Towards Technological Solutions to Climate Action from Varieties of Science: Insights from the Narrative of floods in Kenya and Germany



Nairobi has been experiencing extreme weather patterns in line with warnings from the weatherman in the past few months. This trend, which is seemingly an annual trend, begun sometime last year with devastating droughts that affected the entire country with arid and semi-arid parts of the country worst hit. The latter created food shortages and insecurity of biblical proportions in general, to the extent that politicians, led be the President, William Ruto (a champion of climate action), were calling for intercession through national prayers. The droughts led to death of vulnerable women and children and contributed to the loss of livestock and crops, negatively affecting Kenya’s economy through consequent high food prices. Then fast forward to this year (2024) another extreme pattern was witnessed this time characterized by heavy and long rainfalls that contributed to floods and mudslides that killed people in cities and villages[1]. It may have appeared like a Kenyan problem, but the problem was witnessed in other parts of the world in places like Dubai and most recently, Germany.

Kenya Red Cross members hold on to a safety rope as they wade through flood waters to assess and rescue residents trapped in their homes marooned after a seasonal river burst its banks following heavy rainfall in Kitengela municipality of Kajiado County, near Nairobi, Kenya May 1, 2024; photo: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Of course, [2]these things often appear sensationally on media platforms and for the first time, similar media scenes of animals and property being swept away by floods in Kenya, Germany and Dubai were witnessed both in developed and developing economies. Is climate not the great equalizer? Does this then beg the question of what humanity can borrow from this, seemingly, similar patterns of events at least as represented through news media outlets? What kind of agency do this narrative incite and what does it tell us about our culture of doing things and our own ingenuity? Are there possibilities of positive synergy across cultures, geographical spaces and tech/media platforms to find solutions for the future of humanity in a world ravaged by climate induced disasters?

Fredrick Ogenga

Fredrick Ogenga is an Associate Professor of Media and Security Studies at Rongo University and the Founding Director, Center for Media, Democracy, Peace & Security. He also serves as the CEO, The Peacemaker Corps Foundation Kenya. Ogenga is a Letsema Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation and Senior Non-resident Research Fellow, Institute for Global African Affairs, at the University of Johannesburg and the West Indies respectively. He is also an Associate Researcher Africa Studies Center, University of Basel, and Senior Research Associate, Swisspeace. Ogenga is a member of International Panel on the Information Environment’s (IPIE) Scientific Panel on Information Integrity on Climate Science and Chair of IPIE’s AI and Peacebuilding Scientific Panel. He is also a former Sothern Voices Network for Peacebuilding Scholar at the Wilson Center, Washington D.C and Africa Peacebuilding Network fellow. Ogenga is a Co-founder of the Varieties of Science Network (VOSN) and will be Senior Fellow at the KHK c:o/re RWTH Aachen University in 2025.


These are the tough questions we are now facing and to address them, a new view on the different forms of how problem-oriented research is performed seems to be decisive. Therefore, the idea towards a Varieties of Science Network at (VOSN) was born in Basel, Switzerland by Prof. Stefan Böschen, the Director the Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research, RWTH Aachen University, Germany, and Prof. Fredrick Ogenga, The Director of the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security, Rongo University, and The CEO of the Peacemaker Corps Foundation Kenya that seeks to examine the challenges faced globally, from environmental, political, economic, social to cultural challenges. Subsequently, the most prominent ones being climate change, financial inequalities, political and social upheavals, and pandemics. In this context, humanity continues to display a great level of ingenuity and resilience and have innovated ways of coping and adapting for self-preservation but not without challenges. Nevertheless, what has been lacking is a higher level of cooperation across cultures and geographical spaces to take advantage of the potential benefits of crosspollinating local knowledge and expertise both at the local and global level as demonstrated by the recent floods witnessed from Nairobi to Dubai and the West of Germany, Aachen.

The latter is a reminder to humanity that we are confronted with similar challenges in a seemingly technologically connected world that appear to challenge the common assumption, evidenced in political conversations globally, that have often defined the boundaries between the global North and South in epistemic frameworks where the latter have often plaid catch up. Central to this conversation has been the idea of coloniality, and within that, decoloniality and the emergence of global communication technologies which have been designed and exploited to maintain and sustain unequal power modalities[3].

The latter positionality has sustained a global image of Africa on global media platforms as a continent ravaged by disease and disaster (floods, droughts and pandemics) as seen in recent floods in Kenya inspired by coloniality of technology and knowledge, and within that, the centrality of decoloniality vis-à-vis the emergence of global communication systems. Technological systems that have fallen short of sustaining a colonial discourse amidst changing global environment due to climate change must be resisted at all costs. And so, climate change has disrupted the ideological lenses of Western journalistic frames when it comes to the positive image of the West juxtaposed against that of Africa.

Consequently, news of floods are given equal treatment in Germany as they would otherwise not in comparison to news in ecologies in the global South such as Kenya – The usual sensational narrative of disaster demonstrated by cows and other valuables being swept by ravaging floods is a tired African narrative and it is therefore a paradox to confront such images in emerging narratives of floods in Germany – Is this then not a warning sign and a compelling reason for humanity to forge a united front? (the we are in this together or Harambee (togetherness) spirit of pan-African philosophical epistemic underpinning?)

From this background, the Varieties of Science Network (VOSN) seeks to tap from ‘glocal’ knowledge reservoir (local epistemic framework) in a bid to bring the epistemic gaps in knowledge production and dissemination in climate science and other socio-economic, political and cultural challenges using research and technology to seek a more coordinated approach to finding solutions to common scientific questions and challenges facing mankind today. The network is inspired by what is regarded as one of the central topics of the KHK RWTH Aachen, namely: Varieties of Science. Doing so, this initiative seeks to uncover the diverse cultural-institutional conditions of epistemic freedom and intellectual democracy across geographical and cultural spaces and multiple disciplines.

The idea is to unravel the productive parts of the global North -South conversations to overcome colonial burdens etc. Due to the emerging common threats, for example, brought about by climate change as argued, these traditional global North South conversations, that have often centered on coloniality of power dynamics as witnessed in news representation of disasters, is certainly not going to be the same in future and are becoming more and more unsustainable. Climate change will create, and is beginning to shape, a new world living space for mankind and therefore, we need to find ways to cooperate with each other. So, it’s about knowing and creating a new collective order, a new human rights agenda and creating an economic order that is fair enough for all people. VOSN intends to bring together people and topics that would like to contribute to this network to that end.

It is driven by better engagement between people and the different conditions between ecologies for better understanding in different worlds to form collaboration to, for example, balance in terms of Co2 and energy transitions globally. It also seeks to find better ways of understanding and guard-railing energy transitions and other forms of transitions, be it political, economic, and socio-cultural in different ecologies by examining problem centered cases such as climate change and many other topics and issues in different fields and countries that would animate varieties of science for members to learn from each other. It would seek to understand how to synergize technologically driven emergency responses to natural disasters such as drought, famine, floods and pandemics as recently witnessed in different geographical spaces across cultures. For example, in the question of climate, which is the inaugural theme for VOSN, what are the agencies and emerging different ways of knowing or gnosis and responding? What are the epistemic questions across cultures? and which kind of knowledge is seen as important and prioritized?


The agenda will begin with the more prominent environmental challenge brought about by climate change as both the entry point to the VOSN network and as a point of departure in establishing how a more united approach to difficult scientific questions that act as threat to the self-preservation of mankind (Ubuntu/ humanity) can be approached and co-designed in a manner that respects local cultures (Cultures of Research) with several cross-cutting public problems or themes.


As a flagship thematic focus, VOSN will focus on the intersection between technology, climate, and peacebuilding across cultures as an entry point to our global collaboration and research agenda which is in line with Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research focal area of climate change. This will entail a technical, systematic and meta-analysis of the use of technology in climate mitigation across different ecologies and local Action Research in different ecologies in the global North and South involving local communities to inspire practical interventions by examining how they are adapting to climate change challenges and opportunities, and the kind of resources at their disposal (technological or otherwise)[4]. This evidence would be able to reveal human ingenuity and how tech innovations could be a game-changer in climate adaptation, conflict resilience and peacebuilding for the self-preservation of humanity going forward.

The varieties of science research agenda will also look at how the devastating effects of climate change are inciting new policy interventions that are in turn attracting mitigation efforts (the political economy of interventions) from different actors (local and international, public, and private), particularly carbon credit programs, that are not gender and conflict sensitive[5]. Consequently, how these mitigating efforts are implying on local communities in terms of livelihood, how they are exacerbating conflict pressure points and therein the role of digital technologies/tools in empowering communities into action for climate mitigation and adaptation through alternative livelihoods such as tree planting (greening), for conflict resilience and peacebuilding. The evidence will therefore be used to contribute to the defense of climate science information as opposed to climate misinformation and disinformation on social media spaces and help influence policy change around climate financing and community sensitive carbon credit investments in different ecologies such as Kenya and Germany going forward.

[1] Naidoo, D. and Gulati, M. 2022. Understanding Africa’s Climate and Human Security Risks. Policy Brief 170. October 2022. Institute for Security Studies; Tesfaye, B. 2022. Addressing Climate Security in  Fragile Contexts. Center for Strategic and International Studies,

[2] Morley, D. 2007. Media, Modernity and Technology- The Geography of the New. London: New York: Routledge.

[3] Freenberg, A. Democratic Rationalization: Technology, Power and Freedom. In Rober, C. and Dusek, V. (eds.) 2014. Philosophy of Technology –The Technological condition on Anthology 2nd Edition. Malden, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell; Godin, B., Gaglio, G. and Vinck, D. 2021. Handbook on Alternative Theories of Innovation. Cheltenham: Edward Elger Publishing.

[4] Yayboke, E., Nzuki, C. and Strouboulis, A. 2022. Going Green while Building Peace: Technology, Climate and Peacebuilding. Center for International and Strategic Studies.

[5] Greenfield, P. 2023. The New Scramble for Africa: How a UAE Sheikh Quietly Made Carbon Deals for Forests Bigger than UK. The Guardian Thursday 10th November 2013.