My greatest fear has surfaced today as a new term in the global lexicon: “climate apartheid.” If inaction continues and the atmosphere continues to warm, citizens across the Global South will be left to fend for themselves amid devastation to their homelands, food, and water. I come from one of these vulnerable nations – Eritrea – which is why, as the clock blindly ticks, my fear grows.
Another term we see these days is “climate optimism,” a refusal to be paralyzed by the overwhelming challenges of the climate crisis. I live by this spirit – and that’s why I will be heading to Harvard University at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
When faced with a challenge, humanity innovates. However, bringing innovation to scale requires serious resources. In the past five years, I have been facilitating workshops and designing programs to transform local ideas into viable projects and initiatives. This work has been an absolute joy – I’ve built friendships with hundreds of young people across the globe who are restoring rivers and forests, training farmers, and rallying for political action. We lift each other up but on the hard days, it seems we are fighting an uphill battle, encountering challenge after challenge and facing institutions not designed to support us.
I applied to study at Harvard because I knew this was an urgent and systemic problem. I believe that new partnerships, namely private and public, have much to offer the landscape restoration and conservation arena. In these arrangements, government institutions provide the necessary stability, continuity, and large-scale integration while private entitles offer desperately needed financial and technical resources. By taking a Masters in Public Policy, I hope to understand a holistic framework for policy analysis and tools for strategic planning to effectively design such partnerships. However, being a transformative leader is about more than just skills.
I have the honor of joining through the Louise and Gabrielle Bacon Environmental Leadership Fellowship, which offers the very community for growth that everyone needs. The informal conversations and mentorships will help me transform broad policy insights into tangible environmental solutions. I know that this new network of friends, accountability, and dialogue will push my leadership and thinking to the next level, bringing me one step closer to the leader I hope to be.
And who is that leader? She will be a Harvard grad, an African woman, someone who leaves her mark and goes on to support African governments in shaping the creative partnerships that will transform our world.
Though the crisis is here, the challenges that lie ahead are also a source of inspiration. It’s in these moments that I remember a quote from my Global Landscapes Forum family and mentor, John Colmey, “It’s a great day to change the world” – let’s get to it.