Desmond Tutu was an Archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa. He is best known for his contributions to peace and reconciliation in the country. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts.

Who was Desmond Tutu?

Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa in 1931. First, he was a schoolteacher, and later he became a priest. After moving up through the church ranks, Tutu was appointed the Archbishop of Cape Town. This made him the first-ever Black South African to hold that position. Throughout his life, Tutu made important contributions to fighting against apartheid. Also, he drew attention to the effects of climate change on Africa specifically. Sadly, he died on the 26th of December 2021at the age of 90.

What is ‘climate change apartheid’?

This term was created by Desmond Tutu. According to the 2007/2008 UN Human Development Report, ‘Climate apartheid emerges from the complex exchanges between racism and environmental exploitation.’

In other words, Tutu used this term to describe how climate change affects people of colour more than others. Some major effects include drought, such as the one in Ethiopia in 1983 that caused 300,000 deaths. Climate change affects people of colour more because many African nations do not have access to the same resources that richer nations do. This lack of resources makes it harder to cope with environmental disasters.

How did Desmond Tutu advocate for climate change action?

Tutu often wrote articles in the Guardian to highlight the specific effects of climate change on Africa. In 2007, he wrote in one of these articles about how western nations might view climate change differently if they had the same experiences as Africans. ‘How much greater would their concerns be if they lived in slums and townships, in mud houses, or shelters made of plastic bags? In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality.’ He also created a widely shared petition in 2015, which asked for countries to fully transition to renewable energy sources.


Desmond Tutu was a much-beloved figure. He fought for equality and progress throughout his life, both in politics and for the environment. His legacy will be remembered, and he will be greatly missed.

Leah Rich


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