Quiet Radicals: Vanessa Nakate

What is a Quiet Radical?

Every single day, there are people all across the globe who inspire and motivate, initiating change through acts, whether big or small, to make the world a better place. Leading by example and going against the status quo by simply asking, “Why not?” With those words, a path of change is created.

These are who we, at Five Dot Botanics, call Quiet Radicals; they need not be loud or even be seen at the forefront to make changes around them, they just need to do, and that is the push required to start radical change.


Who is Vanessa Nakate?

“If we want a future that is liveable and healthy for everyone, it has to be sustainable, it has to protect the people, it has to protect the planet.” - Vanessa Nakate

The year is 2019, January 2019 to be exact, 22-year-old Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate justice activist stands alone at Parliament Avenue in Kampala, protesting against the inaction on the climate crisis. She doesn’t know whether anyone else other than her siblings will join her outside the gates of the Parliament of Uganda, but she is still willing to protest and make her voice heard. This mostly solitary strike goes on for months before others are drawn to her call for action, her voice now attracts several youth to her fight, she wants climate change to be taken seriously.

With such a strong and adamant stance, it would surprise many to know it was only a month ago, December 2018 that Vanessa decided to start her activism, concern had grown after noticing the abnormally high temperatures in Uganda and how its heavy dependence on agriculture meant that the increasing threat of floods due to the climate crisis would be dire. Vanessa thought to herself, “This has to change.”



What has she done?

"Historically, we’ve seen that the entire continent of Africa is responsible for only 3 percent of global emissions. And yet Africans are already suffering some of the most brutal impacts fuelled by the climate crisis," - Vanessa Nakate

It isn’t new news that the climate crisis affects almost every aspect of human life, from the weather to aggravating issues such as gender inequality and poverty. Aside from getting young Ugandans involved in this fight, Vanessa also wants the world to know how this crisis is already affecting nations. According to the United Nations, the entire African continent accounts for merely 2-3 percent of the world’s emissions, this is extremely low for the second largest continent on our planet. Yet Vanessa among several others have noted that Africans ‘[suffer] some of the most brutal impacts’ of it.

From founding Rise Up Movement Africa which seeks to project the stories of several African climate activists and inspire others to stand and demand change to being chosen to speak at the COP25 gathering in Spain. She has also penned a letter to the participants of the World Economic Forum, calling for them to put an end to fossil fuel subsidisation which has a negative impact on our planet. She also started a campaign to protect the Congo Rainforest, the second largest in the world and known to hold more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species.


What does the future hold?

"We cannot eat coal, we cannot drink oil and we cannot breathe so called natural gas!" - Vanessa Nakate

The quote above, uttered by Vanessa highlights what the future holds for us all if we don’t ask for change from our leaders. The severe impacts of the climate crisis may not be knocking on some of our doors just yet, it may be at our neighbours, but it will walk to ours sooner rather than later and when it does, it will simply barge in. Vanessa knows there is no point in waiting for that barge in rather by taking care of the problem as it affects others means that the problem will also not affect you, by ‘[protecting] those who are most vulnerable to the climate impacts’ we create a better and cleaner world for many more to live in.

Humanity’s greatest achievement could be altruism. Wouldn't it be great if we, at this exact moment in time, started to lay not only the foundations but the building blocks? 


October 27, 2021 — Kwabena Gyane