Neoka Naidoo

Policy communicator, Project 90by2030

Neoka decided to become a vegetarian at age 10. This stemmed from an empathy she felt for animals, and the realisation that her actions have consequences. She is now vegan. It was at around the same tender age that she started thinking about the Earth beyond her immediate surroundings. Her grade nine teacher even started the class talking about global warming. Neoka immediately wondered why her generation was not hearing more about this.

While other children were thinking about becoming firefighters or lawyers, she decided there and then that she would study environmental science. She now works for the nongovernmental organisation Project 90by2030, which seeks to make renewable energy provide the lion’s share of electricity to South Africa’s grid. As its policy communicator, she works to get information to those who would otherwise not have it.

This tends to be rural communities and women, who are usually left out of climate change discussions, though they are those most affected, as water resources dry up and food becomes harder to grow in a changing world.

She goes a step further, and tries to ensure that the communication does not just happen in one direction. Too often the voices of rural communities are left out of international climate negotiations or discussions on national climate change policy. This means the policies are then drafted on the basis of assumptions, or without political will, because the politicians don’t feel pressurised to do the right thing.

This job gives her a deep sense of purpose. But she keeps driving and working harder to create meaning to her life, and only works on projects that she is absolutely convinced are important. This hunger gets her out of bed and ready to roll each morning. She then has a spell of yoga to get limbered up for the day. On the weekend she takes her exercise outdoors with regular hikes.

On the odd occasion that she needs to do something that is not physical, she unwinds with a turn of pottery and a spot of reading. — Sipho Kings



Twitter: @gigglygreenbean