To the backdrop of increasingly severe weather events around the world, including the protracted drought in the Eastern Cape, a United Nations special climate change report which coincided with South Africa’s Women’s Day says we have caused immense harm to our planet but that we have a small window to avert a nightmare scenario. Vox Weather Meteorologist Annette Botha says Vox Weather, which hopes to inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science, was launched to provide a credible platform to educate about climate change and encourage behaviour change to try to turn the tide.

Botha says the platform’s mandate is to bring credible and trustworthy science about the weather and climate to South Africans. “We have a significant role to play in reaching a broader audience and inspiring interest in science.

“This is a golden opportunity to find new ways to tell complex stories and trigger important conversations, especially around changes in our environment and how it affects every one of us, and what we can and should do about it,” she says.

Botha says the world, and South Africa in particular is blessed with women scientists who are making incredible contributions to our advancement in an array of fields, including climatology and meteorology. “In some ways, their work is ‘lost’ in the world of science, living in research papers and peer-reviewed journals. It is right that their work is there, driving our scientific understanding forward, but we have a fantastic opportunity to bring their passion to the public to trigger change and inspire people,” she says.

“This is precisely why I chose Vox Weather – a platform that uses the best technology to tell complex stories in innovative and engaging ways, with a strong social media and online presence, so that we reach people on all their devices,” says Botha.

Reflecting on her career path, Botha says it is important that children and their parents understand that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are multifaceted and open a host of career opportunities. She says young people need to be encouraged to explore what these opportunities entail.

“As a little girl growing up on the highveld I was enthralled by thunderstorms. I would watch the build-up of clouds and the lightning and be swept up in the majestic energy – metaphorically, of course! I’d lie awake at night and listen to the wind and thunder and rain. This is passion,” she says.

It was her support network and being exposed to new possibilities that allowed her to discover meteorology, which opened the door to her career. She says: “It so happened that my orientation was towards research and mathematics and so I was encouraged to continue along this road by a supportive family network.

“My undergraduate Degree was a BSC in mathematics. It was only at university that I was exposed to meteorology, which I took as an extra subject. What happens when aptitude meets passion? A love affair. It led to an Honours Degree in meteorology, and eventually along a path to where I am today. Vox Weather aims to play a role here, exposing more young people to the nuances of the weather and climate, and educating them about how it affects all of us, and how our behaviour has a bearing on our collective futures.”

Botha adds that a lack of education is one of the biggest risks to our planet and its climate and that Vox Weather’s focus on education has given her an opportunity to educate about her passion. “We live in an era where it is possible to publish and share opinions that can have a profound effect on other people and so we need to ensure that we inspire young people and influencers to place a priority on education first and foremost,” she says.

“This is important as we find ways to communicate the importance of addressing serious challenges such as the planet’s climate. One of the biggest risks to our environment is the absence of knowledge – and certainly a gap Vox Weather wishes to help fill with trustworthy, science-backed information presented in an engaging and understandable manner.”