Unveiling Links: Tania Roa on Climate, Social Justice, and Wildlife

Unveiling Links: Tania Roa on Climate, Social Justice, and Wildlife

In a world where the delicate balance of nature teeters on the edge of collapse, Tania Roa, a passionate advocate for wildlife, environmental preservation, and social justice has emerged as a strong voice for change. With an unwavering commitment to highlighting the interconnectedness of the climate and biodiversity crises, she sheds light on the exploitation of marginalized communities and animals. Through her work, Tania emphasizes the urgent need for change and invites us to join her in the fight for a more just and sustainable world.

In this exclusive interview, we delve deep into Tania Roa’s remarkable journey, exploring her insights on the interplay between climate change, social justice, and biodiversity conservation. Get ready to be inspired and enlightened as Tania shares her vision for a future where the protection of our planet and all its inhabitants reigns supreme.

Tell us about your backstory. How did you join the climate movement?

During one of my classes in graduate school, I learned about the harmful consequences of factory farming in the U.S. for people, animals, and the environment. Migrant workers are treated as disposable and unfairly paid for their hard labor. Workers and animals often get sick or even die from the widespread use of unhygienic practices that prioritize profit over well-being. The air, water, and soil pollution that results from these practices degrades the environment and, therefore, contributes to climate change. When I learned about these connections, I realized I had found my calling: climate justice for all people and for all living beings.

As an environmental writer and speaker, you talk about biodiversity, climate change, social justice, intersectionality, and wildlife conservation. Can you please explain how all them are interrelated?

When land is destroyed for extracting natural resources, everything in the area is impacted. It’s a chain reaction that begins in the ground. The loss of soil microorganisms reduces the number of plants, which harms herbivores, and fewer herbivores signify fewer predators. This process also diminishes our ability to grow food or filter air and water. That’s why large corporations extract natural resources near historically marginalized neighborhoods – they know it’s wrong, so they strategize with the goal that it will go unnoticed. For true climate justice, we need to regenerate the Earth AND protect marginalized people.

Why do you think it is important for us to reconnect with nature?

For decades, Western conservation efforts have separated humans from nature. This mindset only leads to partial protection of the Earth, in parks or reserves that we ‘set aside’ for conservation. When we see ourselves as part of nature, this perspective shifts towards one that calls for the protection of the entire planet. Many Indigenous cultures view plants and nonhuman animals as relatives, and these are the cultures that protect 80% of today’s biodiversity. It’s not a coincidence that the way we relate to the natural world influences how we treat it, so it’s time we find our way back to nature as we did before overconsumption and over-extraction practices.

In your TEDx Talk, you discuss The Ego and The Eco mindset. For our readers, can you please explain what they are and why we need to shift to Eco from Ego?

Thank you! Ego stands for Egotistical, and it’s illustrated by a pyramid that depicts a hierarchy. Systems built on superiority are founded upon the idea that the living beings on the bottom of the pyramid are replaceable and therefore disposable. Ego includes systems that place certain humans over others based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. or systems that place people over other species.

On the other hand, Eco stands for Ecological, and it’s illustrated by a circle. When we place ourselves on the same level as all other people and living beings, we move towards collaboration. Circles are representative of cycles, and by placing ourselves in the circle of life, we recognize that what we do to others we do to ourselves. In that case, why wouldn’t we want to live in ways that are rooted in love, care, and coexistence?

Being a Colombian-American, tell us about a practice(s) in your culture that are actually very sustainable and good for the planet.

Colombians tend to be less wasteful than Americans. In Colombia, they serve you one napkin with your meal (if they give you one at all), while in the U.S. I’ll get five napkins with my meal even if I don’t ask for any. My parents grew up learning to appreciate what you have and taking care of it so it lasts. For example, we put covers on our couches so they don’t stain as easily. I also still have the same furniture in my room as when I was ten years old, which is one way we save money.

What is your favorite Colombian food? Does climate change have any impact on it?

Colombian fruits are delicious. Lulo, Granadilla, and Mora are some of my favorites.

As a nation in the tropical region, Colombia’s agriculture is severely impacted by climate change. Increasing heat waves, more intense and frequent storms including cyclones, and glacier loss threaten water sources which can lead to degraded soil. One way to minimize these adverse effects is to return to Indigenous agricultural practices.

How do you practice sustainability in your regular lifestyle?

I reduce my use of single-use items by opting for reusable face wipes, a menstrual cup, and rags instead of paper towels. My mom taught me to make kitchen rags out of old towels by cutting them up. Now I adopted that mindset to my wardrobe, too, by cutting dresses I don’t wear anymore to make skirts and tank tops. My mom also taught me how to not waste food. If you ever need any ideas for how to use the last three ingredients in your fridge, I got you!

Tell us about your podcast, Closing the Gap. When and why did you start that journey?

I started Closing the Gap: a social justice podcast in February of 2022 with my best friend from high school, Adriana Medina. We’ve protested together, participated in community events, and encouraged each other to take action by signing petitions or emailing our representatives. We decided to share the resources we come across with others in a way that’s accessible and relatable, and that’s when the podcast was born. The podcast doesn’t focus only on climate, but as all of my work emphasizes – everything is connected, including social justice and the climate crisis.

What would your advice be to someone in the climate movement who feels hopeless and burned out?

Be careful where you get your news. I don’t watch the news. Instead, I stay updated with current events by following climate justice-oriented organizations, activists, or platforms that specialize in creating action items. On Instagram, Environment and The Slow Factory are great accounts to follow for ways to take action. The action item reminds me of my ability to do something – whether it’s signing a petition, donating, or calling a legislator – and that makes a difference in our world and for my mental health.

How do you envision your future?

Protecting the natural world and all species that are a part of it, including humans, is my life’s work. There is no ‘finish line,’ and I don’t want there to be one. Collaborating with plants, other animals, and fungi is never-ending because our relationships with them constantly evolve – that’s the best part. I’ll continue to spread love for all living beings and speak up whenever any individual or group is disrespected.

Do you have an idol?

There’s not one person I look up to, but I am inspired by the many climate justice advocates and activists in this movement. From Francisco Activista, a young Colombian activist who encourages others to Catherine C. Flowers, author and activist who is dedicated to speaking up for poor, rural communities who are neglected by regional and national government agencies, there are people all over the world of all ages giving back to their community. Together, all of our actions add up.

What’s your mantra for life?

“When you know better, you do better.”

Maya Angelou

I love this quote because it highlights how we should all have grace for ourselves and each other. I didn’t learn about the severity of climate change until my 20s. While I wish I had begun this journey at a younger age, I didn’t know any better back then. Now that I know the problems and their solutions, I act and I ‘do better.’

How can others join you in the climate movement?

Everyone has a role in the movement for a more equitable, regenerative future. My favorite resource for those who aren’t sure where to begin is Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s Venn Diagram. Bottom line: choose something you love, and feel free to add on or change it as you grow and learn.

Find and connect with Tania on Instagram or LinkedIn.

This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

Conversation with Rahmina Paullete, young activist on a mission to save Africa’s largest lake

Conversation with Rahmina Paullete, young activist on a mission to save Africa’s largest lake

Growing up in Kenya, Rahmina Paullete, young climate activist, environmentalist, and wildlife conservationist started her own organization called Kisumu Environmental Champs to bring together environmentally conscious youth to inspire collective action for the planet back in 2020 while she also runs her own sustainable business. Looking at all the sufferings that her people are facing in the Lake Victoria region, Rahmina decided to speak up and take action to help restore the ecosystem of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

Tell us about your backstory. How did you join the climate movement and become a climate activist?

I have been an environmentalist almost all my life since I was 5 years old, but I have now become a climate activist because I realized that the actions that we are demanding are not being taken seriously by the government, the community, and especially by the private sector – the multinational companies.

So, back in 2021, I started demanding change for us, for our future, especially in the Lake Victoria region. This was mainly inspired by the climate crisis impacts that we have faced for the past years – like the rising of the water level of lake Victoria and how it has affected the community and the biodiversity.

Source: www.rahminapaullete.com

What motivated you to start Kisumu Environmental Champs?

I started Kisumu Environmental Champs back in 2020 during the outbreak of Covid-19. So I came up with the idea of having a group of environmentally conscious people, especially young people, mainly students. I thought, maybe at this time, when schools are closed, students can take the time to bring in the changes in the community and act with the purpose of enlightening people on environmental conservation and the urgent need of creating climate solutions. Now we have many students, youths, and also parents in the organization.

Besides being a climate activist and an entrepreneur, you also focus on sustainable living. So how can anyone start living sustainably? What’s the formula?

Well for me, I believe in small steps. I mostly buy second-hand clothes. I know that people from all parts of the continent of Africa buy second-hand clothes very often. Apart from that, to reduce plastic waste, I always carry my water hyacinth bag. Also in our house, we have a little kitchen garden where we usually use our food waste as compost. So, in a nutshell, I always keep emissions of greenhouse gas and pollution in my mind and I try to act accordingly, no matter what I do.

Tell us about your sustainable business. Do you plan to give it a more formal outlook in the future?

It’s a funny story that actually made me come up with this sustainable project. So the story is from back in 2016. I had just come back home from the lake where I went with my mom for boat riding – because I love boat riding. But sadly, that day we were told by one of the boatmen that we could not go on a boat ride. So I was really sad when I got back home as I had nothing to do. So, then I just had an urge to look up water hyacinths and found out that they can be reused and beautiful products can be made from them.

So it started off as a project where we were making papers and cards, but then, we actually realized that we were just limiting the production so we expanded into a small business called “Rahmina Paullete Eco-Products”. So that is when we started making eco-friendly products from that. Right now, we’re looking towards expanding the business, in terms of increasing the production, and having more machines. So I guess I can say that the outlook towards the future for the business is to bring more sustainable products.

Source: www.rahminapaullete.com

Tell us about some sustainable practices in your culture.

In my culture, we normally eat indigenous vegetables – which not only has medicinal properties but is also very sustainable and climate-friendly. Then, originally before our culture became vastly westernized, we used to wear clothes made from nature, like cow leather – just creative wears made from things like animal skins and plants like Sisal. Although it is something that we still occasionally do, most people do not wear that normally anymore. So that was actually one of the ways for us to live sustainably. We also used to have bags made of Sisal. These practices have been passed from generations to generations and that’s how the knowledge was preserved.

How do you keep yourself motivated and keep doing what you do while dealing with negative emotions like eco-anxiety?

I do suffer from climate anxiety due to the impacts of the climate crisis like floods, the environmental degradation and pollution. But these things also motivate me to see a vision for my people from the Lake Victoria region where they can swim in the lake without facing any irritation to their skin, where there are plenty of indigenous fishes in our lake, where there is no pollution, how our ancestors saw it. These are the things that make me want to take action to help restore the ecosystem of Lake Victoria.

Normally when I face negative emotions, I like to visit places that are peaceful that can help me to connect with nature. Sometimes I go to Kisumu Impala Park to look at wild animals. Also, music helps me a lot to overcome my negative-emotions.

What would your advice be to someone in the climate movement who feels hopeless and burned out?

Well, I would advise them to continue their work. I know it can be tough but it’s important to know that the combined result of our efforts, no matter how small they are, can create bigger impacts towards restoring ecosystems and make our planet a better place.

Do you have an idol?

For me, I can’t say that I have an idol. I’m not really looking up to anyone, but I am currently following the steps of people such as the late Wangari Maathai. I also follow the steps of my mentor, Paulene who is actually an agronomist and a specialist in climate change adaptation. I also have someone who I look up to who is called Kevin Mtai, who is the founder of Kenya Environmental Action Network (KEAN) and also a climate activist.

What do you do for fun? Any hobbies or passions?

For my hobby, I love going on boat rides. Apart from that, I love listening to music and also singing this song called “Save The World” by Jarvis Smith. That’s my favorite song.

What’s your mantra for life?

Change starts with us, for us and by us. We can make a change in a span of five minutes and it should reflect on the future to come.

How can others join you in the climate movement?

Well, it could be in different ways. One, someone can join the movement through Kisumu Environmental Champions. Or even by supporting our campaign that we are running to restore the ecosystem of Lake Victoria which is #LetLakeVictoriaBreatheAgain.

So people can join the campaign by sharing a one minute video talking about Lake Victoria and the urgent need of restoring its ecosystem. That will really empower the indigenous community. People can also join the campaign by doing cleanups and they could help us financially which will help us bring resources since we need a boat for the Lake Victoria cleanups and removing the water hyacinths – because boats can be quite expensive. If we have our own boats, we can go from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania for advocacy. Apart from that, I think financial support will really help in terms of getting us tools for cleanups and transportation for people. So, I think that would be amazing but in case they also want to join Kisumu Environmental Champions, we are open and glad to welcome anyone to join us.

Where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you or follow what you’re doing?

You can follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram and I also have a website. For Kisumu Environmental Champions, you can just search ‘Kisumu Environmental Champions’ on all social media platforms and find us. You can also follow our campaign Let Lake Victoria Breathe Again on Instagram.

A conversation on life with Marinel Sumook Ubaldo

A conversation on life with Marinel Sumook Ubaldo

A young climate activist who isn’t afraid to speak up for the planet, Marinel Sumook Ubaldo is one of the leading climate activists in Asia who also helped to organize the first-ever youth climate strike in her country, the Philippines. 

Marinel’s life was just like a movie in a tropical paradise until her life suddenly changed forever when she had to witness the terrors of climate change firsthand in 2013, as Super Typhoon Haiyan wiped out her country, taking away lives of thousands and homes of millions of people. Disappointed at the crisis response from their government at the time, she decided to speak up and has since become one of the leading climate activists in the world. 

Today, she’s an advocate for climate justice and environmental issues and also a registered social worker. While her story has touched thousands of lives and inspired so many young people to speak up for our planet, today, we will be taking a different look at her lifestyle, and learning how she keeps doing all the incredible things that she does, so that readers can resonate with her story, and know that anyone can be a voice for the planet, no matter who they are and where they are from.

Marinel, What’s a typical day in your life like?

Well, a typical day, for me, is getting up at 8 in the morning, and then I make my bed, read a book, clean my apartment, and then I would start work. That’s when I answer my emails, attend meetings, answer interview questions, facilitate events and conceptualize them, write proposals and concept notes, etc. I usually work until the evening, at around 8 or 9 pm, depending on how many meetings I have on that day. And after the break, I resume working from 11 pm until 3 am in the morning, to entertain the other time zones — which is not nice, you should not follow that at all, sorry! You should sleep, and get your 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. But, as for me, those are my working hours. *chuckles*

When I’m working, I would eat in between, sing in between, watch Netflix or listen to some music, and just try to have a normal day because I always like to think I am in control of my time even if I am not. That’s also a way for me to cope during trying times, whenever things are just too heavy, especially if you are working or living alone, it’s always nice to have other little things to do while you are working. I think it kind of balances out your time. 

I also want to say that you should not take the pressure to have your life all figured out. Because no one has a perfect life. We are all just thriving, we are all just surviving. You should do whatever makes you happy, what you love, because, you never know how many years you have on Earth before the climate crisis becomes unstoppable. So you should really enjoy the life you deserve. And, please sleep 6 to 8 hours daily!

How do you practice sustainability in your regular lifestyle?

Well, as a climate activist, I am more on climate change, lobbying with the government, having a dialogue with the leaders, etc. Because, I believe that, we should try to engage with leaders because it needs a standard change. For several billions of people living on the planet, there are only 100 corporations fuelling climate change, and that is just so unfair. Even if we all transition to a zero-waste lifestyle, still, these corporations will profit from the sufferings of other people. They will still be emitting so much carbon dioxide that it would imbalance the gases in the atmosphere. So, I believe that it is our responsibility to make these corporations accountable and reliable, and I’m always working on that. And that is my contribution to sustainability.

I believe that we should not blame ourselves all the time. I am a very open person in my life. I eat seafood, chicken, fish – I love chicken. But I don’t eat red meat, pork, or beef – animals that are contributing too much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, I don’t eat them. But, I also acknowledge that as a person, it is a privilege for me, a luxury to have that kind of choice on what to eat, and everybody has that choice. So, I would say that we should always engage with our leaders, alongside, of course, changing bits of our lifestyle, and, choosing a more sustainable way of life.

What’s your favorite local food? Does climate change have any impact on it?

My favorite food? I love everything that’s chicken. Well, all of the sources of the food that we are eating, are being threatened by the climate crisis. So, even if you’re not from a developing country or those communities or countries that are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, and even if you are in Europe, the U.S., or other parts of the world, you will be affected by the climate crisis. Just look at the source of the food that you are eating, because all of the raw materials are affected by the climate crisis – our poultry, the plants that we eat, and even the source of the clothing that we wear. 

All of the aspects of our lives, including the little special things, are being threatened by the climate crisis. All of our favorite foods, our favorite places, our loved ones, and even the book that I am reading, all of these things that I enjoy are now threatened by the climate crisis. Because the climate crisis does not just show up through floods or typhoons or other climate disasters, it also shows up through pandemics, and health crises, among various other forms. 

Tell me about a practice(s) in your culture that’s actually very sustainable and good for the planet.

Oh, in my hometown, since it’s a very remote community — it’s facing the Pacific Ocean, actually, it’s a whole side of the fishing village, we don’t use too much plastic, and I’m very proud of that. And our environment is very rich in all sorts of natural things, like various kinds of herbs, and all kinds of things we could use, even just for the food, the inclusion of our food… thinking about that, I just feel we were really lucky to grow up in our community. It also has a really nice beach, so we don’t have to go to other places to just swim or have the beach experience. And, we don’t use too many preservatives, because the food here is so fresh and nice.

How do you keep yourself motivated, and keep doing what you do?

Tell us how you practice self-care, or how you deal with negative emotions, like eco-anxiety and so on. 

Well, it’s so hard to even answer that question. But I think, as humans, we always have to know what our limits are. I love singing, so it is actually one of my stress-relievers, even when things are not okay, like being in this space is already so energy-draining, even Instagram is so energy-draining. With all of the pressure around, sometimes, I just want to go back to my apartment, turn the lights off, and get the music on, and that’s one of my ways to practice self-care… and also acknowledge that you need those times for yourself, so you can recentre your priorities. 

My alone time is very, very important to me. Because that is the time that I kind of think about what I should improve on. That’s also a way for me to evaluate myself, and process my thoughts and emotions. As a Cancer, I am an emotional person, and acknowledging that you’re emotional is not a weakness; rather, a strength, really. We should turn these emotions into strengths so that we can use them in a better way. Instead of dwelling on being sad, angry, or disappointed, you can use those emotions to actually ignite the fire in you to do more, act more, and influence others to do the same to influence more people. Because being in this space is not about me as an individual person, it is about the community that we represent and the causes that we advocate for. 

Whenever people ask me what a typical day in my life is like, I don’t even know how to answer because, just like every other people, my typical day… it’s not that special. I think just accepting the fact that we are just human beings, that we are limited and we can not do everything, all at once – is kind of liberating, to accept and acknowledge, that you are capable of just doing so much. You actually have the right to step back, and process everything on your own, and not just feel pressured about what other people will say. People will keep on talking and expecting too much from you. And even if you give in, it doesn’t end, it will just continue on until it drains you completely. So, if you don’t have the energy to actually do what you love, because you are just too drained pleasing people trying to live up to their expectations, please acknowledge that you are also a person, you also have needs, and sometimes, you also have to pause and just be with yourself. And I think that is what I did, this week – to be out in nature — because Manila is sometimes too crowded which gets too much for me, and I just want to be in a new environment. Although I was still working, taking calls, and still answering emails, the time you spend with yourself… those are crucial for keeping up, and, keeping sane, basically. 

So, you see, I am not different from any other youth activist, even any other 24-year-old girl or woman out there. I am still just a 24-year-old girl with emotions, I get angry at times, I get too emotional at times, I get hurt at times – because I am just a person. And, my aim, at this stage of my life, is to not be bothered by the expectations of other people towards me. Because I just have to be bothered with what I want for myself, not the expectation of others. And I think that is how I handle my eco-anxiety, by accepting that it’s not always about being perfect, it’s about doing as much as you can to make an impact, no matter how small. Because we need everybody to be in this movement and we don’t have time to think twice about if we are doing enough. We just have to do what we can.

What would your advice be to someone in the climate movement who feels hopeless and burned out?

Sometimes we feel hopeless because we think that we can’t do anything about certain things like the climate crisis. And, as I said earlier, it’s okay to feel hopeless at times, it’s okay to have these negative feelings. As humans, we all feel negative things and that is okay. But we should not drown ourselves in these negative feelings, rather use them as our motivation to do more. 

How do you envision your future? 

I just want a future that is peaceful, I just want a future that is safe for me to live in and for my future children. I just want a future where I can hold my potential and be the best version of myself. I want a future where I will not be afraid to live, I will not be afraid to dream, and I will not be afraid of wanting to have my own family. That is my greatest dream – to be a mother, but also that is my greatest fear too. I don’t know if I will be a good mother, or if I will even be a mother, I don’t know that. So I just want a future where it is safe to dream, it is safe to reach your dreams.

Do you have an idol?

I do have an idol. I look up to people who are doing amazing things for our planet. One of my idols is Naderev Yeb Saño. He’s just a really monumental person in the climate movement, not just in the Philippines but also internationally. He is like an idol to me and a really nice person. And I’m very very lucky to call him ‘Tatay’ which is a word we use in the Philippines for father as he’s like a father to me. He always inspires me to do more for the planet, because he is just an amazing person. Yeb Saño is the Philippines’ former chief negotiator in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). And he has done so many amazing things. Even when he was working with the government, he made sure to keep working for the people, and with the people, not for his own interest. And that’s what I love about him. He’s always thinking about things that make people happy and safe.

What do you do for fun? Any hobbies or passions?

What do I do for fun? *chuckles* Well, like I mentioned earlier, I sing. That’s one. I talk a lot, I hang out with my friends, and I drink at times. But most of all, I sing, I love to sing karaoke. 

What’s your mantra for life?

Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with your time and what you take from it. – You’re the lead in your life. You can do whatever you want with an experience you’re having and that is your responsibility to make sure that it’s used for the greater good. Every person I meet, I always try to learn from them and make sure that there’s an exchange of knowledge. Even if it’s a relationship that’s not working, it’s okay. People come and go, some become our constants but many don’t stay forever. But we need to make sure that we always learn from the experience and use that to grow better next time.

We have so much to learn from each other, no matter what our standing is in society. We all have unique stories, and we can all learn from each other, no matter who we are, and wherever we come from.

How can others join you in the climate movement?

You can connect with me on Instagram or Twitter. You can also like our pages Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and Oecono Media for updates on events and opportunities coming up. And if you want to be a part of the movement, you are always, always welcome whatever you do for the environment. You don’t need labels to join us, you just need to do something for the environment. We are a community and we call ourselves siblings in the movement because we are in this together. And we should be allies with each other as we need that kind of solidarity in this movement.

Find Marinel Sumook Ubaldo and learn more about her work.

This is a part of a series where we explore the stories and take a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

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