Conversations with Jessica Kleczka on Hope, Healing and Her Journey to Sustainable Activism

Conversations with Jessica Kleczka on Hope, Healing and Her Journey to Sustainable Activism

Imagine a life dedicated to both environmental activism and personal growth. This is the world of Jessica Kleczka, a climate psychologist, activist, and communicator who believes in the power of collective action while navigating the complexities of individual well-being in the face of the climate crisis. Jessica’s journey, from her early connection with nature in a bustling city with limited green spaces to her current work as a climate communicator and climate activist, is a testament to the multifaceted ways we can engage with environmental issues.

Driven by a passion for both environmental justice and mental health, Jessica has carved a unique path in the field of climate activism. Her work delves into the intersection of psychology and environmentalism, exploring how our environment shapes our mental well-being and vice versa. In this insightful interview, she sheds light on the challenges and opportunities of communicating climate issues effectively, emphasizing the importance of fostering hope and agency amidst the complexities of the crisis. Jessica also shares her personal experiences with burnout and her ongoing commitment to sustainable living, offering practical tips, and strategies by embracing imperfect environmentalism for individuals seeking to make a positive impact.

Photo of Jessica Kleczka standing in the sunlight

Join us as we delve into Jessica’s unique perspective and discover how you too can contribute to a more sustainable future. As Jessica aptly reminds us, “We need millions of imperfect environmentalists rather than a handful of perfect ones.”

To start, could you share a bit about your journey – what moment sparked your personal passion for climate activism or environmentalism?

Growing up, I wasn’t really aware of the climate crisis – my parents were Polish immigrants in Germany and we lived in a tower block at the edge of a very polluted city. I did however have an intimate connection with the natural world – although my area was quite deprived, our housing estate was surrounded by wetlands, and I spent many happy hours playing outside with my friends. I used to collect many nature memorabilia – differently sized cones, shells, pressed leaves, and the like. And whenever we returned to Poland, we would spend weeks at a time in a cabin in the woods, foraging buckets of mushrooms and blueberries.

In my early teens, the wetlands around our home started to be drained and developed into housing for the growing working population – I lost what little access to nature I had, and I believe that this contributed to the many mental health struggles I experienced as a teenager. Most of my youth was too turbulent to even think about bigger issues like climate change – that started when I moved to London to go to university. I felt a lot of anger about the state of the world back then. I had gone vegan in my early twenties, mostly for health reasons, but it sent me on a path to caring about the bigger picture too. In 2019, I joined my local climate group and became a full-time campaigner alongside my university degree. It was a wild time!

Your work sits at the intersection of psychology and environmentalism. How do you see these two realms influencing each other, and what led you to bridge these disciplines?

Our mental health has everything to do with our environment, and vice versa. The state of our environment has a lot to do with how we function psychologically.

I originally planned to become a clinical psychologist after my degree, but decided against it when I learned how mental health care functions in our society. We’re quick to point to faults within the individual or their relationships with loved ones, but often neglect what’s around them. Do they live in a polluted neighbourhood? Is their housing situation secure? Can they buy fresh healthy produce? Do they have access to green spaces nearby? All of those things significantly impact our mental wellbeing, but are often forgotten about in mental health practice. As someone who grew up working class and lives with a disability, I’m particularly passionate about access to nature and how marginalised communities in particular often don’t have green spaces near them. 

Photo of Jessica Kleczka sitting and meditating in front of a river
Photo by Johanna Makowski

There is also growing awareness that our disconnect from the natural world – starting with the early industrial period – is a major contributor to the environmental crises we’re dealing with now. Add to the mix that we haven’t evolved to sense excess carbon dioxide, and therefore don’t intuitively perceive it as a threat, and you’ve got yourself an issue that feels psychologically distant to many of us. Of course, many people are now waking up to the reality of the climate crisis, as it’s now happening on most people’s doorsteps – wherever you are in the world.

But the simple reason I’m doing the work I do today is because I didn’t want my job to compromise my advocacy work – I had to connect them somehow. After finishing my Psychology degree, I did another degree in climate change, and through a lot of introspection, I arrived at climate psychology and communication science. I owe a lot to my supervisors at university who gave me a lot of freedom to explore different aspects of these issues, and I absolutely love the work I get to do now.

One of your key areas is helping individuals overcome climate anxiety. How do you approach this challenge, and what advice do you have for those grappling with the emotional toll of the climate crisis?

Photo of Jessica Kleczka standing holding a leaf on her face
Photo by Angharad Bache

The most important thing to know is that if you experience climate anxiety, there is nothing wrong with you. Psychologists don’t see climate anxiety as a mental illness – it’s a normal and even healthy response to the unhealthy state of our world and the ecosystems we so fundamentally rely on. But there is some alarming data – one study by the University of Bath found that almost half of young people feel that the climate crisis is affecting their everyday life and functioning. And once an issue starts affecting us on that level, there is a risk of it developing into a serious mental health issue.

I’m not a mental health professional myself as I went down the research route, so my work has been focusing on finding out more about how young people are affected by the climate crisis. I published a paper with Imperial College looking at young people’s experiences of climate anxiety around the world, and last year I worked on research examining climate anxiety and understanding in early childhood. There is still some work to be done to understand how we can best support young people, but one thing is clear – a lot of our anxiety is caused by government inaction rather than personal failure, and so climate action is the best way we can stem suffering caused by climate anxiety.

Photo of Jessica Kleczka standing on the road campaigning for climate action
Photo by Andrea Domeniconi

A lot of this is also connected to how we communicate – we see a lot of doom and gloom in the media, and while we are in a dire situation, this kind of messaging will leave people desensitised over time, or lead to news avoidance altogether. It’s crucial that we find a balance between conveying the urgency of the situation, whilst communicating reasons to have hope and actions people can take in their own lives and communities.

Effective communication is a crucial aspect of your work. How can we employ more creative and impactful ways to communicate climate issues, especially to diverse audiences?

Early in my career when I worked in climate policy, our team used to create a daily climate news roundup with the headlines and team-specific topics like nature, waste or energy. What I realised during this time was that there is a lot of good stuff happening, but we rarely see it in main news outlets. The reason for this is that often small steps are not sensational enough, although over time, they help build momentum and the foundations for wider system-level change. But our brains have also evolved to pay more attention to negative information as a survival mechanism – media outlets know this and relentlessly exploit this information for clicks. But ultimately, while fear-based messaging gets our attention, sustained negative messaging on climate change will make most people feel overwhelmed and powerless. This is why I started the “Positive Climate News” series on Instagram in collaboration with Earthly Education, reporting on all those small wins we often never hear about. The series has reached millions of people around the world and inspired thousands to take action or keep going.

Last year, I was the Director of Research on “A New Era In Climate Communication” – a huge resource that is now freely available online. It reinforced what I already believed to be true – that hope is a crucial factor in inspiring action. But it also hugely depends on the audience. If someone doesn’t know a huge amount about climate change, they probably need to feel a little bit scared before being exposed to solutions-focused narratives – but I believe that the reason we see so much emphasis on hope and solution these days is because climate change has risen to be a top issue of concern around the world in the last five years. Most people are aware of it, and are at least a little bit concerned – so it becomes crucial to communicate that it’s not too late to avert the worst impacts, and that all the solutions we need are already out there – but what we need is action, all the way from the individual to the systemic level.

Your research delves into the mental health impacts of the climate crisis. Could you share some insights from your work, and what coping strategies do you find most effective?

Mental health is a big topic in the climate community. Every day we’re dealing with something that’s, frankly, quite depressing – but it’s also an incredibly exciting time to be alive. 

Activist burnout is one of the biggest risks I encounter – I experienced it myself several times, and every time I had to take a big step back and allow myself to heal. Many of us are so passionate about our planet and its people that we take on way too much, and forget to look after ourselves in the process. Part of my work consists of training activists in how to recognise symptoms of burnout and take steps to ensure we stay healthy while fighting for a better future.

Some of the things I do in my life to avoid burnout are – spending at least an hour a day in nature with no distractions, setting firm work boundaries, and balancing the kind of work I do to ensure it feels meaningful and fulfilling. A big part of overcoming burnout was also to reconnect with the things that bring me joy and make time for them! Every morning after I wake up, I keep my phone switched off for a bit while I read a book and witness the world around me.

What role do you think climate storytelling can play in amplifying the voices and experiences of those most impacted by the crisis?

Stories are one of the fundamental ways humans have learned to connect and share information. Studies show that our brains retain a lot more information if it is presented in a story format, and they’re also an excellent way of communicating radical ideas whilst circumnavigating political polarisation. After my work as a climate communications researcher, I decided to take a step back from academia – both to recover from burn-out and put my learnings into practice. So this year I’m focusing primarily on my campaigning and creative work, utilising storytelling techniques to engage more people with environmental issues and getting them involved in building a better future.

At the moment, my partner and I are working on “Road to the Future” – a project documenting sustainable projects around Europe as a way to give back to the communities we visit in our home on wheels. The series will be hosted on @earthly.explore on Instagram and cover Spain, France, and the UK to start – if all goes well, we will continue in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe later this year! The vision behind this project is to spotlight environmental issues around the continent and what everyday people are doing to fix them, to inspire the next generation of change-makers. Climate action can look like many different things, so we want to show people practical things they can get involved in.

Empowering individuals is a key aspect of your advocacy. What, in your view, are some impactful yet practical steps that individuals can take in their daily lives to contribute to a more sustainable future?

Activism will always be the most impactful thing to do, because policy change comes with ripple effects that make living sustainably the default, or at least easier, for many. But I also recognise that activism is not for everyone. Personally, I’m also very passionate about sustainable living – it’s quite an exciting challenge to live with as little of a footprint as possible while still living your best life! I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for the last eight years, buying seasonal produce in whatever country I’m in, avoiding flying wherever possible, and taking the train when travelling between European countries. I live in a tiny space with my partner, we don’t buy anything new and are very mindful about driving. But I’ve also gone through periods of time when I was working a lot and had to prioritise campaigning over buying plastic-free all the time, for example. Sustainable living is tied to time privilege – and yes, it’s sometimes also more expensive. So if you find yourself struggling to be the perfect environmentalist in your own home, channel that energy into wider-scale systemic change instead!

Photo of Jessica Kleczka standing in the garden foraging vegetables and fruits

Another thing I often say is that the most powerful thing we can do is to talk about climate. There’s still a phenomenon in our society called “climate silence” – because climate change has been politicised so much, many people feel awkward just talking about it. We need to normalise climate conversations as well as our difficult emotions the issue can evoke in us. And by sharing about the small things we do in our own lives to make a difference, we can normalise activism and dismantle the stigma that media narratives have woven to discredit our movement.

This one is our personal favorite – What inspired your decision to transition to a van life, and how do you envision incorporating sustainable practices into your mobile lifestyle?

My partner and I are both minimalists, and van life was a natural progression in our journey towards living a simple and sustainable lifestyle. I used to be a hoarder and really struggled to declutter my belongings at first – it took me about a year to get to the point where we could fit everything in the van, and we’re still selling and giving away some of our things here and there! But the process of emotionally detaching myself from my stuff was very liberating.

Part of my motivation was also the fact that I couldn’t work full time due to health reasons – I wanted a lifestyle that allowed a lot of freedom while working less and being close to nature. We lived in a small apartment for a year, working multiple jobs to save up for our tiny home on wheels – and we’re so grateful that we’ve made it a reality!

There are a lot of ways we live more sustainably on the road – the main aspect is that we’re not heating an apartment anymore! We did some maths and were surprised to learn that the driving we’re planning to do over the course of the year emits about a third less than heating the average home in the UK. Overall, our lifestyle emits roughly half of the average UK footprint. I’m not a big fan of how much we focus on individual carbon footprints nowadays, especially given that the concept was popularised by a fossil fuel company, but we’re both passionate about living small so it can be a useful metric.

Our plan is to spend the winters in southern Europe so we don’t need to heat our van, and summers in northern Europe. This also allows us to have plenty of electricity from our solar panel, which means we can cook without using gas. We try to limit our driving to one or trips a week, which we usually do for grocery shopping or changing our location. We have a 96-litre water tank which we fill up once a week – in comparison, that’s less than what the average person in the UK uses in a day. While we have a shower in the van we also sometimes wash in the sea or a river instead to conserve water. We have a compost toilet, only use natural products for cleaning and self-care, and we hold onto our trash, which we separate and recycle whenever we do a town run. We also buy package-free, organic, local, and seasonal produce as much as we can, which we’ve found to be a lot easier in Europe. Van life definitely comes with its own challenges, but it teaches you to be appreciative of resources – and waking up surrounded by nature most days is everything I ever wanted and more.

What advice would you give to individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start?

Start as small or big as you want! I’ve met a lot of people who found it easier to explore sustainable behaviour change first, making changes in their own lives, and then went on to become campaigners. But others will find it harder to change things in their own lives but prefer to advocate for policy changes. Some people do both. Some people prefer to go into a climate job and set firm boundaries between work and private life. I love the notion that we need millions of imperfect environmentalists rather than a handful of perfect ones – so I tend to encourage people to engage in whatever way is accessible to them, and not worry about the image they have in their head of what an activist, advocate or change maker should look like. I firmly believe that perfectionism is one of the biggest threats to our movement – we’re all fallible humans and doing the best we can. And so we should celebrate every little action that people do – be that a litter pick on the weekend, joining a protest, or introducing more plant-based foods into your diet.

How do you envision your future?

For a long time, I was really career-focused – until I was lucky enough to get into my dream career, and realised it wasn’t what made me truly happy. I feel incredibly privileged to have come to this realisation, but it also means that my life is going through some big changes right now. For the next few years, I want to travel, meet like-minded people who are working to change the world, read lots of good books, and go on long hikes. I want to live life to the fullest while causing the least amount of harm possible. And who knows, maybe the next step is to move on a sailboat, or buy a small cottage in the mountains…

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

Living in a van means that a lot of my hobbies are quite outdoorsy and related to my love for nature. My days usually start with reading a book, back doors open looking out on the sea, a forest, or the mountains. I enjoy walking and running as I often find myself in different landscapes, and when we’re near the sea my partner and I do quite a bit of paddleboarding and freediving together. I’ve been playing music since I was a child, and my partner and I are planning to learn sword fighting, which will probably be our most unusual hobby!

What’s your mantra for life?

Change the things you can do something about, and make peace with things beyond your control! 

Click to learn more about Jessica Kleczka and follow her journey.

This is 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

Art, Activism, Action: How Entertainment + Culture Amplify Climate Activism

Art, Activism, Action: How Entertainment + Culture Amplify Climate Activism

In today’s world saturated with media and entertainment, our daily encounters shape our mindset towards a certain lifestyle and mentality. This not only influences what we buy and wear but also how we perceive the world around us. But have you ever wondered about the dynamic role culture and entertainment play in steering climate action? It’s not as tricky as it sounds. Remember the cartoon Popeye the Sailor? It made eating spinach look cool as his main source of superpower, which influenced millions of children to see vegetables in a positive light. Through entertaining storytelling, it effectively conveyed the message that healthy eating can be enjoyable and beneficial. In the same way, we can encourage climate action and sustainable choice as the new cool trend to follow. This optimism and drive to make a change have paved the way for the emergence of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28 this year with a particular focus on the unique relationship between- culture, entertainment, and climate.

To take the ever-evolving landscape of climate activism one step ahead, artists and performers have united with their creative force that mobilizes grassroots movements. This collaboration, born from a diverse community, holds the potential to spark real change. How, you ask? Let’s hear from seven passionate voices shaping the crossroads of entertainment + culture and climate action.

The Power Creative of Collaboration

Science and Data are crucial when advocating for climate action. Yet, to inspire action, Jessica Kleczka, Climate Psychologist and Activist emphasizes on incorporating the magic ingredient: CREATIVITY! She believes that by harnessing the power of creative collaborations, grassroots movements can propel climate messages into the mainstream, fostering a collective recognition of everyone’s role in building a sustainable future.

“Creativity has the potential to supercharge our campaigns, break echo chambers and reach audiences who care about the state of the planet but lack a powerful message they can identify with”

Jessica Kleczka

In her opinion, incredible groups like Climate Live are harnessing the power of music to engage a greater audience in campaigns like Stop Rosebank, fighting the largest undeveloped oil field in the UK. In recent conversations with Green & Beyond Mag, Kleczka dished out some insights on how creativity can play a major role in boosting our efforts against climate change. She pointed to research suggesting that there’s a goldmine of untapped potential in using creativity for climate action. From her own experiences, she shared how teaming up with influencers and celebrities can be a game-changer, with campaigns blowing up and petitions scoring big when backed by music and sports big shots.

Social influence is the number one factor determining whether a person acts on the climate crisis, and creatives are uniquely situated to shape what that influence looks like.– Jessica Kleczka

In line with this, Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Youth Advocate for Climate Action Philippines has reflected on the intrinsic connection between entertainment + culture collaborations and the ability to construct a vision of a better world. She points out the power of culture to unite diverse communities against profit-oriented global systems. As she puts it, “Cultural and entertainment collaborations are so crucial because they can reach new audiences and bring more people into the climate movement.”

According to her, these collaborations are like VIP passes to reaching fresh audiences and getting more people on board in the climate movement. Not only that, but she sees them as essential in constructing the better world that’s living rent-free in our minds and hearts.

Once we have an idea in the grasp of the joy and love in the safety, and the softness that we could be having in a better and cleaner future, it’s a lot easier for us to keep fighting no matter what, and culture and entertainment has the amazing power to build all this in our minds & in our hearts.

– Mitzi Jonelle Tan

Edwin Namakanga, Climate Justice Activist from Uganda pointed out the transformative power that talented artists and performers hold in influencing change. In his words, “Talented artists and performers possess a unique ability to influence, inspire, and effect change.” Their reach, whether on stage, screen, or in concerts, is expansive, making them potent advocates for addressing climate change issues.

Namakanga advocates for the integration of environmental messages into their art, seeing it as a catalyst for a movement towards sustainable living. He believes that collaboration with existing climate action advocates further amplifies the message and enhances public understanding of the critical need for action.

“It’s important to remember that artists and performers are not just entertainers; they are an integral part of our culture and their creations shape our perceptions. Their art can catalyze a movement, spark action, and be remembered in history.”

– Edwin Namakanga

Transforming Narratives for Climate Action through Entertainment + Culture

In terms of creative collaborations, Natalie Chung, Climate Advocate and Entrepreneur from Hong Kong also emphasized on creating new imaginaries of sustainable futures through culture and entertainment. In her opinion, we have all the technologies to solve climate change, the only thing lacking is the political will to implement solutions with long-term benefits. For her, entertainment + culture are powerful tools to drive climate action optimistically and create hope. As a personal experience, Natalie talked about the Antarctic Climate Expedition with Dr. Sylvia Earle where they created an Antarctic Rhapsody that was performed on the icy continent in front of calving icebergs and also used as the background music for their Antarctic documentary. This is how incorporating music and artistic mediums can be a great use to unite humanity to dream and construct a hopeful future through collective action.

She encourages artists to use their creative mediums uniting humanity to dream and construct a hopeful future through collective action. 

“If we intend to tackle the greatest challenges like the climate crisis, we need to change our view of human nature, believing that we are born with goodwill instead of selfishness. Through artistic mediums, we are presented with a window to gaze into the past, present and future climate scenarios.”

– Natalie Chung

On the other hand, Isaias Hernandez, Environmental Educator and Creative highlighted the storytelling role of grassroots climate activism and the transformative power of entertainment + culture. He recognizes the challenges of social media fatigue and time constraints but sees an opportunity to leverage creative mediums like music, talent, photography, and video to build a narrative of an ecological future where every community member can share their story.

For Hernandez, stories are the glue that binds people together, keeping culture vibrant and thriving.

“Stories are what keep people together, they allow for culture to be alive and to thrive.”

Isaias Hernandez

He also believes that artists possess a unique power to influence culture and captivate minds with a single stroke of a paintbrush, a note of a song, a structural design, or a rhythm. According to him, the general citizen doesn’t need to be an expert in climate science to grasp the peril their ecosystem faces and the urgency for community support.

Hernandez calls for scientists to embrace their inner artists, communicating differently to bridge the gap between complex scientific information and public understanding. He recognizes performers for their ability to balance the nuanced challenges of conveying both the grim reality and advocating for solutions, emphasizing that collective suffering can pave the way for the emergence of effective strategies.

Cultural Roots: Entertainment + Culture as Activism

Niharika Elety, Climate Activist and Sustainable Fashion Designer points out the roots of grassroots climate activism in cultural protest, emphasizing the profound impact of art, music, and fashion in conveying climate advocacy messages.

“The origins of grassroots climate activism are rooted in cultural protest. From art to music, and fashion, songs, paintings and fabrics all have climate advocacy messages threaded through.”

Niharika Elety

Elety envisions collaborations through music, film, art, and literature as powerful tools to simplify complex environmental topics, fostering a deeper understanding and urgency for climate action. Elety encourages artists to infuse pro-environmental themes into their work, recognizing the potential of storytelling to evoke emotions, spark conversations, and drive meaningful engagement with climate issues. Drawing inspiration from figures like Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, and Michael Jackson, she underscores how celebrities can be influential advocates, inspiring fans to adopt eco-friendly lifestyles and actively support grassroots initiatives. Moreover, she notes that cultural collaborations extend beyond individual behavior change, contributing to increased funding and support for grassroots organizations.

Art for Change: Connecting Diverse Audiences

To paint the whole scenario, Melissa Tan, Climate Action and Sustainability Advocate from Malaysia conceptualized activism as a personal journey for everyone, not just activists; urging everyone to act for the world they want to see. She stresses the importance of contextualizing activism for each person, making it accessible through things they resonate with and showcasing how and where they can influence. According to her, the key lies in connecting the dots through various forms of art and creation.

Tan believes in the infinite possibilities that art offers, reaching individuals in ways that cold data cannot.

“It’s connecting the dots through art and creation in all forms. The possibilities are infinite and it reaches a person in ways that cold data cannot. We must use every tool in our chest.”

– Melissa Tan

Her message to artists and performers is a straightforward call to action – either speak for the planet or perpetuate the norm, as they are inherently standing for something, whether intentional or not. Tan encourages tapping into the intrinsic love shared by all human beings – the connection to our living planet and between all living things. This, she believes, is a journey of self-discovery that can help individuals find parts of themselves while fostering a deeper connection to the Earth.

Here’s the simple truth..

Entertainment + culture are not just things we enjoy; they’re tools we can all use to make a real impact on the urgent issue of climate change. Whether you’re a writer, artist, singer, actor, or someone who appreciates the arts, your unique talents have the power to inspire action. Because these conversations are the beginning of tangible climate action, and taking care of our planet is something we can all get behind. Let’s harness the universal language of culture and entertainment to drive change, one creative expression at a time, for a better, more sustainable future.

Written by Nawar N. Khan (Raeesa) and Maesha Nawreen

Beyond Borders: Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28

Beyond Borders: Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28

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.

Introducing the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion is an initiative of the Entertainment + Culture Foundation, a non-profit organization based in the USA & fiscally sponsored by Climate Generation. The Pavilion is co-managed by organizations in the climate & entertainment community namely Climate Generation, Dubai Climate Collective, Youth Climate Collaborative, The Climate Propagandist, Sauntr, and Entertainment & Culture for Climate Action (ECCA).

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.

Photo by Spemone

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.”

– organizers at the E+C Pavilion

Connecting Threads: Entertainment, Culture & Climate Action

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.”

Quote about the relationship between entertainment, culture and climate.
Photo by Green & Beyond Desk

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.

Panel discussions
Photo by Product School

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.

Photo of a fashion runway fashion show
Photo by Rudy Issa

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.

Photo of singer and musician Nile Rodgers smiling
Nile Rodgers, Musician – Photo via Wikimedia

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.

Photo of a corner of a globe
Photo by Sigmund

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
Photo by Storytelling with Saris

“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.

Highlighted-Talents of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28

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.

Camera capturing sunrise
Photo by Ian Dooley

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.

Written by Shoummo Ahmed & Maesha N. at Green & Beyond Mag.

Catalyzing Climate Action: A Dialogue with Activist Katharina Maier

Catalyzing Climate Action: A Dialogue with Activist Katharina Maier

Katharina Maier: A Journey in Climate Activism

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:

Activism-Infographics

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.

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