In the labyrinth of global efforts combating the climate crisis, a distinctive initiative takes center stage at the blue zone of COP28 – the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion (E+C Pavilion). This pioneering endeavor stands as the first dedicated space within the COP Blue Zone, delving into the dynamic intersection of Entertainment, Culture, and Climate.
The Pavilion aims to serve not only as a physical space within the COP Blue Zone but as a metaphorical bridge connecting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the creative industries. Their mission is to provide a platform for collaboration, education, and inspiration, and to establish a vital connection between the creative industries and the global climate discourse. This connection goes beyond symbolism, manifesting in interdisciplinary activations and programming events that inspire concrete climate action.
“As members of the creative sector, we hold immense power to shape mainstream perspectives, raise awareness on important issues facing our planet, build shared understanding and consciousness, and encourage behavioral change.”
The Partnership and Impact Director of E+C Pavilion, Samuel Rubin shared with Green & Beyond Mag
At the heart of the Pavilion’s significance is its unique ability to amplify climate dialogues globally. The Pavilion, according to the organizers, aims to be a space where “entertainment, culture, and intricate global climate dialogues intersect.” Its goal is clear: to use the influential realms of entertainment and culture to articulate, disseminate, and amplify pivotal climate discussions emerging from COP28 to a global audience.
Significance of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28
Amidst the urgency of climate action, the E+C Pavilion emerges as a dynamic hub pulsating with creativity, activism, ambition, and hope. In an era where social media platforms dominate communication, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion recognizes the power of narrative impact and climate storytelling. “Uplifting the power of narratives and stories in promoting planetary justice and fostering an understanding of interconnectedness, kinship, and care for people, flora, fauna, and the planet” is a focal point.
This approach aligns with the Pavilion’s mission to inspire collective action through the emotive strength of storytelling. Positioned within the Blue Zone, this pavilion seeks to amplify the emotional resonance and transformative power of Entertainment and Culture, fostering heightened awareness, inspiring collective action, and catalyzing systemic change.
“Climate change not only threatens natural resources, but also the cultural heritage of communities intricately tied to ancestral lands and waters. Culture therefore provides the imperative to educate and empower generations of community members to band together to generate locally-suited solutions to preserve natural and cultural heritage.”
– Samuel further shared with Green & Beyond Mag
Hence, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28 marks a groundbreaking venture as its genesis lies in recognizing the transformative potential of culture and entertainment in steering climate conversations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the power of narrative shifts and cultural efforts, estimating that the committed engagement of 10-30% of social influencers and thought leaders is pivotal for shaping new social norms.
“The creative sector urgently needs more hubs like the E+C Pavilion. These spaces are crucial for building essential infrastructure, advancing decarbonization initiatives, crafting policies, creating economic incentives, securing funding, and ensuring diversity and representation across the entertainment industry.”
– The Communication & Content Director of E+C Pavilion, Kirsten Wessel shared with Green & Beyond Mag
The significance of such a platform extends beyond the COP event. The organizers envision a world where the creative industries and cultural expressions play a pivotal role in shaping the global climate agenda. The pilot edition of the Pavilion at COP28 is designed to be a stepping stone for a permanent presence at COP and potentially other high-level conferences within the UN ecosystem. This ambition is rooted in the understanding that the creative sector, employing over 50 million people globally, is a powerful force that can drive meaningful change.
Cultural Catalyst for Policy and Action
Emerging from this understanding, the Pavilion aims to be a nexus where entertainment and culture converge to exert influence. In crafting this unique space, the organizers draw inspiration from UNESCO‘s view of culture as the “ultimate renewable resource” to combat climate change. The Pavilion is more than a platform; it’s a testament to the urgent need to leverage the interdisciplinary skills and global reach of the creative industries for climate advocacy.
“Tackling the climate crisis will take decisive action at all levels of society, so why not harness the interdisciplinary skills and global reach of the creative industries to actively address and combat climate change?We have no alternative but to make an earnest effort, crucially because it involves adapting to the evolving climate and mastering the art of navigating our current reality. Whether conveyed through music, film, art, or otherwise, it’s essential to feel acknowledged and share narratives of resilience and joy within our global communities.”
The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion positions itself as a bridge between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the creative industries. The mission resonates with a commitment to inspire concrete climate action, fostering collaboration and leveraging culture’s power to engage a global audience. The organizers envision a world where the creative industries and cultural expressions serve as dynamic drivers of climate action and environmental stewardship.
The E+C Pavilion stands as a testament to the potent fusion of creativity and climate action. Through its objectives, the Pavilion aims to showcase the profound impact that culture, arts, music, and storytelling can have in interpreting the reality of the climate crisis. According to the organizers, “The emotive strength of these mediums taps into universal human experiences, transcending borders and languages.”
E+C Pavilion’s offerings throughout COP28 – Programming & Events
The Pavilion’s programming themes craft a vivid portrayal of its objectives. From exploring audiovisual sovereignty to examining the influence of persuasive industries in raising climate awareness, each theme is a thread in the larger narrative of leveraging culture for climate action. Notably, the Pavilion’s emphasis on health, mindfulness, and storytelling underscores a holistic approach to climate engagement.
As the organizers succinctly put it, “The Pavilion and its programming are designed to unite these subsectors and bolster the presence of the entire industry in the climate agenda.”
The Pavilion’s commitment to fostering collaboration is evident in its event formats. Whether through sectoral roundtables, discussion panels, or interactive installations, the Pavilion aims to provide a diverse set of avenues for engaging with climate issues. This inclusivity extends to community mixers, where people from diverse backgrounds converge to network and build bridges within the creative sector.
Panel discussions to be hosted by organizations like NAACP, Harvard, and MENA Youth Network will delve into crucial topics such as storytelling in the Black community for environmental justice, communicating climate change and health solutions through video media, and exploring climate action through the cultural lens of the Middle East and North Africa.
Additionally, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion will feature a fashion show spotlighting eco-conscious clothing and accessories. This exhibition goes beyond the traditional runway, championing innovative design and creativity while emphasizing sustainability in the fashion industry. It serves as a testament to the Pavilion’s commitment to intertwining culture and climate across various sectors.
The lineup of performances is equally impressive. From Nile Rodgers, renowned for his contributions to the music industry, to spoken word performances by environmental justice advocate Isavela Lopez, the Pavilion offers a diverse range of artistic expressions. These performances aim not only to entertain but also to inspire a sense of responsibility and climate awareness.
The Pavilion’s vision goes beyond COP28. It aspires to be a stepping stone for a permanent presence at COP and other high-level conferences within the UN ecosystem. By encouraging dialogue, igniting innovation, and mobilizing people globally, the Pavilion seeks to contribute to a more sustainable and habitable planet.
As we delve into the details of the Pavilion’s offerings throughout COP28, it becomes apparent that it’s a hub of climate optimism, as the Pavilion’s dynamic programming aims to instill a sense of hope and empowerment. By incorporating diverse voices, the Pavilion seeks to catalyze tangible actions and solutions across borders and sectors.
Recognizing the Importance of Diversity & Inclusivity
The Pavilion’s extensive programming, comprising over 190 proposals from around the globe, reflects its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Events will be conducted in English, Arabic, Spanish, and Portuguese, making the Pavilion a truly global platform. Private roundtables, interactive exhibitions, and community mixers highlight the diverse array of activities that participants can engage with.
Another crucial aspect of the Pavilion is its emphasis on talent diversity. From Indian actress Dia Mirza to climate lawyer and activist Farhana Yamin, the Pavilion brings together a diverse array of voices. This diversity is not just symbolic; it mirrors the Pavilion’s broader mission of uniting artists, innovators, and thought leaders from varied backgrounds to foster collaboration and synergy.
“A prime example being featured in the pavilion is Monica Jahan Bose, a member of our Delegation who founded “Storytelling with Saris”. Through this initiative, she uplifts traditional practices in rural Bangladesh, utilizing her own traditional clothing as a tool for movement building, climate action, and empowerment. During COP, Monica will lead a performance and host a workshop at the E+C Pavilion.”
– Organizers at the E+C Pavilion
“The Pavilion also features filmmaker collectives like Mullu, Midia Ninja, and Sauntr representing Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and the US, establishing community- or Indigenous-led media platforms to create fresh content that focuses on community cinema and collective creation while supporting audiovisual sovereignty over their narratives. With over 100 community events and 150 partners, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion represents a diverse array of approaches to intertwining environmental concerns with arts and culture.”
– the organizers further said.
Highlighting Individuals and Talents of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion
The Pavilion boasts an impressive lineup of individuals who have made significant contributions to the intersection of climate action and culture. Dia Mirza, an Indian actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UNEP, brings her influence to amplify environmental causes. Climate lawyer, author, and activist Farhana Yamin, along with world-renowned economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, adds depth to the Pavilion’s discussions.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Indigenous Women & People’s Association of Chad, and Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation, represent voices from regions deeply affected by climate change. Their perspectives offer valuable insights into the intersection of culture, indigenous rights, and environmental stewardship.
The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion also features youth leaders and renowned climate activists like Vanessa Nakate, founder of the Rise Up Movement, and Max Han, co-founder of Youths United for Earth. Their presence underscores the importance of empowering the younger generation in the climate discourse.
Xiye Bastida, co-founder of the Re-Earth Initiative, contributes to the Pavilion’s narrative with her focus on engaging communities and fostering a sense of global responsibility. Laurel Kivuyo, founder of Climate Hub Tanzania, brings a unique perspective from the African continent, emphasizing the importance of diverse voices in the climate dialogue.
Musical contributions come from Nile Rodgers, known for his guitar prowess and influential contributions to the music industry. The Pavilion also hosts a spoken word performance by Isavela Lopez, offering a poignant narrative of environmental injustices in Mexico and the United States.
These talents, along with others, represent a mosaic of experiences, expertise, and creativity. Their collective presence reinforces the Pavilion’s commitment to fostering a truly global and inclusive dialogue on the crucial intersection of culture and climate.
A Vision Unveiled: E+C Pavilion’s Long-Term Impact
In the heart of COP28, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion materializes as more than a spectacle; it’s a visionary force intertwining creativity and climate advocacy. Beyond the dazzling events, the Pavilion paints a vision of collaboration, birthing a promise for a sustained presence in global conversations. This isn’t just an artistic spectacle; it’s a mission to align with the Paris Agreement’s ambitions.
The Pavilion calls for the creative industries to decarbonize, transforming into a stage where the entertainment industry becomes a protagonist in the fight against climate change. It’s a canvas where disciplines intertwine, giving birth to artistic expressions narrating tales of resilience in the face of climate challenges. Here, existing initiatives find a home, converging knowledge to avoid duplication.
The Pavilion acts as a haven for collective wisdom, echoing the argument for the expansion of cultural spaces championing climate causes. Amidst this vision, the Pavilion’s programming themes beat like a heart, each echoing a different facet of the climate story. From the struggle for audiovisual sovereignty to the harmonious blend of music and ritual in service of science-based targets, the themes become threads that create a landscape of climate narratives. As the Pavilion unfolds its programming, it ceases to be just a platform; it transforms into a living, breathing entity — a storyteller in the grand theater of climate action.
Katharina Maier, a prominent figure in the climate activism movement, shares her remarkable journey and insights into the challenges and triumphs of her path. As a dedicated lead organizer for the Climate Initiative: Fridays for Future USA, Katharina delves into the diverse landscape of climate activism and the necessity of international collaboration. She addresses the significance of engaging young people, offers advice for those looking to take action, and discusses her strategies for maintaining hope and resilience.
Join us as we explore her impactful journey and the avenues she’s paving for a more sustainable future.
Can you tell us more about your background and how you became involved in climate activism?
When the Fridays for Future wave swept across Europe and the rest of the world in the summer of 2018, a group came together at the university in Berlin, Germany I was studying at. I was working as a freelance event manager at the time and though I didn’t know much about the climate crisis, I offered my skillset to help organize the strikes – which turned out to be my first unintended step into the world of activism I had no idea existed up until then.
From there, it quickly moved from organizing strikes to organizing the group, to organizing the groups in the area, to organizing the groups in the country, to organizing groups across the world. When I moved back to the US, it put me in a position to be able to reignite the FFF US Network, which is now going strong.
You don’t know what opportunities exist until you get started.
I never would have been able to plan this journey or even imagine myself doing any of what I do today when I got started. The most important part is taking that very first step and keeping an open eye and an open mind for what you see next.
As a lead organizer for the Climate Initiative: Fridays for Future, what are some of the key challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?
The youth climate movement comprises diverse groups and individuals with varying priorities, strategies, and levels of engagement. This diversity can sometimes lead to divisions and fragmentation, making it harder to achieve unified goals.
Being able to engage in activism is often a privilege. It is exactly those most affected communities that have been robbed of or denied access to the resources needed to change the circumstances causing this harm. As a result, marginalized communities, especially in the Global South, may feel excluded or underrepresented in the movement, despite being disproportionately affected by climate change.
General statements like these can be hard to fully understand without examples, so I here are a few examples:
These are ongoing challenges and require constant attention. Individuals must learn how to build awareness in themselves and work together to build structures in which these systems and divisions are intentionally counteracted. It takes people with resources understanding how to use them to uplift those that do not, and those people that need the resources to speak up and help direct those resources to where they should be used.
Activism can be emotionally and mentally draining at any age. Especially young activists have not had the chance to learn to set boundaries and self-regulate, and thus face burnout from the constant struggle for climate action in addition to the normal struggles of growing up. We are, in most cases, not taught how to build supportive work environments and celebrate each other rather than the work we can each contribute – but that is exactly how we keep going and allow each other to take breaks, knowing that others can step in and support me when I need it.
Can you share some of the most memorable moments or milestones in your climate activism journey so far?
The Global Climate Strike in September 2019 was a defining moment in the climate movement. Millions of people participated in actions across the world that day and it catalyzed many climate conversations and campaigns. The strike in Berlin had over 600,000 participants – far more than we organizers had dared to hope for. We had been working so hard and, as is in the nature of creating change, were being attacked in the media, meeting skepticism among friends, and starting to doubt the feasibility of our goals. That day was an inflection point for many of us organizers and encouraged many people who were on the fence to engage. The energy of that time still gives me strength to this day.
When we decided to rebuild the Fridays for Future US network, the world was in a global pandemic and the US was in lockdown. Activism the way we had known it was not possible and our future had an additional element of uncertainty. The growth of FFF US from a handful of people on unending zoom calls to a network that spans across the country rethinking how young people can engage in climate action is a momentous milestone in all of our journeys.
How do you envision the role of international collaboration and cooperation in tackling the climate crisis?
Climate change doesn’t care about borders. It is a global issue that transcends national boundaries and its impacts require collective action from all countries. There are many ways in which we need to work together internationally to address climate change. Concretely looking at the youth’s role in this though: as the generation most affected by the long-term consequences of climate change, young people have a vested interest in ensuring a sustainable and livable planet for their future. Youth activists have been instrumental in raising awareness about climate change and its impacts. Through protests, social media, and other advocacy efforts, we have drawn attention to the urgency of the issue and put it on the global agenda.
Now as time runs out and those in positions of power continue to delay action, the youth are essential in increasing the pressure on political leaders and decision-makers to take bold action on climate change, from local councils to global institutions.
What is often criticized as “naivety” is actually the youth’s advantage. Our thinking isn’t stuck in the “way things have always been done” and we can bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and creativity – leading to novel solutions and approaches to tackling the crisis. Youth from around the world are connecting and collaborating across borders, forming a global network of climate activists as has never existed before. This solidarity helps in sharing knowledge, experiences, and strategies, strengthening the collective push for climate action.
Our advocacy, energy, and commitment are driving transformative change and pushing for a sustainable, equitable, and climate-resilient future for the entire planet. Our involvement is essential to ensure that global efforts to address the climate crisis are inclusive, ambitious, and effective.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to take action on climate change but may not know where to start?
Just start with the first thing you see. Know that you will make a difference by making changes to your own life, but that you will have the most impact by working together with others. Google for climate groups, go to the next event that comes across your radar, reach out to groups doing work you admire. My activism journey is a testament to the fact that you don’t know what opportunities exist until you get started. I never would have been able to plan this journey or even imagine myself doing any of what I do today when I got started. The most important part is taking that very first step and keeping an open eye and an open mind for what you see next.
Activism comes in many forms and is often not publicly visible. Especially in the beginning, actions may feel small and inconsequential. And if you’re doing something you like doing anyway, it may not even feel like activism at all! Especially in grassroots organizations like Fridays for Future, individuals with initiative can make all the difference and no action is too small to help. Every skillset, every type of individual, every bit of knowledge is needed. If you know how to project manage or wade through spreadsheets, if you like to build or paint or code, if you like to design graphics or post on social media, if you like to research or write or teach, if you understand what your community needs or have a compelling personal story, if you’re a powerful speaker or like to talk to others, if you’re down to try new things – all those ifs and so many more – we need you in the movement. Whether that’s with Fridays for Future or a different organization, we’re all in the movement together and getting started with the one most accessible to you however you can will open up opportunities to try new things, work with different organizations, and meet amazing people.
Each of us should be living as environmentally and socially consciously as we can in our own lives. Simple actions like using public transport, reducing energy consumption, eating less meat, voting in all elections, supporting sustainable businesses, and minimizing waste need to be the default and the minimum we all do. So start with making the changes you can in your own life, but don’t let that be where you stop. What is going to make these individual actions have an outsized impact is turning them into collective action. Talk about what you’re doing so that others feel such actions are more normal and possible. If a change is hard to make in your own life, ask yourself why and what blockers there are and how those can be changed and who needs to be involved to make that happen. Ask others to help you and find groups already working on related issues. Building community and finding fulfillment in making the world a better place are some of the most important building blocks you can set into your life’s foundation.
Remember, every small action adds up, and the more people who take part in climate action and the more we work together, the greater the impact we can collectively achieve. Start with small steps and gradually build up your involvement. Together, we can work towards a more sustainable and resilient future for our planet.
How do you maintain hope and resilience in the face of the daunting challenges posed by the climate crisis?
For me, it is not about maintaining hope and resilience, but that nothing is achieved by giving them up. Staying optimistic is an ongoing struggle. But the difference for me between optimism and hope is action. The challenge will only be more daunting and hope harder to find if I do not act. Many things seem impossible until someone makes them possible. History is full of examples of seemingly insurmountable challenges that were overcome through collective action and perseverance. For climate issues, the urgency and scale of the crisis can sometimes be overwhelming, but they also mean that there’s no other choice than to keep going. There’s nothing to lose by continuing to fight and everything to lose by stopping.
When I feel like we’re not making any progress, I look back to when I started my activism. Just within those 5 years, climate has become a mainstream issue, a significant policy platform, an ever-growing movement across the globe. We need to do much more and at a much faster pace, but I am optimistic that action will accelerate as more and more people are affected and engaged and technological breakthroughs are achieved.
It can feel like a guilty pleasure to rest when there’s so much to do. But you can’t fight if you’re exhausted and you can’t give if you’re empty – and we need you in this for the long haul.
It sounds like any Instagram post, but base-line self-care like taking breaks, getting exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep are the foundations to any sustainable activism. Find something that brings you joy and put time aside to enjoy it without guilt or multitasking.
Find a community. No one can do this work by themselves. Having a network of support can provide encouragement, inspiration, and a sense of belonging.
Celebrate successes! Activism can be a long and challenging journey, so it’s important to celebrate successes along the way.
How do you engage and mobilize young people to participate in climate activism and create a meaningful impact?
Young people are already increasingly and acutely aware of the climate crisis and the need for urgent action. The challenge is ever more not about alerting youth to the climate crisis, but creating avenues for us to act. What Fridays for Future tries to do is lower the barriers to entry into climate action: to make information and resources easier to access, to create networks for individuals to tap into collective action, to validate youth’s climate fears and confusion about societal inaction, to encourage them to speak up and take action despite those, and to leverage the privileges mentioned in question 2 to break down the blockers for those without them.
Most people don’t want to be part of the problem causing the climate crisis and want to make the world a better place – but it’s often hard to see how or that our actions are having an impact. By coming together in networks across the globe, individuals can be part of the collective solution and see the impacts of their actions.
How has your involvement in climate activism influenced your personal lifestyle choices and daily habits?
I try to follow my own advice from question 5 and do the best that I can, while remembering it’s not all or nothing. I don’t have to do everything to be a climate activist or a good person. I do as much as I can and try to make that possible for others.
How do you envision your future?
I never could have envisioned doing what I do today, so I find it hard to envision my future. All I know is that I will keep the initiative and openness that has brought me to where I am today, and will see where life takes me.
How can others join you in the climate movement?
Go to fridaysforfutureusa.org and find or start a local group. Whether it’s attending the events and participating in the actions, helping spread the word on social media and in the community, co-organizing the group and its actions, or making connections between groups and opportunities, there’s many ways to get involved and no help is too small to make a difference.
Learn more about Katharina Maier through her Instagram.
This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?