We all share this pain. But it is poor and vulnerable communities who have contributed the least that are affected the most right now.
To ensure everyone can flourish we need to restore God’s precious gift of creation, enable people to adapt to a warming world and stop the climate crisis from getting worse.
This isn’t an easy challenge. But around the world, young people are already leading the way.
Read more about how they are restoring our common home
Despite natural resources such as oil, tin, iron and coal, more than 70% of Nigeria’s population lives on less than $1 per day. Many still don’t have access to basic needs such as health, water and sanitation, and education. Climate change affects us all. But it hits the poorest hardest, multiplying hunger, migration and conflict.
Nigeria is getting hotter and its rainfall more unpredictable. Agriculture accounts for around 23 percent of the country’s GDP, and these hotter and drier conditions will likely exacerbate floods and droughts, making it much harder for the many Nigerians that survive by growing their own food. Food prices are already rising, and livestock have died because of extreme temperatures.
Richard Apeh, 33, is a Lay Missionary for the International Young Catholic Students, a Catholic action movement present in 86 countries around the world made up of over five million students in high schools and universities. IYCS educates and trains students to work for solidarity, freedom, justice and peace in the world and has a strong commitment to climate and environmental action.
“We’ve been organising workshops about environmental protection in schools and parishes for years,” says Richard. “We’ve organised a lot of tree planting – and then entrusted young people to act as guardians of the trees. We helped our peers to understand that by taking care of the trees and helping them grow, they are sharing in the creative mission of God.”
“But I realize that as important as our individual actions are in contributing to a better environment, they are simply not enough, so in 2014 I started getting involved in environmental and climate advocacy to get the government to put appropriate policies in place.”
Richard has experienced the effects of climate change first-hand. “I had never experienced flooding as a child, but a few years ago it came right to my doorstep. I saw lives that were lost and houses and businesses that were destroyed. It was a life-changing moment for me. This is the catastrophic impact of climate change.”
2020 will be a big year for Richard. He and a friend are starting an initiative called Edu4Future which will influence educational policy to incorporate sustainability, climate and environmental content in the high school curriculum. They will develop training for children and young people to become stewards of the environment. “I cannot say for sure if we will have the means to do all this,” he says, “but one thing I know for sure is that I will continue to mobilize people, especially young people.” Prayer and the support of others keeps his hope alive.
"The feeling of knowing that people out there, who you don’t know and may never meet, are united with you in a powerful act of solidarity; personalising your concerns and praying for you helps me keep hope alive and keeps me ever grateful."
Stand in solidarity with Richard by asking the UK Government to put people and planet at the heart of all decisions they make.
Richard is partnered with the dioceses of Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster.