His gift of gab and hope may determine the temperature of your world

Deon Shekuza is a peripatetic and charming climate influencer – as comfortable proselytizing green energy to youth on the hardscrabble roads and villages of this former German colony as he is in Namibia’s government ministries and the halls of United Nations conferences.

Paid with respect if not a salary, he’s part of a rising breed of young climate activists across the Global South whose work, suggests one climate expert, may well determine the temperature of your world.

Africa, which has contributed least to climate warming, is the continent most threatened by the droughts, floods, and heat intensified by climate change. In that extremity, the relentlessly positive Mr. Shekuza sees great opportunity for progress for Namibia.

Why We Wrote This

In a solar- and wind-rich nation bent on being the hub of renewable energy in Africa, a peripatetic climate activist models the responsibility a generation feels for the world.

In the dusty chaos of an informal settlement on the edge of this capital city one recent morning, he faces his biggest challenge: capturing the imaginations of young teens on a complex topic. The kids have gathered in a bright community center classroom, not for school credit and certainly not for fun on their Saturday off, but to hear Mr. Shekuza teach green hydrogen 101. Namibia has staked its future on this next big solution for a global clean energy transition.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Youth leader Clementine Munejewowo (center) was one of the youth at Mr. Shekuza’s presentation.

It’s touch-and-go for Mr. Shekuza – who himself came from a poor village, born in 1990 when climate change was just becoming a global concern. His cool factor – a New York Yankees cap and Nike basketball shoes – isn’t making up for the intricacies of environmental acronyms, policies, and economics. His words fly straight over heads dutifully bowed in note-taking posture.

No one here knows what green hydrogen is, let alone how it might be the route to social justice that Namibia’s leaders proclaim. 

Grasping for something understandable, Mr. Shekuza gestures out the window at the ancient and humble street scene of women laden with bushels of branches gathered from the forest for heating and cooking fuel. “This is exactly what we do not want for our people, right? Some energy sources keep you in the past, and some energy sources move you into the future. This is why we are here talking about green hydrogen.”

Previous ArticleNext Article