Being a mother comes with its everyday delights and challenges. As I think of the joy of being surrounded by my kids, I also think of the challenges I might face to keep them fed, safe and happy.

I think of my mother as well, how she took care of my siblings and me in Cameroon with the very little she had. Always thinking what next to do to ensure we had something to eat, clothes to wear, be able to go to school and have a roof over our heads. I feel this bond to the many women around the world, especially those suffering floods, droughts, fires, typhoons – just some of the impacts of climate change.

Victorine Che Thöner, spokesperson from Germany and originally from Cameroon in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Victorine is holding a hand banner that reads 'Stop Drilling. Start Paying.'
Victorine Che Thöner, Greenpeace International campaigner from Germany and originally from Cameroon, is calling on fossil fuel companies like Shell to ‘Stop Drilling. Start Paying’ for loss and damage they’ve caused © Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

I remember my first experience with flooding as a child. It rained so hard that a little wooden bridge over the river near our house was nowhere in sight. Later on in life, the flooding seemed to increase. Now it was not only the bridge covered, but homes, streets, shops and fields. All flooded.

Families worked hard to replace whatever was lost, with no support from the government whatsoever. At such times, it was never easy thinking of the next day – I could always see the worried lines on my mother’s face. Now thinking back, I imagine she was wondering if she would be able to put food on the table or worse still find a dry place for us to sleep.

My childhood friends and I were an adventurous bunch. We went out to the hills, forests, orchards and had so much fun. Climbing trees, picking forest fruits, swimming in the river. The chirping of multicoloured birds and other animals in the forest. My children will never have this same experience. Most of the nature I enjoyed as a young girl is now gone and industrial activities have taken over.

Sun on the horizon as Greenpeace activists from climate-hit countries on a small boat head out to floating Shell platform that is en route to major oilfield with message: ‘STOP DRILLING. START PAYING.’
Greenpeace activists from climate crisis -hit countries about to head out to Shell platform that is en route to major oilfield with message: ‘STOP DRILLING. START PAYING.’ © Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

People and nature are one. You destroy one, you impact the other.

The extraction of oil, gas and coal brings with it a lot of the ills in society, especially to people living in the places where it happens.

In many cases, local and indigenous communities are forced to leave their ancestral homes, with little or no hope of compensation. Nature and the environment where the drilling is happening is destroyed as well.

The polluting emissions released into the atmosphere also pave the way for the climate change impacts we have been facing. What makes this even worse is that those who have contributed the least to climate change are the ones paying the most. It is a colonial capitalist approach which benefits only a chosen few.

Climate impacts are not a future threat, they are happening now. Just last year, heatwaves, droughts and floods hit parts of Germany, where I now live. I saw hectares of corn fields completely dried up. From my country of origin Cameroon to Germany, where I call home, climate change is not local, it is global. No one will be able to escape it, we are in this together.

I feel sad when I think of the suffering caused by climate change. The destruction, displacement, loss of lives and general misery. Sometimes I feel hopeless, but I feel hopeful and strengthened when I see the growing number of resisting communities and people around the world. I feel the need to reach out and support in any way I can. And in all this, I feel a strong sense of community, which brings Ubuntu, an African Nguni Bantu term which means “I am because you/we are”.

Why I’m fighting for nature and climate justice

For a safe, just and fair world, we need climate and environmental justice. How many more people need to die or be displaced and how much more of nature needs to be destroyed before it is enough? Now is the time for extractive companies and governments to stop destroying and start paying for the loss or damage they have caused to lives, homes, livelihoods, language and culture.

Greenpeace Activists Approach Shell Oil Platform. © Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace
Greenpeace activists approach Shell oil platform in Atlantic Ocean north of the Canary Islands © Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

Of course, no amount of money can make up for the lives lost because of climate change, but people and communities who are suffering these impacts, especially in low income countries, really need help and support to rebuild their lives. That would be justice.

So today I am taking action to protect nature and fight for climate justice. I still remember very vividly the fun I had as a kid with my siblings and friends playing in forests and rivers. And I still feel that calling from nature just like that little girl I once was.

Stop drilling, start paying

Join the call for climate justice. Add your name to demand that fossil fuel companies stop their climate-wrecking activities, including their involvement in new fossil fuel projects; admit and apologise for their crimes; repair and pay for the damage they have caused.

Portrait of Victorine Che Thöner on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, wearing a green top
Victorine Che Thöner on board the Arctic Sunrise © Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

Victorine Che Thöner is part of the crew on board the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise, taking action against Shell as it heads for a major oil and gas field. Learn more about the action here.