The Platform


Kindness can be a driver for climate change action.

With the changing climate, we need to look for solutions from every corner. One of the most forgotten solutions is kindness. Genuine kindness is when you are kind to those who cannot or will not return it. Being kind allows others to see the goodness in humanity through you.

We can change the world with a simple small act of kindness. We need a new perspective as we grapple with finding solutions to drive climate change solutions. As climate change is a moving target, tapping into soft aspects, especially kindness, is an utmost urgency. We do not need a monthly salary to nurture values of kindness, selflessness, and empathy. Be kind and selfless to every person. Never take someone’s kindness and selflessness for granted.

So why should “being kind” matter for transformational climate action? The answer starts with an appreciation of one foundational fact – that human capital, which is the totality of people’s skills, passion, talents, interests, energy, and ongoing work – is four times the value of produced capital and fifteen times the value of natural capital. This means that human capital is the most critical component to be nurtured to drive transformational climate action.

Being kind allows us to be better placed at tapping whatever good is in people because we do not entirely discount them on their faults. As much as we may be wary of their weaknesses and limitations, we also remain true to their abilities and tap into them. Such a compartmentalized, non-linear, and asymmetric approach to dealing with people ensures we can tap into the reserve of whatever good they may have, regardless of how much baggage they may carry around them in terms of their faults. And if we can tap into whatever good is in people, we will be leveraging the most essential and valuable capital for transformational climate change action.

Remember this, your decision to be kind is not about yourself, but about the big picture of transformational climate change action that we will never actualise unless we tap into valuable human capital. How can we induce kindness in ourselves?

First, be very aware of your flaws. While it is always a temptation to think of ourselves as “good” and compare ourselves with others and relish how much better we are, remember that your goodness is a mirage in the face of the only scale that matters.

Second, focus on the big picture. The purpose of life is to be useful in applying ourselves, to do that which touches many lives. But to be useful for impact, we cannot work alone. We cannot do everything. As a famous saying reminds us, “no one is an island.” We must complement our abilities with others to then achieve impact. So, remember to be useful, you must work with others, then focus on this objective of the need to be useful and touch many lives and less on how you may feel about certain people. This big picture should focus on tapping the best in people towards achieving a bigger goal of touching many lives. This is what is golden. A key measure of vision and selflessness – without which we can never achieve our divine ordained life’s purpose to be useful.

Third, kindness opens the door for the benefit of the doubt. The most significant investment we have is people. But how can you invest in people you have no faith in, and how can you have faith in people you are not kind to. It is not possible because you will tend to see more of the flaws and less of the intrinsic investment they carry in them in the form of their abilities. Seeing some good where others see only bad is what the “benefit of the doubt” is. It is not as intense as trust, but at the same time not dismissive. It is an objective approach to engage willing people and tap their abilities for transformational climate action despite their flaws.

Fourth is peace of mind. Kindness enables us to not take offense very personally from other people. One thing we need to appreciate is that fights are costly both to the punished and the punisher. You cannot fight people who wrong you and expect to come out scotch-free. You may win the fight, but not without bruises and losses. A better option is instead to focus on how you can tap into what they have to offer for the sake of transformational climate action – no matter how minuscule – and avoid triggering their flaws.

Fifth is to become the standard. You will be surprised at how much more kind people can be if they are shown kindness. Some people tend to adopt arrogance and disregard as a defensive mechanism against this wicked world. They may not know any other way. But by being an example of kindness to them, you provide a benchmark that challenges them to be better.

It is almost universal that we would like a kinder world. If we want more kindness, we must show more kindness. Compassion is needed to drive climate action. These levers of kindness constitute innovative volunteerism’s ethos, one of the most extensive mindset change incubation spaces for climate action in the world.

Climate change is a moving target, and we must leverage every opportunity to turn climate change challenges into opportunities. This can only happen when kindness becomes the soft power that has been missing for quite a while. A new perspective is born with innovative volunteerism, where soft aspects are leveraged to power climate action solutions for the collective benefit of communities and society.

Let the urgency for transformational climate action – the one that ensures there is food on every table, enterprises for more people, more money in more pockets, and thriving globally competitive economies in Africa and the world– be our motivation for kindness.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated.

Dr. Richard Munang is a multiple award-winning environment and development policy thought leader and climate change and sustainable development expert. Richard is also author of 'Making Africa Work Through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism' in 2018.

Robert Mgendi works with the Africa Climate Change Programme.