Open letter: Dear Mr President

By the end of the present century, man-made climate change could be a major existential threat to humanity’s way of life on Earth, and the ecological balance sustaining our lives and those of future generations. Everyone is already feeling the effect of climate change — with uncontrollable flooding and droughts that threaten the mere existence of our biodiversity. You and your family, including your children and your several grandchildren, as well as the members of your administration and their families, will be among those who will be affected if climate change continues to accelerate at its current pace. You, President Cyril Ramaphosa, have done our climate and ecological crisis no justice. 

In last year’s State of Nation address (Sona), you promised that the Climate Change Bill would be finalised, but this legislation still has not been passed. This year you defended Eskom, the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, stating that it shows promise to reflect net zero emissions by 2050 and to increase its renewable energy capacity. You also gave a brief nod at our climate crisis, touching on a Climate Justice Committee, but ultimately avoiding the truth. Climate change has no timeline, and we cannot put our hopes on change by 2050. 

I am a climate and environmental activist, and I would like to show my deepest disappointment in your recent Sona. I cannot command you to listen to me and we weren’t born as equals. We were born in different generations; you are much older than me. We were born in different social classes — you are a president, and I am a woman from a small town that nobody cares about. You played a big role in our past, and I play a big role in our future. We are only equal on an earthly level. If you take away the economy and politics that separates us, we are united by the Earth. Only when we work together on an earthly level, can we ever be equal. 

I’ve been told by seasoned activists that I shouldn’t be so personal in my writing, that I should show poise and respect. They told me that I should suffocate my letter with facts, data and scientific proof to show you the state of our climate crisis. But, let’s be honest, you work alongside scientists. You’ve read these facts. You get spammed with letters that are saturated with data and proof. You know what will happen if we don’t drastically decelerate the rate that our human activities are contributing to climate change — but you still invest in fossil fuels, and you are still investing government funds in furthering the exploitation of oil and gas in our natural habitats. 

I want to implore you to be honest to the citizens of South Africa, and fully disclose the topic of climate change in your response to the Sona debate. I want you to make climate change a part of our educational curriculum in schools. I want you to declare a climate emergency. I want you to use the power that you have to ensure a sustainable future for all citizens in South Africa. I want you to be a president worth voting for. Let us be a part of the solution, and not the problem. This is our future, and it’s worth fighting for. 

I thank you for reading this open letter and I will promptly be awaiting your response.

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Christine Coomans
Christine Coomans is a climate and environmental activist for Fridays For Future International and Extinction Rebellion South Africa

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