Tell us about yourself: I am OduduAbasi James Asuquo, a young ecological justice advocate from Akwa Ibom State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. My passion for environmental protection and climate justice started from a very young age. I often watched my mum consciously recycle her plastic bags, teach our family what the depletion of the ozone layer by carbon emissions meant and emphasised the individual responsibilities we have to planet Earth. When I was 13, as my understanding of climate change and activism grew, I wrote the winning essay of a statewide World Environment Day Essay competition and my commitment to environmental conservation continued to grow. After obtaining my bachelor's in civil engineering, I sought out opportunities to mesh my engineering knowledge with local and global environmental conservation and sustainability efforts. Through this path, I actively volunteer with environmental NGOs such as Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE) Africa, African Center for Climate Actions and Rural Development Initiative (ACCARD). I also serve as a board member of Green Restore Initiative - a startup that uses innovative technology to mitigate illegal logging of trees in Nigeria.
In addition, I currently work with Health of Mother Earth Foundation as a Project Officer, Oilwatch Africa. In my position, I develop global strategies to strengthen resistance in indigenous communities affected by oil activities. I also build and amplify grassroots resistance efforts to prevent territorial damages. I find great satisfaction in crafting advocacy materials that exert pressure on the government and liable oil companies, compelling them to address issues related to environmental destruction and human rights abuses in oil-rich areas, with a special focus on the Niger Delta region.
Outside of my commitments at Oilwatch Africa, I serve as CEO and co founder of PaperEazi, a youth championed ecological company committed to reducing the use of single use plastic bags by producing biodegradable shopping bags of all sizes from recycled paper. Through PaperEazi, I also organize events to teach the local youth soft skills and training courses on climate change and its environmental impacts on their everyday life.
What are you planning to do with the grant? The JWH grant is an incredible opportunity to continue the work of environmental conservation and climate justice that I have been passionately engaged in for over a decade. I intend to bolster my knowledge by attending two online courses. The first course is “Systems Thinking-Climate Change and Sustainable Decision Making” offered by the University of Glasgow. Through this course, I will learn novel tools and theories that center on utilizing the connections of people and places to improve existing systems to further mitigate Climate Change. The second course is titled, “Making Climate Adaptation Happen - Governing Transformation Strategies for Climate Change”. This course is available through the University of Groningen by Future Learn, Camden Town, United Kingdom.
I believe that since the world of sustainability is ever evolving, keeping up with academic discourse, policy making strategies and intentional practice is important hence my decision to enrol in these courses. In addition, I will spend valuable time registering my company, PAPERAZI, with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria and expand existing relationships with the communities from which I source my raw materials for production. I will also organise a detailed product development training for 5 volunteers on how to make PAPERAZI eco-friendly biodegradable bags.
What do you hope the JWH grant will bring you? Given that the work of climate justice and environmental conservation is best done in communities, I am excited to lean in learn, unlearn and relearn from the different expertise that the grantees embody. I am also thrilled to bring forward my civil engineering background and share that as a resource for sustainability projects that my colleagues may be engaged in. Moreover, being a member of the JWH network serves as a constant reminder of the ongoing numerous positive actions being carried out by passionate and outstanding young people for the survival of the planet. It will also stand as a motivating force whenever I encounter resistance in the course of my work.
What is your dream? I dream of a future where paper bags once again become the norm and there is a significant reduction and perhaps complete stoppage in the use of single use plastic products, especially plastic bags manufactured from petroleum products and plastic water bottles. I dream of a future where communities devastated by harmful oil extraction practices are justly compensated for the historical loss and damage suffered and care is taken to restore and remediate the land and waterways in those communities so that I once again see the rivers teaming with fish and my forests lush and green. I dream of a future free of fossil fuels powered industrialisation where the energy sources are clean, green, renewable and planet friendly.