​Slice of Life: Green is the new black

Green engineer Vere Shaba. (Anthony Schultz, M&G)

Green engineer Vere Shaba. (Anthony Schultz, M&G)

As a 28-year-old green engineer, I stood up in front of hundreds of professionals at a conference and was asked to contextualise green-building principles in Nigeria.

One of the delegates stood up: “I don’t understand,” he said. “I don’t understand why Africans should care about green buildings. Should I care?”

“Yes, you should care,” I answered.

I told him that, environmentally, Africa will bear the brunt of buildings that are not engineered with energy efficiency, resource efficiency and environmental responsibility in mind. I said our economy, as a continent, is dependent on the primary economic sector, which is not as resilient as it needs to be against the temperature degree change that we are trying to offset.

I said the green economy, according to the United Nations, has the potential to generate millions of green jobs in a continent rife with unemployment. Economically, green buildings have lower operational costs, which means greater profit margins for African companies trying to navigate economic instability.

It costs more to live, work and play in a building that is not green, I said passionately – because I so want to see this continent become all that it is called to be.

As he sat down again – I promise I didn’t plan it – the power went off and the auditorium was plunged into darkness. “This is why you should care,” I commented. “This is why Africa should care.” –  Vere Shaba, one of the Mail & Guardian’s #200Young South Africans for 2017, as told to Sihle Manda

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