Interview: Mohamed Maray Elshikhi
By: Alessandra Bonanomi
As the effects of climate change intensify and the governmental responses to it remain largely stagnant, many young people from all over the world have decided to take matters into their own hands. The global youth are joining an ever-growing movement of climate activists online and offline. We present an interview that we conducted with one such activist.
Mohamed Maray Elshikhi, of Benghazi, Libya, is the founder of the Libya Youth Council of Climate Change and Co-Founder of Mena Youth Network, a project launched at the beginning of 2022. He was also a delegate of Libya at the Youth4Climate during Pre COP 26. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and is now studying Environmental Change and Sustainability at the University of Milan, Italy.
Citiplat: How would you describe people's perception of climate change in Libya?
In Libya, when you mention climate change, people say, “Think about now, don’t think about the future. We are struggling right now. We have to think about the present, not the future”. In countries like mine, there is a lack of awareness, especially because Libya depends a lot on the oil industry and the economic situation can become problematic because of the energy transition.
Citiplat: In many parts of the Global South, people have pressing issues such as hunger, lack of water, and poverty. How is it possible to raise awareness about the urgency of climate change in those areas?
I believe that people understand what climate change is, especially when you relate it to the future of their children. For this reason, we created a project called Generation for Climate, a series of interviews with climate activists from Libya who spoke about climate-related issues that the population will face in 10 or 20 years. After that, people realized their children will struggle because of climate change and changed their minds. However, this is not enough. We need to talk about climate change in schools; it needs to become part of the formal education.
Citiplat: In your opinion, what role do young people play in raising awareness?
First of all, young people can be a good example for everybody to follow. Secondly, they can take part in the decision-making process or youth programs for adaptation and mitigation. In fact, when you train young leaders, they will for sure spread awareness to many other people. This is young people’s responsibility as well as that of organizations and governments.
Citiplat: During the last Pre COP in Milan, Greta Thunberg told world leaders that their words, although sounding great, were not rooted in action. Do you agree with her?
I totally agree with her. Sometimes, we see greenwashing from world leaders, conferencing without implementing policies. When we talk about taking action, it means it must be done as soon as possible. Some countries do not want to change anything to face the climate crisis but they just pretend to do so. Countries in the MENA region like Saudi Arabia and UAE declared they will reach net zero emissions by 2060 but 2060 is too late, extremely too late. At the same time, people can understand that when they will stop producing oil and gas, they will struggle if they do not have other sources of income to support their economies.
Citiplat: What do you think world leaders should do?
If I were a world leader, I would work on a detailed plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 to have a stable situation in terms of economy and education. Moreover, if we talk about countries whose economy is based mainly on gas and oil production, I would invest in renewable energies and infrastructures so that the situation becomes stable. Stability is a priority.
Citiplat: Since you are now living in Italy, what are your thoughts on how Italians perceive climate change?
I think the level of awareness in Italy is much higher than in many other countries, even in Europe. Many people are studying environmental-based courses and they really know what they have to do. Even the general public knows that it is their responsibility to take care of the environment. Moreover, institutions and industries have plans and roles to follow. In particular, young people understand the situation better, while older people do not care that much.
Citiplat: Can you tell us about any future programs you have planned regarding climate activism?
My plan for the coming five years is to spread the voice of disadvantaged young people from all over the world. There are people who escape from war, some from poverty and others from climate crises too. Their voices must be heard as well as their demands must be fulfilled urgently. Nobody should be left behind.