate emergency.” A Bigger Picture concludes with a chapter entitled “What Can I Do?” in which Nakate describes “ten ways to stand up for what is right and just” that include “Educate Yourself,” “Find Your People,” “Speak Out,” “Be Creative and Take Care of Yourself,” “Be the Change You Want to See in the World,” and “Think Globally and Intersectionally.” Following this is a helpful section of resources listing organizations, contact information for climate activists mentioned in the book, and even suggestions for slogans to use for protest signs. 

©2022 ClimateLit (Rachel Conrad)

Author Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quPKFjqwzJo&ab_channel=DemocracyNow%21

Publisher: Mariner, 2021

Pages: 231

ISBN: 978-0-358-65450-6

Audience: Ages 14+

Format: Nonfiction, Youth-Authored

Topics: Activism, Climate Change, Climate Crisis, Climate Emergency, Climate Justice, Climate Literacy, Ecofeminism, Environmental Justice, Racial Justice, School Strike for Climate, Solutions, Youth Climate Activism