Madeleine Zaritsky

Ugandan climate activist and CEO of the non-profit Earth Volunteers Nyombi Morris visited Yale to discuss the climate crisis on Friday. 

Morris’ talk on 53 Wall Street went through his start in climate activism, his accomplishment and his hopes for the future. Morris, who got in touch with Yale students during his time at Climate Week NYC, said he was happy to pay a visit to talk to students. 

“First of all, students are the next leaders,” Morris told the News. “When we talk about climate change, we talk about something that is global. Not many people are acting right now but young people have the chance to come together and for me, I always try to motivate people to do that.”

Morris was inspired to begin his career as a climate activist when his family’s farm was washed away at the age of 12. His family moved to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, where he met fellow Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, who told him about the movement for climate justice. 

In August 2019, he began his career in activism on social media, as well as on the ground.

“I like speaking to those in the Western world who are so close to the companies that are polluting those in the South,” Morris said. “There needs to be compensation for damages in the South. Countries have promised us a lot of money but that money is nowhere to be seen.” 

One specific effort Morris is currently focusing on is speaking out against Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be taking place in Egypt. 

Coca-Cola — the world’s worst plastic polluter in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 — has been accused multiple times of “greenwashing,” which refers to the practice of making statements that misrepresent a company’s impact upon the environment as being more positive than it actually is.

“Without serious sponsors beyond Coca-Cola, the Egyptian UN conference looks doomed to be a conference of procrastinators threatening the planet and its peoples,” Morris said.

One of Morris’s biggest moments since he began fighting for climate justice in 2019 was his effort to stop the sale of a piece of the Bugoma Forest to a sugarcane company in September 2020.

Morris, who challenged the sale through street protest and calls to action on social media, had his Twitter account banned and a television interview stopped from broadcasting due to his efforts. He got his Twitter account back after Greta Thunberg, another well-known climate activist, put out a call to lift activists’ restrictions worldwide. 

Friday’s event was co-hosted by the Yale Student Environmental Coalition (YSEC); the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication; the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration; and the Yale International Relations Association.

Kaise Dualeh ’24, who worked in part to plan the event as president of the Yale International Relations Association, believed that hearing Morris speak was an invaluable experience.

“In these elite institutions of higher education, it is easy to get disconnected from the reality that the issues we study in classes have real-world devastating effects on our most vulnerable communities,” Dualeh said. “Nyombi really stressed on the importance of those of us here at Yale using our privileges to support the work of changemakers on the ground.”

Dualeh expressed further appreciation for Morris placing emphasis on how climate injustices carried out by the Western world disproportionately affect the Global South. 

Madeleine Zaritsky ’25, co-president of YSEC, was impressed with the event but wished it had a larger impact.

“I think the event went really well, but I would’ve liked for there to be a larger turnout so it could have reached more people,” Zaritsky said. “The presentation was amazing and it was a really great discussion afterwards.”

Morris’ talk is just one of many events that YSEC has planned for this year. Along with continuing initiatives such as composting, bike sharing and their publication “The Environmentalist,” YSEC is planning more speaker events and will be hosting a film screening of the movie “2040” in November, in partnership with the Sunrise Movement.

Morris mentioned that while the fight for climate justice is definitely an uphill battle, he is hopeful for the future.

“Speaking to students and seeing more people joining the fight gives me hope. In 2019, we were few, but now we are more than a million,” Morris said.

Morris hopes to enroll in environmental science classes offered at Yale in order to further his own personal education on climate change and the global movement.

BEN RAAB