From Grassroots to Global Impact: The Climate Activism Story of Farzana Faruk Jhumu

From Grassroots to Global Impact: The Climate Activism Story of Farzana Faruk Jhumu

Farzana Faruk Jhumu, a passionate Climate Activist hailing from Bangladesh, embodies a remarkable journey of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to environmental advocacy. Her foray into climate activism traces back to a pivotal moment in 2017, sparked by a conversation among friends about societal impact and the privilege of making a difference. This catalyzed the inception of “Kaath Pencil,” a heartwarming initiative aimed at spreading joy and knowledge among underprivileged children through educational endeavors. Farzana’s narrative intertwines personal growth with a profound awakening to the urgency of climate action, fueled by encounters with communities bearing the enduring scars of environmental crises like Cyclone Sidr in 2007.

Farzana’s evolution as a climate advocate unfolds against the backdrop of grassroots engagement and global collaborations, notably with initiatives like Fridays for Future MAPA and the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Her experiences at COP events, from COP26 to COP28, have honed her insights into the intricacies of climate policy and the imperative for decisive action. Through her role as a UNICEF Youth Advocate, Farzana champions youth empowerment, policy advocacy, and community resilience, embodying a vision of inclusive, impactful climate activism. 

Climate activist Farzana Faruk Jhumu at UNICEF
Photo credit : UNICEF Bangladesh

This interview delves into Jhumu’s remarkable journey, exploring her motivations, the challenges she faces, and the unwavering optimism that keeps her going. It’s a story that will inspire you to take action, no matter how small, and join the fight for a more sustainable future for all.

Can you please share a bit about your journey? How did you get involved in climate activism?

My climate activism journey started in 2017 when some of my younger brother’s friends and a few other friends were randomly discussing how privileged we were and that we should try to do something for society. I was completely on board, so later, we started a group called ‘Kaathpencil’ – our whole idea was ‘to make people happy.’ As we started KaathPencil, we began going to various schools for underprivileged children to provide them with free books. Then, around 6-7 months before COVID hit us, we started a school for children living in slums close to where I live. The school ran smoothly for 3-4 months, but sadly, we had to shut it down when COVID-19 happened.

While I was working on this project, connecting with the children, and figuring out what to teach them beyond the alphabet, I had also been educating myself on the climate crisis. This was especially true after hearing Greta Thunberg’s moving speech in 2018. I remember all those climate strikes and how climate change had become a central topic of discussion. While I was exploring and educating myself, there was one particular case I’ll always remember – a family that lost everything due to Cyclone Sidr in 2007 and had been living in this slum ever since.

Satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Sidr on the Bay of Bengal, November 2007
Tropical Cyclone Sidr on the Bay of Bengal, November 2007 (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

It was a long time ago, and I was very young at the time, so while I don’t have a lot of deep knowledge about Sidr, I still remember the massive electricity crisis that affected the whole of Bangladesh. We had no electricity in Dhaka for almost a couple of days. When the electricity came back, we only had one TV channel, BTV (Bangladesh Television), so I remember how glued we were to the TV, just listening to the news and wondering what was next. This experience left a significant impact on me.

While I never had to worry about that growing up, when I started talking to these families, specifically this family, it struck me how it had been over 12 years since Sidr and they were still suffering the consequences, even though so much money was raised for relief efforts. Later, I learned about Fridays for Future (FFF) and found out they had a chapter in Bangladesh through social media. I joined them, and upon joining, they asked if I could help maintain communication with the international community, to which I happily agreed.

Climate activist Farzana Faruk Jhumu holding Fridays For Future MAPA placard
Photo credit: Marie Jacquemin/Greenpeace

As I engaged with FFF’s larger chapter, I realized how different and vast their thought process was – they had a lot of knowledge about climate change and all the policies surrounding it. As FFF was growing around that time, we had many discussions on fundamental ideas, and I joined every single call. Being very new, I sometimes didn’t understand a lot of things in the beginning, but I participated anyway – I wanted to learn more and play a role.

Later, by the end of 2019, Fridays for Future started building its ‘Most Affected People and Areas’ (MAPA) chapter. The whole idea was to create a safe space for those in the Global South to discuss how climate change relates to them and how they could come to the forefront of the movement – it was more like a brainstorming session. So, that’s where we started.

Farzana Faruk Jhumu participating in a climate justice protest alongside other youth activist and members of Fridays for Future. Photo: UNICEF
Photo credit: UNICEF

And when Fridays for Future (MAPA) started, as Bangladesh is a vulnerable country, I got the opportunity to engage more. Coincidentally, COVID also hit at the same time. Throughout this entire consistent period, I tried to join every call possible, every meeting possible, reading every document they shared on how they relate with different campaigns, banks, finance, and economy. I tried to read and learn everything through that chat through Fridays for Future. Most of the time in Bangladesh, my responsibility was to communicate the information that was coming from there more to my community. However, Bangladesh was more focused on strikes, volunteerism, and action-based movements. That’s why Bangladesh gave me information on strike goals, agendas, and how to organize strikes. But at the same time, my knowledge was growing. Then in 2021, UNICEF International, reached out to MAPA saying they had a children’s climate risk index and wanted to publish a report with a forward. They needed some activists to write the forward and offer support, and they helped us write it. The four of us writing were Greta Thunberg, myself, Eric Njuguna, and Adriana Calderón. So UNICEF widely publicized it, and all the big news media covered it. After that, while still being a related member, I was volunteering in almost every group possible and every working thing possible. That’s why Fridays for Future, especially the MAPA chapter, became known – Farzana from Bangladesh was doing the work. When that thing started getting highlighted, UNICEF Bangladesh got to know that I existed.

Cover image of the report titled "climate crisis is a child rights crisis" by UNICEF
Source: UNICEF

In 2021, we took a delegation from Fridays for Future – MAPA. Every delegation to COP was a huge task in 2020, so two years later, there was a huge push for youth engagement, and for the first time ever, Fridays for Future participated as a delegation. It was huge, and I was part of that team. We discussed how to reach out to the news media. That’s how I got more involved in international processes like UN processes.

At the same time, kind of funny, when we were supposed to go to Sweden for a four to five-day training program with UNICEF Sweden to learn more about what was going on, we ended up in London for a campaign against Standard Chartered Bank. It was a cleanup campaign because Standard Chartered Bank is a UK-based bank, but they are funding fossil fuels in 12 countries in Asia, and funnily enough, they were one of the best banks in Bangladesh. So they were earning our money, getting our money, and funding fossil fuels. Based on that idea, we did a campaign. But then my visa to Sweden was rejected because, fun fact: they told me that as a young woman who is unemployed, unmarried, and has no children, they think I will not return to Bangladesh if I got my visa. Feeling helpless, I posted it on Twitter, and luckily famous personalities like Greta, Vanessa, and others noticed it and started retweeting it. UNICEF saw it and claimed that I was working with them and that they were sending me. As UNICEF was also working with Sweden, they confirmed that I was going there for them. So, although I initially had to go to Sweden, UNICEF now knew me.

I came back, and UNICEF reached out to me again. They said they wanted to work with me and offered a new youth advocate position. It’s a voluntary position, but they would support me in different areas. I had always been passionate about UNICEF since my childhood from watching the Meena Cartoon, so I was very happy and said yes. That’s how I got involved with UNICEF and then with many other UN processes. 

Meena Cartoon by UNICEF
Meena Cartoon by UNICEF (Source: UNICEF)

You’ve been actively involved in international initiatives like Fridays for Future MAPA and the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. How do you see these collaborations contributing to global climate action?

Fridays for Future is a movement with a goal to amplify the voices of frontline communities, their ideas, and ensure intersectional justice through climate justice. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is an initiative that pushes for a treaty to phase out fossil fuels. These are just a few examples, and I work with many other organizations like 350.org that are all involved in climate action.

Here’s how I see collaboration: Global climate action is a complex idea. Policymakers create policies, but national circumstances are also very important. MAPA, a grassroots movement, focuses on getting that grassroots work done.

When we talk about climate action, it’s crucial to understand that it’s a process. Initiatives like the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, MAPA, or any others I work with all emphasize the importance of action. For example, in Bangladesh, ‘goat rearing’ was a form of climate adaptation effort for many many days, but without addressing the root cause of climate change, adaptation alone won’t be enough.

The same principle applies across the board. MAPA, the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, or any other organization – the main thing is to make sure we understand the bigger picture. We need to know that if fossil fuels aren’t phased out, no matter how much adaptation or resilience we build, or how much we discuss loss and damage, nothing will truly work.

Similarly, if we don’t explore the connections between climate justice and issues like child rights and women’s rights, and if we don’t elevate the voices of the Global South, no matter how many initiatives we have, they won’t serve the communities most affected by climate change. Those who contribute the least to the problem are often the ones who suffer the most.

Initiatives like the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty address this with its three pillars: phasing out fossil fuels, ensuring a just transition for workers in the industry, and involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process.

You have participated in three COPs so far, from COP26 to COP28. What have you learned from these three events, and what do you think the next COP29 needs to deliver, from your experienced point of view?

My COP journeys have evolved significantly. At the first COP I attended, the focus was on advocating for more youth inclusion and discussions around climate change’s impact on frontline communities and the most affected people and areas. COP26 was more about following trends, media narratives, and learning how to communicate with a broad audience. Attending side events became a priority to gain a deeper understanding of the COP process itself.

COP27 and COP28, however, were more policy-focused, which aligns with COP’s core purpose. However, a key takeaway across all these COPs is the lack of public awareness about them. It’s become clear that we, the public, have more influence than we might realize. Unfortunately, powerful lobbies and the prevalence of capitalist mindsets make it difficult to have productive discussions. Trust in the process is waning because we haven’t seen enough bold decisions emerge.

Overall, I’ve learned the immense importance of COP policies. They’re not just events, but platforms for crucial decisions that ultimately impact local communities. It’s a two-way process, but COP doesn’t always reflect this. Every word, sentence, and contribution holds significant weight. The political nature of the climate space is undeniable.

Farzana Faruk Jhumu and other youth climate activists at COP27
Photo Credit: Marie Jacquemin

COP29 must deliver more concrete language on fossil fuel phase-out, and just as importantly, the financing required for that phase-out. Without these discussions, achieving the 1.5-degree target is simply impossible. My views, and those of the organizations I work with, are clear: we can’t address climate change without tackling both justice and financing issues. This year, COP29 will be heavily focused on finance, which is a positive step. However, it needs to deliver more concrete results.

The most critical issue for this year’s COP29 is undoubtedly the $100 billion pledge for climate finance. Developed nations committed to providing this amount annually to the most vulnerable countries starting in 2020. However, they haven’t met that goal. This year will bring a report detailing the amount delivered, by whom, and when. With this information, we can move forward and discuss a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCG) for future climate finance.

As a youth advocate for UNICEF Bangladesh, what campaigns or initiatives are you particularly excited about, and how do you see youth driving change in climate action?

As a UNICEF Bangladesh Youth Advocate, my role is twofold. One aspect involves policy pushing, lobbying, and advocating for climate justice and children’s rights. The other involves supporting initiatives and campaigns. UNICEF focuses on child rights and youth inclusion, but overall, as a youth advocate, I work in my field on campaigns and initiatives that I’m passionate about.

The campaign initiative I’m most excited about is capacity building. It’s not a one-day event; it’s an ongoing process to raise awareness and equip people with the knowledge to take action on climate change. I’m incredibly proud of the people working on the ground level who make my policy advocacy work possible. I appreciate and support every initiative people take at the local level. I see change coming through climate action, which has evolved beyond just strikes. People are taking innovative initiatives like vertical windmills – these are the kind of ideas I support.

Capacity building, in this sense, is a continuous process of teaching people how to take action. This action can be individual, local, national, or even involve policy, negotiation, innovation, or environmental research. Every change, big or small, contributes to progress. As a youth advocate, I deeply appreciate seeing people take action. We need to spread awareness about green jobs and how young people are using AI for climate action. These are all campaigns and initiatives I support, with a special interest in policy.

I want more people to understand policies and how to follow them. I don’t expect everyone to be an expert, but I want people to know that climate action isn’t just about planting trees.

Could you please share the story behind KaathPencil and its impact on underprivileged children, particularly in terms of climate education?

Initially, the KaathPencil campaign focused on basic climate education. When COVID hit and offline work became difficult, we launched the ‘Poribesher Proti Projonmo’ (PPP) (meaning ‘Generation for Environment’) campaign. The idea was to share knowledge through simple quizzes to reach our target audience. These quizzes weren’t just about finding the right answer; we used them as a springboard to explain the importance and connections behind climate issues. Then, we launched the ‘Act Now’ campaign, which covered climate change, child rights, and child abuse. We reached out to schools to educate students on these basic topics. We didn’t want to replace teachers, but rather to help students expand their knowledge and develop critical thinking skills. Our goal was to empower them to educate themselves.

The ‘Act Now’ campaign reached a significant number of students last year (around 48 schools in 2023). We’re planning another, more comprehensive campaign around climate change for this year (2024).

Sailing on the “Rainbow Warrior” of Greenpeace must have been incredible. What were the most impactful moments for you during that experience?

I could talk all day about how amazing the journey was! Our goal was to get more youth involved and create a more youth-friendly space within the activist movement. It was performative activism, which is different from my policy work, but that’s natural for activism, and I loved it. The Rainbow Warrior is a symbol of hope, and we wanted to show that young people can contribute in different ways, not just through flying or traditional means. Sailing was significant because it connected to the reality of our sinking island nations.

Fridays for Future youth climate activists Farzana Faruk, 22, from Bangladesh, left, Jakapita Faith Kandanga, 24, from Namibia, second from left, Maria Reyes, 19, from Mexico, second from right, and Edwin Moses Namakanga, 27, from Uganda pose for a photograph aboard the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior Oct. They are sailing to COP26 in Glasgow Scotland.
Photo credit: Suzanne Plunkett / Greenpeace

Everyone took the experience incredibly well. There was a huge strike happening in Glasgow at the same time, and we had volunteers and activists from various places joining us, making our movement feel bigger and stronger. That was a powerful message in itself. It’s hard to pick just one impactful moment, but if I had to, it would be a situation that wasn’t directly related to climate change.

The ship’s captain, a woman, faced resistance from the police who tried to stop the ship from passing under a bridge, claiming it was illegal. We were all on board at night, and the entire ship was wired with microphones, so everyone could hear the exchange. The captain was determined to take the ship under the bridge, even though the police warned it could damage the bridge.

The captain’s courage was inspiring. The Greenpeace crew assured her they would handle any potential damage, but she emphasized her responsibility to give hope to people who were watching. She took a calculated risk, and after successfully passing under the bridge (which was full of journalists covering the event), she explained her actions. She knew her job was to give hope, and she wouldn’t shy away from taking risks to do so. The fact that a woman captain took such a strong stance was incredibly impactful.

This experience connects to the work I do. I need to give people hope and maintain my own. Even when people don’t see the results of my work all the time, I know what I’m doing and why it’s important. That’s why I take calculated steps and risks, just like the captain. There are many challenges ahead, but sailing on the Rainbow Warrior showed the power of collective action, inspired me, and solidified my purpose.

Given the challenges we face, how do you maintain a sense of climate optimism? What advice do you have for others looking to stay hopeful and engaged in the fight against climate change?

For me, hope comes from the community I work with. The climate community is small, but we take care of each other. It’s not just about climate action; it’s about a broader movement for social justice, elections, women’s rights, and children’s rights. This sense of community is crucial because the movement itself can feel capitalist and broken. We face internal and external problems, so having good people to work with is essential.

The second source of my optimism is Bangladesh’s local communities. Bangladesh is a champion of climate adaptation because they have to be. People in the countryside and coastal areas have very little, and they are finding solutions. They inspire me because I have the privilege of things like food, water, and a house. This responsibility motivates me to work for them, as they can’t be activists or policymakers.

If you read stories or visit these communities, you see they don’t lose hope when they have to migrate. They are sad and feel the unfairness, but they remain hopeful. This is fuel for the entire youth movement, not just me. It’s also important to be aware of the many people working on solutions; that knowledge is supportive.

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

I don’t have a specific favorite, but I enjoy Fuchka and Pitha. Climate change likely has a bigger impact on our cultural connection to seasonal foods. Pitha is traditionally eaten during winter, but with climate shifts, we’re losing this seasonal aspect. It’s not a direct impact on the food itself, but on the cultural practices surrounding it.

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

There are SO MANY things! In Bangladeshi culture, we don’t believe in throwing things away. We use clothes until they’re unusable. This anti-consumerist approach focuses on getting the most out of what we already have. Even when considering eco-friendly options, reusing and repairing what we have is important because making anything requires resources.

Another sustainable practice is our local cuisine. We eat local and seasonal foods throughout the year, which minimizes waste and transportation needs. This approach reflects a long history of living in harmony with nature.

Seasonal vegetables
Photo credit: Eva Bronzini

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

I understand burnout – I experience it too. My advice is to know your capacity and who you’re working with. Don’t try to do everything, especially as a Bangladeshi youth. There’s pressure to be involved at every level, but every action counts.

Climate activism can take many forms. You don’t have to be a public figure. Identify your skills and how you can contribute. Whether you’re a doctor offering sustainable food suggestions or an engineer working on renewable energy, your individual actions matter. Start learning, value the people around you, and focus on your specific contribution.

How do you envision your future?

I want to work on policy and potentially be part of the UN system. I see myself representing Bangladesh and working with UN agencies or even government agencies on policies related to climate change and energy security. I’m also pursuing a Master’s degree in energy security and policy to further prepare myself for this path.

Do you have an idol?

Yes, I have several! One is BTS. Their UN speech about inclusion and self-love resonated with me, especially for those feeling hopeless. They support the climate movement and youth issues, and their songs address mental health and social issues. Their lyrics are intelligent and deep, which I appreciate. Their music also helps me when I’m feeling burned out.

BTS
BTS (Source: Wikimedia)

Another idol is Amina J. Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General. She’s my inspiration – I see myself in a similar position someday. Seeing her navigate complex situations and lead the UN is impressive. She’s a role model for ambitious women.

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

For fun, I listen to a lot of music.  I don’t have any specific hobbies, but I enjoy trying new things. I love the experience of exploring and doing different activities. Traveling falls into this category – I don’t get to do it often, but I love it when I can.

If I had to define a passion, I’d say it’s observing people. I do this with great interest. I try to understand them and see things from their perspective. I also enjoy talking to friends and meeting new people.

What’s your mantra for life?

It might sound a bit cliché, but it’s something I came up with when I started climate activism: “I don’t want to die because that’s the only thing I can do. I want to die because that’s the last thing I can do.” The idea is not to die in vain, but to make my life’s journey meaningful. Additionally, I follow the saying, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” I don’t want to be the best in any space; that limits my opportunities to learn. I stay connected to climate activism but also explore other areas to broaden my knowledge.

How can others join you in the climate movement?

That’s a fantastic question! The most important thing to remember is that anyone and everyone can join the climate movement and still be sustainable in their own spaces. This includes engineers, doctors, researchers – anyone. However, the climate movement we’re leading is specifically for those who want to focus their efforts on climate change. Fridays for Future is one example, and 350.org has a huge network within their organization. Women also have their own climate movement. Finding out what someone’s interests are is the key to finding the best way to get involved. Everyone has their own way of joining.

If someone’s interested in climate policy, they can join the Youth Constituency for the UNFCCC (YOUNGO). If they’re interested in following environmental policy, they can join the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. If they want to join Fridays for Future, they can find them on social media – every movement has a social media presence these days. If someone wants to learn about capacity building, they can join their local organization through social media. It’s very easy to find them. Joining a bigger movement is also an option. Fridays for Future has its own website, with details for every country. You can simply search for them.

So, joining the movement is very easy. But even if you’re not technically a member, you can still be part of the climate movement by taking action in your own space. This includes everyone – students, doctors, engineers, policymakers, lawyers, journalists – everyone! 

Click to connect with and find out more about Farzana Faruk Jhumu.

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.

What Does Your Lifestyle Have to Do with Climate Justice?

What Does Your Lifestyle Have to Do with Climate Justice?

Picture this: You’re scrolling through your phone, hypnotized by a new trendy outfit or the latest gadget. You double-tap, a heart fluttering on the screen. But have you ever stopped to think about the ripple effect of those seemingly harmless actions? Our everyday choices, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat, cast a long shadow beyond the glow of our screens. This shadow, unfortunately, isn’t painted with sunshine and rainbows; it’s often formed by the harsh lines of exploitation, environmental harm, and injustice. In our daily lives, we often overlook the profound interconnections between our choices and the broader issue of climate justice. The phrase “climate justice” extends beyond the conventional discourse of carbon footprints and sea level rise; it’s about the ethical, social, and environmental implications of our lifestyle decisions.

Understanding Climate Justice

Climate Justice and Lifestyle

Climate change isn’t just about rising sea levels and melting glaciers; it’s about the systemic inequalities and injustices that leave certain communities disproportionately vulnerable to its impacts. The exploitation of workers in developing countries, the unsustainable practices that harm ecosystems, and the unequal access to resources – all of these are components of the world of climate injustice.

But here’s the good news: you, yes you, hold the power to unravel these threads and reweave a more just and sustainable future.

Photo by Lisa Fotios

Climate justice requires us to acknowledge the impact of our actions on a global scale. It’s not merely an abstract concept but a reality deeply connected to our daily habits and consumption patterns. Our choices, whether related to food, transportation, energy, or even entertainment, contribute to the environmental footprints that shape the world we live in.

While systemic change is crucial, empowering individuals to recognize and alter their contributions to environmental challenges is equally vital. By understanding how our daily actions align with or contradict the principles of climate justice, we become advocates for positive change. This acknowledgment of individual responsibility is a catalyst for broader systemic transformations.

Traditionally, climate action has centered on reducing individual carbon footprints. However, the scope of climate justice encompasses far more. It delves into the broader social and environmental impacts of our lifestyle choices. Consider ethical sourcing in the fashion industry, fair labor practices, and strategies to reduce food waste; all these elements are interconnected with climate justice.

Connecting the Global to the Personal

Do you know the story of Máxima Acuña? More importantly, did you know that gold is used even in our smartphones and computers? It is not always easy to trace the gold where it is coming from due to the complexity of supply chains. If for a second, we consider a worst-case scenario, the gold in our devices might have come from places where unethical practices of mining are present. Unsafe working conditions, child labor, and affecting the local communities and environment – all might be components of the mines from where the golds of our devices came. 


So now comes the story of Máxima Acuña. Máxima is an indigenous leader from Peru, who stood strong against the encroachment of a gold mining company onto her community’s land. This land holds immense cultural and ecological significance, but the mining threatens water sources, biodiversity, and the traditional way of life for Máxima’s community. Despite facing intimidation and violence, Máxima became a global symbol of resistance against extractive industries and the fight for indigenous rights and environmental protection. Her story underscores the devastating impacts of unsustainable resource extraction on vulnerable communities and ecosystems worldwide.

And it is not just about gold and our devices….

Consider your smartphone, nestled comfortably in your hand. Its journey might have begun in a Congolese mine, where cobalt, a crucial mineral for lithium-ion batteries, is extracted using force and harmful practices that endanger the health and livelihood of local communities, contributing to deforestation and the destruction of crops and homes of the locals. The discarded e-waste it becomes could end up in landfills like Agbogbloshie in Ghana, releasing toxic chemicals like lead and mercury. This pollution impacts the health of the workers and residents of nearby areas causing respiratory illnesses, skin diseases, eye infections, and even cancer.

Photo by Mumtahina Tanni

The trendy outfit you bought for a steal online might have been stitched together in a sweatshop in Bangladesh, where garment workers, predominantly women, endure long hours, unsafe working conditions, and meager wages that barely cover basic needs. Shockingly, a 2019 report found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earned a living wage. Meanwhile, the textile industry is a major polluter, contributing 20% of global wastewater and accounting for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, leaving its mark on ecosystems and contributing to climate change.

Trendy outfit shopping
Photo by Harry Cunningham

And that delicious avocado toast? Its creamy goodness could come at the expense of water-stressed regions like California, where drought conditions have left communities struggling to access this vital resource. Additionally, avocado production in Mexico can involve deforestation, displacing indigenous communities who have stewarded these lands for generations and threatening biodiversity hotspots crucial for maintaining ecological balance.

The reason for this discussion is not to make you go through a guilt trip but to help you understand the simplicity of the fact that our lifestyles have a crucial relationship with climate justice.

Intersecting Threads: Where Climate Justice Meets Broader Struggles

The branches of climate justice reach far and wide, deeply bound to social, environmental, and economic concerns. To truly understand the fight for a sustainable future, we must explore its intersections with other critical struggles, and acknowledge the role our daily choices play in reinforcing or unraveling these interconnected issues.

Climate Justice and Racial Justice:

A 2021 study published in Nature Communications found that people of color in the United States are 3.7 times more likely to live near an industrial polluter than white residents, highlighting the unequal burden of environmental hazards. This disparity isn’t simply a coincidence; it’s often rooted in historical policies like redlining, which denied communities of color access to mortgages and investments, concentrating them in areas with higher pollution levels.

Photo by Jon Tyson

Climate Justice and Gender Equality:

Women and girls are often disproportionately affected by climate change due to their roles in water collection, food production, and childcare. Additionally, they may lack access to resources and decision-making power during climate disasters. Indigenous women play a crucial role in safeguarding biodiversity and traditional ecological knowledge, yet their voices are often marginalized in climate discussions. Recognizing and amplifying their leadership is essential for achieving climate justice.

Photo by RDNE

Climate Justice and Indigenous Rights:

Indigenous communities steward vast areas of the world’s most biodiverse lands, playing a vital role in mitigating climate change. However, they face threats like deforestation and resource extraction on their territories, impacting their livelihoods and cultural heritage. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms their right to self-determination and participation in decision-making processes affecting their lands and resources. Respecting these rights is crucial for achieving climate justice and upholding indigenous sovereignty.

Indigenous people lifestyle
Photo by Breston Kenya

Now, instead of feeling overwhelmed, remember – you have the power to rewrite this narrative.

Empowering Change: Making Your Daily Choices Count for Climate Justice

Every action, big or small, contributes to the world of climate justice. This guide equips you with concrete steps across various aspects of your life, along with inspiring success stories and resources to support your journey:

Food:

  • Embrace mindful consumption: Fight food waste by planning meals, composting leftovers, and supporting local farmers. Apps like Too Good To Go connect you with discounted food nearing its expiration date, while Food for Soul helps you donate unused food to those in need.
  • Choose plant-based options: Enjoy meatless meals more often to reduce your carbon footprint. Explore delicious recipes and discover the vibrant world of plant-based cuisine with resources like Forks Over Knives.
  • Prioritize whole, unprocessed foods: Opt for locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for a healthier you and a healthier planet. Look for certifications like USDA Organic or Fairtrade to ensure responsible sourcing practices.

Vegan food
Photo by Ella Olsson

Fashion:

  • Embrace slow fashion: Buy less, buy quality, and invest in timeless pieces that last. Explore vintage shops, clothing swaps, and ethical brands committed to sustainability and fair labor practices. Good On You app rates brands based on their environmental and social impact, making informed choices easier.
  • Extend the life of your clothes: Repair, mend, and upcycle existing garments before buying new ones. Learn basic sewing skills or support local tailors. Organizations like Mend for Good offer workshops and resources for clothing repair.
  • Choose natural materials: Opt for clothing made from organic cotton, hemp, or linen, which have lower environmental impact compared to synthetic fibers. Certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) can guide your choices.

Photo by Eunhyuk Ahn

Transportation:

  • Walk, bike, or use public transport whenever possible: Reduce your reliance on cars and enjoy the health and environmental benefits of active travel. Explore bike-sharing programs like Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C. or Divvy Bikes in Chicago, and advocate for improved public transportation infrastructure in your city.
  • Carpool or choose fuel-efficient options: If driving is unavoidable, share rides with others or consider electric vehicles when feasible. The PlugShare app helps you find charging stations near you, and many carpooling apps connect you with potential carpool partners.

A man cycling in nature

Technology:

  • Reduce your digital footprint: Declutter your inbox, unsubscribe from unnecessary emails, and utilize cloud storage efficiently. Choose energy-efficient devices and extend their lifespan with proper care. Initiatives like The Green Web Foundation work on reducing the environmental impact of the internet.
  • Support sustainable tech companies: Look for brands committed to responsible sourcing, ethical manufacturing, and e-waste recycling. Companies like Fairphone and SHIFT Phones prioritize sustainability in their practices.
  • Energy: Opt for renewable energy sources at home, conserve energy through mindful usage, and invest in energy-efficient appliances. Look into community solar programs or ENERGY STAR-certified appliances for sustainable options.

Photo by Bradley Hook

Be an Advocate for Change:

  • Raise awareness: Share information about unsustainable practices, unfair labor, and climate justice issues on social media and within your networks. Support organizations working for systemic change in these areas, amplifying their voices and raising awareness of the issues.
  • Demand transparency: Hold brands and corporations accountable by choosing companies committed to ethical sourcing, fair labor practices, and sustainable practices. Write to them, engage in social media campaigns, and support initiatives demanding transparency and accountability.
  • Support policy change: Advocate for policies that promote fair trade, environmental protection, and sustainable practices. Contact your elected officials, participate in public hearings, and join organizations working to create a more just and sustainable world.

Throughout your journey, explore additional resources, engage with communities working towards climate justice like 350.org or The Sunrise Movement, and share your experiences to inspire others.

Also, here’s a resource to help you convince your friends and family to live more sustainably.

Building a Symphony of Justice and Sustainability

The fight for climate justice isn’t a solo performance; it’s a harmonious symphony where countless instruments play their part. Each social justice movement, each community on the frontlines, each individual choosing sustainable practices contributes a unique melody to the overall composition. Recognizing these diverse voices and their interconnectedness is crucial to composing a future where justice and sustainability resonate in perfect harmony.

The score may seem complex, the challenges daunting, but remember: even the most powerful symphonies begin with a single note. Every act of solidarity, every voice raised in awareness, every mindful choice you make adds to the crescendo of positive change. We have the power to demand accountability from corporations and governments, to amplify the voices of marginalized groups, and to empower ourselves and others with knowledge and action.

Remember, change starts with small actions, but the impact can be significant. By making conscious choices, demanding transparency, advocating for change, and supporting sustainable alternatives, we can rewrite the story of our consumption habits, weaving a brighter future where technology empowers, fashion respects, and food sustains. Let’s choose collaboration over discord, hope over despair, and action over inaction. Let’s learn from the wisdom of indigenous communities, celebrate the leadership of women and marginalized groups, and hold ourselves and others accountable for building a just and sustainable future. Together, we can create a symphony of hope, note by powerful note, where every instrument contributes to a world where all beings thrive in harmony.

Diving Into The Depths of Ocean Conservation with Carissa Cabrera

Diving Into The Depths of Ocean Conservation with Carissa Cabrera

Carissa Cabrera, a dynamic force merging her roles as a CEO, accomplished marine biologist, recognized content creator by Harvard, and passionate advocate for environmental stewardship stands at the forefront of ocean conservation and climate activism. Rooted in her Ecuadorian American heritage and based in the vibrant landscapes of Hawaiʻi, Carissa’s life’s mission revolves around democratizing access to ocean conservation knowledge and empowering individuals to find their voice and purpose in the movement.

With a multifaceted approach to her work, Carissa serves as the driving force behind Futureswell, a platform dedicated to amplifying regenerative solutions for our planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. Through her leadership roles in various organizations and initiatives, including her work with community restoration groups and partnerships with renowned institutions like National Geographic, Carissa embodies the spirit of innovation and collaboration in the fight to protect our oceans. Her expertise in digital storytelling, project management, and science communication underscores her unwavering commitment to bridging the gap between scientific research and public engagement, offering a pathway for collective action and meaningful change.

Carissa Cabrera diving in the ocean
www.carissacabrera.com

Could you please tell us about your journey?

My story is not special, and that is why I love it. I grew up as the child of first generation immigrants from Ecuador and Hungary. We lived in a desert, and I saw the ocean a handful of times in my childhood. But my dad took me snorkeling when I was a toddler, and I was never the same after I put on that mask. I grew up wanting to learn, watching National Geographic, and begging for more ocean experiences. I wanted to study marine science at a coastal school, but my scholarship required me to stay in the desert for college. I spent four years in college taking the few marine science classes my university offered, joining an ocean club, and developing skills like education and outreach. In my first marine conservation class, I learned about oil spills, unsustainable fishing, and mass extinction. I vowed to continue my schooling to protect these ecosystems, and found myself in a master’s program in Hawai’i in my early twenties. During my graduate work, I was studying the causes of death in dolphins and whales so we could better understand their threats and help address them. During my first whale necropsy, which is essentially a dissection, we found over 50 pounds of fishing nets and other marine debris in the stomach of a pilot whale. I was 23, looking at my colleagues, realizing I cannot save these animals without standing up to the systems that are harming them. I could not protect our ocean without sharing the stories of what’s happening to them as a result of our actions. And I could not be a scientist that did not actively participate in applying solutions to heal our ocean.

What led you to transition from the realm of scientific research to the power of storytelling as a tool for ocean advocacy?

When I pursued marine science throughout my graduate schooling, I was working under the impression that a deeper understanding of our ocean would mean more action to protect it. If we understood what was at stake, we would change. I realized very quickly that scientific research without an inclusive and accessible science communication strategy does not get applied. I transitioned to education to raise awareness around threats and solutions, but also explore creative ways to bring that education to the masses. Storytelling can be entertaining, personal, emotional, or joyful, and I believe all forms of storytelling are valuable for the ocean climate movement. Our individual stories can change systems through advocacy, and connect elected officials to solutions that can change the course of our climate narrative. 

How do you see your work in ocean conservation intersecting with broader climate justice movements and initiatives?

The environmental justice leaders of our generation have raised the alarm on what intersectional activism means and changed the climate movement in a tremendous way. As our federal leaders begin to prioritize EJ in their practices, I’m particularly passionate about ensuring ocean justice initiatives are part of that conversation. Coastal communities are frontline communities, and disproportionately suffer from the impacts of the climate crisis like sea level rise, marine debris pollution, and extreme weather like hurricanes. The communities with less resources and access cannot be left behind as we adapt, mitigate, and transition within our climate future. This specific intersection is finally getting the attention it deserves, with the White House sharing its first ever Ocean Justice Strategy at COP28 in December 2023. 

You empower young women to find their unique roles in the ocean movement. What advice would you give to a teenager or someone unsure where to start?

I would say you are needed, and we all start somewhere. We are all bad at things before we are good at them. We only become more confident through practice, and we have special gifts that can benefit our movement and protect communities and our planet. Teenagers today are some of the most educated and passionate environmental advocates, and they continue to inspire me in every initiative I work in. I watch elected officials listen closely to their stories, and they serve as a reminder to our leaders of exactly who will be impacted by the decisions of today. Their participation is a powerful tool, and I would start now. I firmly believe that over half of impact work is showing up, so that would be my advice. Show up, as yourself, ready to listen and learn, and magic will happen.

Imagine you could have a conversation with the ocean itself. What would you ask, and what message do you think it would convey to humanity?

This is a powerful question, and I believe I would only have gratitude to share with the ocean itself. I wouldn’t ask anything of it, because it has already given us everything. Our ocean is what made our planet habitable, where life began, the source of our fresh air, food, and biodiversity. I would just listen to what it had to say. I imagine it would be something along the lines of, “don’t forget where you came from,” as the ocean is so often left out of our larger climate discussions. I believe it would highlight that we are losing parts of our family here on Earth, with so many species facing extinction. These are our distant cousins and relatives. As humans, our extractive practices cause great suffering to the ocean, far more than many of us realize, and I believe the ocean would let us know. 

While acknowledging the challenges, what practical steps or initiatives give you hope for a future where both ocean health and climate concerns are effectively addressed?

Personally, I carry the most hope when I’m working alongside local communities working to steward their own resources or working as part of an advocacy coalition. I fundamentally believe in a place-based approach to conservation and ocean climate solutions that is decentralized and led by the local communities that know their areas and environment the best. For example, indigenous groups that carry the wisdom of ancestral resource management should be informing planning activities for a watershed and ideally, consulting and leading the implementation. For all of us, tapping into these larger, community-based solutions is a matter of engaging with what’s going on in your specific community, and is unique. Joining a chapter meeting, attending a nonprofit event, and volunteering with a community group reminds you very quickly we are part of a movement so much bigger than individuals. 

In reference to the ocean, I find so much hope in how much nature holds the answers. We call these technically nature-based solutions, but they are the ones that are built from the natural processes our Earth has refined over millions of years and practices by the original stewards of our planet. Some of my favorites are kelp forests, regenerative ocean farming, reconnection of ridge to reef watersheds through streamflow, preservation of apex predators to balance ecosystem health top-down, and closing areas of an environment from human pressures to allow them to recover. 

We all experience fear or anxiety about the future of the planet. How do you navigate these emotions and maintain your dedication to activism and storytelling?

I view fear and anxiety about climate as part of the process. I believe they are valid, natural responses to the state of our planet and highlight our humanity. I spend time taking care of myself, feeling the full experience, and nurturing those sadder parts before coming back to my work. I spend time outside, I spend time processing with my colleagues at work, and I know what I need when something poor happens in our collective climate work. My motivation to continue doing this work is wrapped up in the need and my purpose. I never thought I would be a storyteller, I just saw a gap in ocean climate storytelling and knew we needed to fill it. We still need more ocean climate stories to integrate more perspectives into the discourse and reach our leaders. 

I am by nature a hopeful person, I want to believe the best outcome is achievable. It has taken time for me to know that sometimes, we simply did our best and it is not always enough. Last year, an enormous climate policy I’ve worked on for years died one step before passing. It was the most severe loss in my career thus far, and taught me an important lesson that taking pause is not giving up. I have an unwavering dedication to the movement, even if I take pause from my work. When you acknowledge you are part of a collective, it is easier to see that we can take time to rest and recover as our neighbors carry the movement forward. That space I gave myself enabled me to return to advocating for this solution again this year. It also reinforced my personal belief that a primary difference between which ocean climate solutions pass and which ones that don’t is whether we give up or not. 

What is your take on climate optimism?

I am more of an advocate for climate joy rather than optimism. Climate optimism describes the confidence in the successful outcome of our climate fight, which contradicts much of the IPCC data we have and continue to read each year. Progress is being made, and I believe progress will continue to be made, but I do not believe it will come from electric vehicles and carbon offsets. Rather, I believe in the slow and steady shift of our society’s values to one of connection with the environment around us, reciprocity with the nature that provides for us, and a return to the indigenous practices that sustained communities for generations. 

Climate joy celebrates the progress we are making now, and the communities working to advance that progress. It celebrates the vast potential of today’s climate solutions, and today’s people power, and today’s fight to replace extractive systems with new ones. My experience with climate wins and losses is intimate, and I experience climate grief just like my peers. The work we are doing does not come with a guarantee, but it does not mean we shouldn’t do it. Frontline communities are suffering now, the solutions exist now, and we are far more powerful together than the corporations that created this problem. There is nothing but opportunity for us. 

Can you share a heartwarming or unexpected anecdote from your experiences that captures the joy and humor amidst the challenges of ocean advocacy?

There are hundreds, but I can choose one! I shared before that a climate policy I worked on died one step before passing in 2023, and it was devastating. Part of my role in the coalition was to engage young people in the political process, teach them how bills pass into law, and empower them to testify. That group of young people stole the show at every hearing we were at. Elected officials listened to them closely, and each testimony they gained more and more confidence in their message. When the bill died, I had to share the news with the youth coalition, and I was terrified. I was met with the messages I didn’t know I needed to hear. One individual told me he left marine biology for policy because he didn’t think he could build a career, but this initiative taught him that both can work together and he can protect the ocean through policy. Another one told me they now have the toolkit to testify on bills for the rest of their lives. It really reminded me that progress looks different for everyone, and big solutions are often made up of many small steps forward. 

What’s your mantra for life?

The best has yet to come. It’s true. 

Click to find out more about Carissa Cabrera and FutureSwell.

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.

The Tale of the First-Ever Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP : An Editorial POV

The Tale of the First-Ever Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP : An Editorial POV

Remember how Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” filled us with hope, or how Mad Max: Fury Road‘s representation of a dystopian future got us thinking? That’s the incredible power of entertainment and culture – to move us, connect us, and motivate us to make a difference. And guess what? As media partners of the groundbreaking first-ever Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28 in Dubai, we witnessed this power firsthand!

Imagine 12 days pulsating with energy, packed with over 100 programming events representing 60 countries and reaching a combined audience of 22 million! The E+C Pavilion wasn’t just a space; it was a global movement in action, fueled by the diverse voices and shared passion of artists, activists, and policymakers from around the world; it was a stage where cultural icons and celebrities weren’t just name drops, but passionate advocates; where music wasn’t just background noise, but a call to action; where speeches weren’t just lectures, but heartfelt pleas for a better future. That’s what we witnessed the Pavilion offer – a space where emotions ran high, connections were made, and one truth resonated loud and clear: change is possible, and it starts with the fire in our hearts and the actions in our hands. 

The essence of this editorial is to share not just the impact of the Pavilion, but to also explore how impactful narratives can spark conversations and inspire change. Ultimately, this is my reflection on the potential of entertainment and culture to become powerful tools for positive change, a message carried by every performance, panel, and conversation that unfolded within the Pavilion’s walls.

Assessing Success: A Multifaceted Triumph

At COP28, the E+C Pavilion was a movement in action, fueled by nine key themes that intertwined like musical notes to create a powerful symphony of change. Now, in order to actually understand the impact of the pavilion, let’s explore the nine key programming themes of the pavilion and also take a trip back in time at the Cop28 blue zone, B7, Building 90 of the Expo City in Dubai, to revisit some of the incredible events(only some, because there were like over 100 of them!).

Programming themes of Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

  • Creative Economy & Narrative Impact Climate Storytelling: We witnessed incredible exhibitions showcasing diverse artwork, poetry, and stories from Southeast Asia amplifying voices and perspectives often unheard in climate discussions. Workshops like the “Climate Music Workshop: Disappearing Studio Ghibli World,” merged music education with climate awareness, empowering participants to use their creativity to address environmental challenges. Moreover, events like the Indigenous Youth Perspectives on Climate Program provided a platform for young indigenous voices, highlighting the importance of intergenerational knowledge transfer and youth leadership.

A particularly engaging installation,Storytelling with Saris’ by Monica Jahan Bose, added a unique cultural perspective to the narrative. Draping colorful handwoven sarees from Bangladesh, symbolizing sustainability, this art installation was covered with collaborative climate art and climate pledges by individuals from around the world. 

“Through this initiative, Monica 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

We talked to Climate Psychologist and Activist, Jessica Kleczka who 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
  • Intersectional Artivism: The pavilion organized film screenings highlighting experiences from communities often overlooked in climate conversations. These sparked empathy and understanding, fostering the spirit of intersectional activism. Meanwhile, discussions linking science and storytelling, like the one with Christian Clauwers on climate photography, showcased innovative approaches to raising awareness.

  • Climate Communication & Cause Marketing: Powerful films like “YOUTH v GOV Film” sparked important conversations about mental health and youth advocacy. Events like the “Time for Better Earth Disco × Hope House event” combined music, dance, and community building, reminding us that climate action can be fueled by hope and collective action.

Founder of The Climate Propagandist, Julie Mallat conducted a unique workshop called “Posters for Climate Action” where she enlightened the audience on how we can craft impactful posters for climate action and what elements contribute to persuasive design, language, and storytelling. The workshop drew from the historic roots of persuasion and explored iconic propaganda posters to equip us with the tools, insights, and inspiration to encourage the cultural rebellion we so urgently need.

Climate Propagandist Workshop at Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

  • Social Impact Entertainment & Health & Mindfulness: The Time for Better Earth Disco wasn’t just entertainment; it was a space for collective joy, hope, and a sense of shared purpose in tackling climate challenges. On a more introspective note, Amina Rahma’s poetry reading offered a space for emotional expression and reflection on the human cost of climate change, promoting mindfulness and personal connection to the issue.

Some of the coolest highlights of the E+C Pavilion at COP28 was meeting iconic musicians like Ellie Goulding, Nile Rodgers and AY Young, and witnessing how passionate they are to use their art and platform to contribute in our movement to shape a better world. 

“Music culture and art are something that can break down all the barriers and build bridges to connect every facet of humanity on every level.” – AY Young, Founder, Artist & Performer at Battery Tour Movement

  • Cultural Heritage & Audiovisual Sovereignty: We enjoyed captivating performances by Singer Yana Mann and Violinist Annabelle Ho, where artistic talent intertwined with climate awareness. Events like the Trashion Kenya Expo & Open Call for Cultural Fashion Show organized by fashion activist Habiba Abdulrahman shed light on the waste challenges in Kenya using fashion and art as powerful and creative mediums while also empowering young people from different parts of the world to showcase their beautiful cultures and heritage and advocate for sustainable practices within the fashion industry. Exhibition by Bow Seat showcased student artwork centered on climate change, amplifying youth voices through creative expression. These events highlighted the power of art to connect people to environmental issues while celebrating diverse cultural heritage.

  • Sectoral Innovation & Policy: Events like the “Amazon: The New Minamata?” Film screening and discussion offered insights into the environmental impact of certain industries and potential solutions, aligning with the theme of sectoral innovation.

Film screening at Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

At this point, it’s pretty clear that The E+C Pavilion’s work at COP28 was a powerful evidence to the potential of entertainment and culture to ignite positive change. But how does this approach compare to past COPs, and what does it tell us about the future of storytelling in climate action?

Evolution of Entertainment at COPs:

While previous COP conferences have dabbled in artistic expression, it often played a marginal role while talks and policy discussions dominated the scene. The E+C Pavilion marked a significant shift, placing entertainment and culture at the heart of the conversation. This wasn’t just about raising awareness; it was about building a community, fostering empathy, and inspiring action.

Significance of this Shift:

The E+C Pavilion’s success demonstrates the immense power of engaging audiences on an emotional level. Unlike policy papers or scientific reports, stories, music, and art have the unique ability to connect with hearts and minds, bypassing cognitive barriers and sparking deeper understanding. This shift in approach at COP28 paves the way for future conferences to harness the full potential of entertainment and culture in driving meaningful change.

COP 28 Photo

Stories and Art: The Changemakers We Didn’t Know We Needed

I see you’re still reading this, so I’m sure by now, you and I both get why songs like John Lennon’s “Imagine” or Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” echoed through history, fueling movements for peace and justice; why documentaries like “An Inconvenient Truth” or “Blackfish” ignite public outrage and policy changes around the environment and animal welfare. 

These are just a few glimpses into the vast power of stories and art. They don’t just fill us with facts; they touch our hearts, spark empathy, and push us to act. Music ignites collective action, films shed light on pressing issues, literature fosters understanding, and visual arts provoke critical thinking. I find it strikingly beautiful, how art can really change the world, one story, one song, one image at a time.

Challenges still remain.

Despite the strides, the entertainment industry isn’t exactly a superhero just yet. Let’s talk challenges and opportunities:

Access to Funding: Securing dedicated funding for climate-focused projects remains a challenge. Innovative models like impact investing and crowdfunding can offer solutions.

Greenwashing: The risk of corporations using entertainment for greenwashing needs to be addressed through stricter regulations and independent fact-checking mechanisms. We need more transparency.

Greenwashing

In a recent conversation, Founder of TUAessence, Fernanda Lopez Lima shared with us how transparency is a key theme in her vision for change in the fashion industry. 

“Differences only occur when people care. And people only care when they engage, which is only possible by learning the whole truth. Without good and real storytelling it’s impossible to create mass consciousness awareness. Therefore, the best way to change the global culture of fast consumption is to make information transparency mainstream!” – Fernanda Lopez Lima

Limited Reach: While COP28 attracted a massive audience, ensuring wider accessibility along with diverse representation in storytelling efforts remains crucial. While the E+C Pavilion actively utilized multilingual content, subtitles, and partnerships with local organizations to help bridge these gaps, climate change issues still involve jargon and a narrative that limits involvement to a specific group of people.

“This narrative needs to shift, we need to make our movements as accessible as possible and we also need to change the way we are communicating about climate change, that is more understandable, that resonates more, and draws upon people’s lived realities. Art has had and can have a huge role in helping to do this.” – Ayshka Najib, Climate Activist

But wait, there’s hope too!

Hopeful

We interviewed Max Han and Nurfatin Hamzah, the co-founders of Youths United for Earth (YUFE), Malaysia’s leading grassroots nonprofit mobilizing youths toward environmental action through storytelling, campaigns, and advocacy. Han was also one of the highlighted talents of the E+C Pavilion. Here’s what they think,

“Culture and entertainment enable us to look at the sobering reality of climate change from different perspectives while filling us with hope to keep going – even when we feel like the world is doomed. Climate change can feel complex and overwhelming, which is why some people push these thoughts aside or even deny it. But we can’t afford to do so. Culture and entertainment can break down difficult concepts in ways people can understand, regardless of language or location.”

– Max Han and Nurfatin Hamzah, the Co-founders of Youths United for Earth (YUFE)

In terms of traditional entertainment, Farzana Faruk Jhumu, Youth Advocate for UNICEF from Bangladesh, highlighted its role in creating resilience against rapid urbanization and environmental challenges. From farmers crafting songs as a source of rural entertainment to facing the climate crisis, these cultural expressions help communities cope with changes, resist urbanization, and inspire grassroots movements.

“This connection to nature, expressed through cultural activities, becomes a source of resilience, inspiring grassroots movements that emphasize the importance of culture and entertainment in shaping and sustaining our communities”

– Farzana Faruk Jhumu

So, the opportunities for overcoming those challenges and harnessing the industry’s influence are vast as well. Let’s take a look.

Collaboration: Cross-sector partnerships between artists, activists, businesses, and policymakers can leverage diverse expertise and resources for impactful storytelling. Did you notice how the E+C Pavilion championed that at COP28?

Panel event at Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

In line with the importance of collaboration in the climate and entertainment arena, Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Youth Advocate for Climate Action Philippines 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

On the other hand, Winnie Cheche, the Founder of The Eco Advocate, envisions collaborations as a tag-team match, where culture and activism amplify each other’s voices.

“The goal is also to connect with people’s hearts and minds, and to portray climate action as both relatable and cool”

– Winnie Cheche

Technology: Utilizing immersive technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality can create really powerful, interactive experiences that raise awareness and drive action.

Data-driven strategies: Tracking the impact of campaigns and gauging audience engagement can really help us maximize impact. Data helps us understand what works and what doesn’t, making future efforts even more effective. 

By addressing these challenges and embracing innovative solutions, the entertainment and culture industry can unlock its immense potential to not only raise awareness about climate change but also inspire collective action and build a more sustainable future.

My take on the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP

To be honest, from the point of view of a climate journalist who is always exposed to the doom and gloom of the climate crisis, it gets pretty overwhelming. But seeing it through the lens of art, music, and personal narratives really hit me differently. Instead of climate anxiety it gave me inspiration to act and play my part. Entertainment and culture, to me, have stopped being just distractions; they have become powerful tools for understanding, connection, and most importantly, action.

Panel talk at Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

By the time COP28 ended, I didn’t just have new information; I had a renewed sense of purpose. It wasn’t about waiting for someone else to save the day; it was about finding my own voice, my own story, and using it to contribute to the movement. Whether it’s sharing sustainable practices, supporting artists who raise awareness, or simply having honest conversations, there’s a role for everyone in this fight.

So, what’s our role in this story?

Are we content to be passive viewers, scrolling mindlessly through climate documentaries or tuning out powerful songs about environmental injustice? Or will we step onto the stage, utilizing the power of our choices and voices to rewrite the narrative? Such a revolution can only be possible when we all feel like playing our own roles effectively to make that happen. For that to happen, understanding the climate crisis from an empathetic point of view, not just from numbers and graphs and data, is needed. 

Mic on stage

“Getting this conversation started from a more human perspective is extremely important because facts have come out, scientists have come out, but it’s just not sticking. An important side to this is the human side, and I think that’s something that we can all connect on.”

– Maria Poonlertlarp, Thai-Swedish model, actress and singer

Here’s how we can play a major role in this (very real) apocalyptic movie:

Let’s Demand Change: Don’t be a silent supporter. Speak up! Contact your favorite streaming services, studios, and production companies. Let them know you demand climate-conscious content and sustainable practices throughout the industry. Share petitions, join advocacy groups, and raise awareness about greenwashing tactics. Show them that entertainment with a conscience is what the audience truly craves.

Amplify Diverse Voices: Seek out and share stories that go beyond the headlines. Support filmmakers, musicians, and artists from underrepresented communities who are using their talents to showcase the human stories behind climate change. Celebrate indigenous knowledge, highlight innovative solutions from developing nations, and give a platform to those often unheard in the mainstream narrative. Together, let’s create a richer, more diverse accumulation of voices fighting for our planet.

Panel discussion with musician Nile Rodgers at Entertainment + Culture Pavilion

Start Conversations: Climate change isn’t just a documentary topic or a social media hashtag. Make it a dinner table conversation, a watercooler chat, a casual chat with your neighbor. Share your concerns, listen to different perspectives, and encourage open dialogue. Remember, even small conversations can spark curiosity, plant seeds of change, and inspire collective action.

Remember, every action, every story shared, is a ripple in the pond, creating a wave of change. Let’s rewrite the narrative, turning entertainment from a distraction into a powerful tool for building a more sustainable future. But the most important question remains: what story will YOU tell?

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

Harmonizing Hope: Voices of Activists Amplifying the Role of Entertainment + Culture in Climate Action

Harmonizing Hope: Voices of Activists Amplifying the Role of Entertainment + Culture in Climate Action

In the worldwide effort to combat climate change, entertainment, and culture have always been influential forces in shaping perceptions and steering collective action. As COP28 kickstarted this week in Dubai, let us turn our attention to the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion, a game-changing initiative fostering collaboration, education, and inspiration for climate action. This groundbreaking initiative marks the first-ever dedicated space within the COP28 Blue Zone, exploring the dynamic intersection of Entertainment, Culture, and Climate.

Activists globally recognize the impact these aspects can have in reshaping perspectives and driving meaningful change. To dive deeper into this, let’s hear from seven activists, youth advocates, artists, and conservationists to explore the significance and interlinkage between grassroots climate activism and the realms of entertainment and culture.

Creating Resilience Through Entertainment + Culture

Farzana Faruk Jhumu, Photo by @MarieJacquemin
Farzana Faruk Jhumu, Photo by @MarieJacquemin

In terms of traditional entertainment, Farzana Faruk Jhumu, Youth Advocate for UNICEF from Bangladesh, highlighted its role in creating resilience against rapid urbanization and environmental challenges. From farmers crafting songs as a source of rural entertainment to facing the climate crisis, these cultural expressions help communities cope with changes, resist urbanization, and inspire grassroots movements.

This connection to nature, expressed through cultural activities, becomes a source of resilience, inspiring grassroots movements that emphasize the importance of culture and entertainment in shaping and sustaining our communities”

Farzana Faruk Jhumu

Marinel Sumook Ubaldo, Photo by Pau Villanueva
Marinel Sumook Ubaldo, Photo by Pau Villanueva

These underscore the profound connection between cultural activities and the resilience needed to face environmental adversities. To further emphasize the expansive influence of artists and performers, extending far beyond the stage and screen, Marinel Sumook Ubaldo, climate justice activist from the Philippines, considers integrating cultural and entertainment elements into grassroots climate activism as a dynamic and influential dimension.

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and the role of cultural icons places them in a unique position to inspire meaningful action.

Marinel Sumook Ubaldo

Increasing Accessibility in the Climate Movement

Ayshka Najib on Entertainment + Culture and Climate Action
Ayshka Najib, Photo by Pamela EA

To highlight the significance of cultural and entertainment collaborations, Ayshka Najib, Dubai-based climate Activist, reflected on the decolonization struggle of her home country, India. In her words, art, music, and culture are powerful tools in various decolonial movements, integrating music, songs, and visuals to convey emotions and narratives when words fall short. These tools serve a similar purpose in terms of climate activism, enhancing accessibility for all. She believes that climate change issues often involve jargon and a narrative that limits involvement to a specific group of people.

“This narrative needs to shift, we need to make our movements as accessible as possible and we also need to change the way we are communicating about climate change, that is more understandable, that resonates more, and draws upon people’s lived realities. Art has had and can have a huge role in helping to do this.”

Ashka Najib

Tania Roa
Tania Roa

Tania Roa, a passionate advocate for wildlife, environmental preservation, and social justice, had a similar perspective regarding the collaboration between grassroots climate activism and cultural/entertainment figures. In her opinion, this collaboration enhances storytelling, utilizing culturally meaningful stories that connect with more people, making it easier for the local community to understand the climate crisis.

“Simply by talking with people in non-environmentalist spaces, you can show others how the climate crisis affects them, their passions, goals, careers, and livelihoods. That’s when more people take action, and we need as many people as possible to create the greener, more just future we’re working towards.”

Tania Roa

Inspiring Actions and Bringing Changes Through Entertainment + Culture

Lamech Opiyo
Lamech Opiyo

The collaboration of activism and entertainment can be a powerful tool for inspiring action. Apart from visibility and awareness in climate activism, Lamech Opiyo, an environmentalist from Kenya, believes it can also create a shared sense of community and collaboration. They provide platforms for youth engagement, attracting large audiences through the influential figures of the cultural and entertainment spheres.

“Through high-profile collaborations and partnerships, this can attract the attention of policymakers and leaders, therefore influencing them to take more decisive action on climate issues.”

Lamech Opiyo

He also added that collaboration with cultural and entertainment figures can enhance fundraising efforts for grassroots movements through celebrity endorsements and participation in events to attract sponsors, donors, and philanthropists who may be more inclined to support a cause that has the backing of well-known personalities. 

Winnie Cheche
Winnie Cheche

On the other hand, Winnie Cheche, the Founder of The Eco Advocate, envisions collaborations as a tag-team match, where culture and activism amplify each other’s voices.

“The goal is also to connect with people’s hearts and minds, and to portray climate action as both relatable and cool”.

Winnie Cheche

Winnie believes that artists and performers’ voices can carry weight beyond the stage, acting as a tool for fostering a collective commitment to a more sustainable and harmonious world. 

In terms of cultural norms, Katharina Maier, the National Coordinator of Fridays for Future-USA considers collaborations to be shaping public discourse, influencing decision-makers, and contributing to a world where eco-friendly choices are the norm.

Artists and performers wield significant influence in shaping public perceptions, emotions, and attitudes – giving them a unique power to transform climate action from a scientific or political discourse into a cultural movement that resonates with people on a deep, emotional level. This cultural shift is essential for building a sustainable and eco-conscious global society.”

Katharina Maier

In the global movement to fight climate change, a powerful synergy emerges when grassroots climate activism, entertainment, and culture unite. From the songs of local communities to global performances, artists and cultural figures do more than entertain – they inspire. As we navigate towards a sustainable future, these collaborations light the way, encouraging us all to commit to a more harmonious and eco-friendly world that we all dream of. 

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.

From Discounts to Detriments: Holiday Influence of Fast Fashion and Remedies

From Discounts to Detriments: Holiday Influence of Fast Fashion and Remedies

Adding to a cart is one of the most fulfilling clicks in most of our lives. Especially when there is a 70% off sale on Shein, and with Black Friday coming up in a few short weeks, fashion brands like H&M and Zara will be sure to give the people what they want – clearance sales, and major discounts. The holiday season means new outfits to buy, and matching family sweaters to seek out – clothes have always been such a primal part of the celebration, but also everyday life.  

But how often do we really stop to think before clicking “Add to Cart?” Serious questions like – how is this brand offering such a huge percentage off for the holiday season and still making profits? If they are not making profits, then why are they running their business? If they are making profits even after those significant discounts, how cheap are these clothes? What is the secret behind such low prices of these clothes – are the materials used in these clothes cheap or low-quality? If these materials are below quality, how long will we be able to use them – is it a good investment? What will happen to these clothes made from low-quality materials after we won’t be able to use them anymore? If the materials are not low-quality, then how come the prices are so cheap? If you are someone who thinks these are serious or at least interesting questions to be asked, then you are in the right place. It’s time to learn about fast fashion before clicking “Add to Cart” this holiday season. So, buckle up and brace yourself. 

A girl struggling with her piles of excessive clothing in her closet

What is fast fashion? 

Fast fashion is a phenomenon that has been noticed over the past 30 years, one that spread globally and quickly. According to the UN, fast fashion is a business model “of quick turnover, high volume, and cheap prices.” It is basically where fashion brands – to keep up with current trends and styles – mass produce their items at a low manufacturing cost to supply high demand. Fast fashion has been a booming industry since the late 1900s and the early 2000s, and these retailers include Zara, H&M, and Shein.  

What customers usually notice is that clothing items in fast fashion brands are relatively cheap, with a magnitude of vast options.  

Why does fast fashion exist? 

Shopping for clothes was once considered an event. This means that people would save up throughout the year and purchase new clothes at specific times. Style-conscious people would be well aware of the latest trends and designs through the fashion shows that showcased clothing pieces months before they were available in stores. People were used to shopping for clothes once or twice per year, in the regard that it was an occasion. 

However, in the late 1900s, that began to change. Shopping quickly changed into a form of entertainment and leisure, which consequently meant that people bought clothes more often, at a higher pace. This was what set off the concept of fast fashion – retailers could mass-produce clothing pieces at low prices, which made consumers feel they were up to date with the latest trends in real time. Fast fashion items were never made with the intention of lasting multiple years or wears – its goal was to manufacture cost-effective clothing directly satisfying the shifting demands of the consumer.  

A woman looking at a store showing their items on sale

The fashion industry is one of the largest working industries globally, with a value of 2.5 trillion dollars, providing employment for over 75 million people worldwide, as stated by UNECE. In theory, and from pure definition, fast fashion sounds harmless – a company is mass-producing clothes, for a cheaper price, which people can afford. If anything, this can be seen as a strategy that grants people easier access to clothes due to their affordable price. However, the consequences of fast fashion are ones that aren’t easy to notice, but hard to ignore. Fast fashion directly contributes to waste colonialism and exploitive labor practices – which consumers are unaware of during their purchases.  

How does fast fashion negatively affect the environment? 

Alright, so what about clothes during the holiday season? According to USA Facts, clothing, and accessory retailers have the highest jumps in sales during the holiday season. Statista found that in 2022 47% of Gen Z purchased new fashion items for themselves to wear on Christmas, while Millennials were at an astounding 50%. This shows that there is a high intent for purchase and paired with the high discounts available in fast-fashion brands, it explains why people tend to buy more new clothes during the holiday season. Since fast fashion utilizes low-quality fabrics, that means the clothes purchased during the holiday season would have a life span of only a few months – and when that life span is over, people do what they always do when something has served its purpose – they throw it away.  

A poster that says 'the cost of fast fashion'

Fast fashion relies on a business model that depends on “recurring consumption and impulse buying, instilling a sense of urgency when purchasing.” This business model has clearly succeeded, with global consumption rising to 62 million tons of apparel per year, and by 2030, it is expected to reach 102 million tons.  

Fast Fashion’s Global Impact 

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation – a UNEP partner – estimates that a truckload of abandoned textiles is discharged into landfills or incinerated every second. This is why it is estimated that people are buying 60% more clothes and wearing them for half as long. According to The Business Insider, 85% of all textiles go to dumps every year. The textiles in landfills have the capacity to contaminate soil. Countries such as Uganda, with high rates of agriculture and farmers, export contaminated food and resources to other countries. This can lead to major health risks and dangers, alongside negative side effects to animals and plants in their ecosystems.  

This means that fast fashion contributes directly to waste colonialism. Most fast fashion exports are from developing countries across Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Cambodia etc. This means that the Global South is not only the one with the highest production of fast fashion but is also the one that suffers its consequences the most after it gets thrown out. The BBC reported in 2022 that more than half of the clothes imported to Chile end up in the Atacama Desert. On Jamestown Beach, located in Accra – Ghana’s capital – you must walk between mountains of shoes, pants, and tattered t-shirts. These used textiles come from Western countries and Asia to be dumped and dealt with in Ghana. 

At the fishing port of Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on February 19, 2023. The beach is littered with used clothes from industrialized countries that arrive there every week. 
At the fishing port of Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on February 19, 2023. The beach is littered with used clothes from industrialized countries that arrive there every week. JEAN-FRANÇOIS FORT / HANS LUCAS

These discharged textiles contribute to microplastics found in the water, which can then affect marine food chains – which means that the Ghanaian people eat contaminated fish. Discharged textiles are often brought into the Global South without warning, leaving them to deal with methods to get rid of these clothes. Because the quality is so low, merchandisers can’t even sell discharged textiles – therefore, it is another burden of waste that they are responsible for getting rid of, or facing the consequences it brings – most of the time, it is both. 

Fast Fashion and Climate Change 

Besides the littering and waste of fast fashion, it directly affects global warming. Producing clothes requires natural resources, which emit greenhouse gases. According to the UN, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, surpassing aviation and shipping industries combined. The World Bank suggests that global clothing sales are to increase to 65% by 2030. A higher percentage in global sales indicates more discharged textiles to deal with – putting even more pressure on the Global South to manage the waste provided by the Global North.  

Consumer Awareness 

Some may argue that the average consumer isn’t aware of the negative connotations that come with fast fashion. According to Nayab Sohail, a Pakistani Slow Fashion ambassador, consumers must be educated about the issues fast fashion causes. Once consumers are educated on the link between fast fashion and climate change, that would allow for a change in their approach towards fast fashion.  Merlina Carolina, the Global Creative Lead of the Slow Fashion Movement and founder of Slow Fashion El Salvador, believes that the average consumer is “so caught up in routine and system that they probably don’t have the energy to question or consciously think about how the environment works.” 

Conscious consumers

Others argue that consumers are aware – to a small degree – of the link between fast fashion and the environment. Grace Kemp, another ambassador of the Slow Fashion Movement, believes that a “majority of people” are aware of the impact fast fashion has on the environment. Kemp claims that because of the sudden uprise of “green” campaigns in recent years, this must correlate to the level of awareness existing amongst consumers.  

How can you reduce your fashion footprint? 

Kemp mentioned how people might be aware of the negative link between fast fashion and the environment; however, they feel as though “it is too big for them to be able to do anything, so they carry on.” The typical solution to fast fashion has always been slow fashion. But slow fashion brands are usually expensive – the biggest disadvantage that fast fashion solves.  

Even then, there are solutions to fast fashion that don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Karen James Welton, a slow fashion stylist, advises to wear what you own. Purchasing clothing pieces for the sake of a current, temporary trend usually means it won’t be worn again. Welton also advises shopping vintage and second-hand. Swapping clothes with your family members and friends, or borrowing clothes isn’t shameful in any way – it is a direct solution to make sure you aren’t buying too many clothes. Kristīne Čeirāne, an ambassador’s coordinator of the Slow Fashion Movement, says, “The most sustainable wardrobe is the one people already have. Look after your clothes and wear them for as long as you can. The greenest purchase is the one you didn’t make.” Welton also recommends that for new purchases, you save up for investment pieces that you will be able to wear for years. Timeless, classic pieces that will always look good regardless of the current trend going around.  

A girl wearing a green dress dancing in a lush green field

A Joint Effort for a Sustainable Future 

The solution to fast fashion isn’t reserved for individual consumers only. The UN initiated the #ActNow Fashion Challenge, which aims to show individuals and industries how to improve the environmental impact that fashion leaves. Limiting and decreasing the carbon footprint that the fashion industry leaves is a key factor in reducing global warming, which is why NGOs have pointed out fast fashion’s harmful business model. Greenpeace and other groups have urged the sector to slow down the trend of mass-producing clothes that are thrown away so quickly. In COP-27 in Egypt, the fashion sector did promise a net-zero carbon footprint, but giant clothing retailers still struggle to manage their own emissions, considering the high demand for fast fashion now.  

It is essential that there is a joint effort – between the consumer and the industry – to work towards a less wasteful, more sustainable style of fashion. Looking good and trendy shouldn’t have to come at the cost of the environment. There is work towards sustainable fashion, and as long as there is work, there is always a way.  

The holiday season doesn’t need to be ugly for everybody. You can still look wonderful in the clothes you have – maybe styling it differently will give it a new look! Remember the consequences of clicking “Add to Cart” from a fast fashion brand – no one should spend their holiday season struggling through mountains of discharged clothes for the sake of fashion. 

Waste Colonialism: Modern Day Imperialism 

Waste Colonialism: Modern Day Imperialism 

Waste colonialism hasn’t been a new topic of discussion. With the term itself coined in 1989, waste colonialism remains very much alive in our modern age. Post COP-27, with the establishment of the loss and damage fund, it begs the question of whether waste colonialism is to have its own talks and implementations.

What is waste colonialism?

Dumpsite

Waste colonialism refers to the movement of waste past sovereign borders, particularly from privileged and influential countries to lesser privileged and influential countries. The term “colonialism” is used to signify historical colonial relationship dynamics, and some argue that waste colonialism is considered as an extension of imperial colonialism. According to Lamech Opiyo, a Kenyan environmentalist, waste colonialism usually stems from “developed countries with huge multinational industries” with high rates of production, and exploit developing countries with these exports.

This is because the key concepts of colonialism are reinforced: (a) forced entry into a territory and its population (b) alteration or destruction of the indigenous culture and patterns of social organisation (c) domination of the indigenous population by representatives of the invading society and (d) justification of such activities with highly prejudicial, racist beliefs, and stereotypes.

Plastic waste colonialism is the output of plastic waste being moved to borders outside of its manufacturing site. Opiyo added that plastic waste colonialism is when “developed countries are trying to downpour and exploit developing countries by their waste – in this case, plastic waste.” According to the UN, 400 million tons of plastic is being produced annually. Plastic has been identified as the fastest growing material since the 1970s, and most of the plastic waste found in oceans and landfills is single use. 85% of plastic packaging ends up in landfills, which leads to the concept of plastic waste colonialism. Incidents of plastic waste colonialism have been no secret over the past two decades. Statistics from Eurostat showcase that the EU alone has exported 1.1 million tons of plastic waste in 2021. The European Parliament stated that around half of all the collected plastic for recycling is shipped elsewhere, with Turkey being the number one receiver.

A mountain of waste in a waste dumping site

Why does waste colonialism happen?

It became evident that the reasons as to why waste colonialism occurs is because of the benefits involved in partaking in it. “Most of these developed countries find it very cheap.” Opiyo stated, with respect as to how plastic waste colonialism is cheaper to execute than to regulate domestically. It was also found that there are economic benefits to importing waste – which outweighs the societal and environmental harm it causes. Developing nations willingly – and at times unwillingly – get foreign waste across their borders for monetary compensation. A study by the World Bank has found that the amount of urban solid waste has increased by 70% and is expected to go from 1.3 billion tons/year to 2.2 billion tons by 2025. This would raise global annual costs to $375 billion from $205 billion.

This global increase in cost will happen most severely in cities of low-income countries. Plastic waste colonialism has made the movement of plastic from developed nations to developing nations a “business” that allows for the cheapest method of waste management with the highest consequence for nations that accept that waste. African and Asian countries are the ones that receive plastic waste from the Global North, with an exception to China. After the Chinese decision to no longer accept foreign waste, developed nations dumped approximately 1 billion tons of plastic waste into Senegal and Kenya a year after that decision.

It is no secret that it’s “relatively poor and marginalised” groups of people who suffer the most because of plastic waste colonialism, as said by Opiyo. According to Green Peace, plastic industries persuaded developing countries that the dumping of plastics could be an attempt to solve the present unemployment. However, it fails to be a sustainable solution to unemployment, and has more severe consequences – one of which correlates to environmental justice.

Photo of an african marginalized child

Plastic waste colonialism only adds to the issue of plastic waste that developing countries are already trying to combat. Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, generates over 2,400 tonnes of waste – a fifth of which is plastic, as reported by The Guardian. With the massive amounts of plastic waste that need to be regulated, it has introduced end-of-pipe technological solutions, which often have more negative consequences than positive ones. According to Gaia, an international environmental organisation, these solutions create severe health implications for workers, communities, and citizens by releasing exponential amounts of greenhouse gases, toxic air pollutants, dangerous ashes, and other hazardous materials. This excess plastic waste can negatively affect countries with regards to public health, economy, and sustainability – which is precisely why multiple policies have been introduced to combat plastic waste colonialism.

What has been done officially to combat plastic waste colonialism?

The Basel Convention – formally known as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal – is an international treaty signed in 1989. It was done to reduce the transfer of hazardous waste from developed countries to developing countries. The intention of the convention was to improve the socio-environmental aspects of the waste transferred, and to assist developing countries in the management of these wastes. As of May 2023, there are 191 parties within the convention; however, Hati and the USA have signed the convention without ratifying it.

In May of 2019, multiple countries have amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste. This was done in wake of the discovery of 100 million metric tons of plastic found in the world’s ocean. The USA opposed this amendment; however, export shipment from the US is considered as “criminal traffic as soon as the ships get on high seas,” as stated by the Basel Action Network (BAN), with the shipments being subject to liability. Opiyo mentioned how there are so many policies and regulations present against plastic waste colonialism, but aren’t being implemented. Opiyo reiterates that policies are required to regulate the amount of waste that is being exported to developing countries, and the gap that is present between the actualisation of these regulations sets them back.

What can you do to combat waste colonialism?

Dumpsite in sunset

Awareness is a key factor in the fight against plastic waste colonialism. As simple as it sounds, regular citizens need to be aware that the recycling of plastic that they think they are participating in isn’t as straightforward as it seems. German citizens in 2019 were shocked to find their recycled plastic waste all the way in Turkey in 2020, as reported by The Guardian.

Opiyo emphasises that efforts in raising awareness towards waste colonialism should be consistent, and in the scope of an individual. Individual households should start prioritising their waste management, and move towards implementing a circular economic lifestyle. A circular economy refers to a model of production and consumption that revolves around using and reusing existing materials for as long as possible. The decision to become more sustainable should root from an individualistic level, with the priorities being set in line with that. Opiyo mentioned how awareness campaigns – even on social media – could impact different policies with regards to waste colonialism, considering that the biggest impacts start with the accumulation of small actions.

The attempt at being eco-friendly directly affects the products that are present within a household, which reinforces the idea that sustainability starts at home. The ability to influence other individuals to be eco-friendly can create a collective effort – consisting of the government, NGOs, international organisations, businesses etc. – to promote waste management practices. Opiyo states that awareness is key to creating a more “equitable and eco-friendly environment towards managing waste.”

Shaping Narratives, Inspiring Change: An Interview with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational

Shaping Narratives, Inspiring Change: An Interview with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational

In a world where stories have the remarkable ability to spark change, Lensational, an organization at the forefront of empowering women through photography, stands as a beacon of hope. We had the privilege of sitting down with Lydia Wanjiku, the passionate and visionary CEO of Lensational, to delve into her journey and explore the transformative power of visual storytelling.

In this captivating interview, Lydia Wanjiku takes us on her personal and professional journey, from her discovery of Lensational to her current role as CEO. With a background in both development and photojournalism, Lydia offers a unique perspective on the intersection of these two fields and how they shape Lensational’s approach to empowering women through photography.

Get ready to embark on a journey through the lens, as we dive deep into the inspiring world of visual storytelling with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational. Discover the transformative power of photography, the untapped potential of marginalized voices, and the role each of us can play in shaping a brighter, more sustainable future.

Lydia, tell us your backstory and the journey you took to become the CEO of Lensational.

Following my Passions

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to do things that I feel passionate about and this was the same for whichever career I would decide to pursue. After completing my undergraduate degree in Business and Innovation Technology, I didn’t immediately enter the workforce. I wanted to ensure that I made a well-informed decision about my future. However, this decision was challenging, as my traditional upbringing emphasized pursuing conventional career opportunities solely based on having a degree. My father was not pleased with my choices during that time, and to alleviate the pressure, I took up various jobs.

One of these jobs was in the fashion industry, an area that still captivates my interest today. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, fashion is intricately linked to storytelling, which is a fundamental aspect of all my passions. Subsequently, I worked in technology as a project lead, and it was during this period that I discovered Lensational.

Discovering Lensational

While searching online for photography storytelling jobs, I came across a tweet by Hivos Awards, which highlighted an organization empowering women through photography. Lensational recently received a social innovation award. Intrigued, I visited Lensational’s website and found an opening for a curation manager position. Although the role required someone based in London, where the headquarters were located, I applied nonetheless. Bonnie, the founder of Lensational, offered me the opportunity to volunteer as a program manager in Kenya. It was an incredible opportunity since Lensational had yet to establish a presence in Africa.

Volunteering and Partnering with IFAW

Initially, I contributed to Lensational on a voluntary basis until 2018 when we formed a partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Faye Cuevas, the Vice President at IFAW at the time (now a member of our Board of Directors), had pioneered an innovative approach involving indigenous Maasai women in conservation efforts within their communities. We partnered to explore how photography could facilitate meaningful participation for these women. This partnership required my full-time commitment, so I dedicated myself exclusively to volunteering at Lensational. Working closely with Faye provided me invaluable insight into the systems and processes of a large organization like IFAW. At the time, I never envisioned becoming CEO, but my keen eye for detail allowed me to observe these aspects which have come in handy in my current role.

Building Programs and Gaining Valuable Insights

The women I worked with spoke a language I don’t speak, necessitating the use of translators. This challenged me to think critically about how best to deliver effective training. Every session became an opportunity to provide feedback to Lensational, aiding in the improvement of our delivery methods and measurement of social impact. Although I believe this pilot partnership could have been more successful with the knowledge we now possess, the experience laid the foundation for our subsequent program achievements, gaining significant recognition.

The partnership continued for approximately a year and a half, but I began yearning for financial independence. This posed a dilemma for me since I still possessed an immense passion for Lensational and saw its untapped potential. Leaving to pursue a job that provided a steady income bothered me greatly. When I discussed this with Bonnie, she offered me a full-time position as Programs Director in 2020. This opportunity coincided with Lensational’s shift in strategy, adopting a bottom-up approach and increased involvement in training programs. Being closely involved with one of our most active programs granted me valuable insights into program management.

Navigating Challenges and Shaping Strategic Direction

As you are aware, 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were unable to run any programs and faced financial hardships. During this period, I proposed utilizing our downtime to focus on programming. This involved evaluating our past programs, identifying areas for improvement, and enhancing our curriculum, which directly influenced program delivery. Unbeknownst to me, I was unintentionally influencing the overall strategic direction of Lensational through my programming work. This led to some friction with the CEO, who is also the founder, as well as the board of directors. However, during an Innovation Bootcamp with the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator, I had the opportunity to present my work. Bonnie happened to witness my presentation and was deeply moved by its impact. Shortly after, she messaged me, expressing her newfound appreciation for my vision.

From Programs Director to CEO

After a few months, Bonnie approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming the CEO of Lensational. I eagerly accepted the position, which I officially assumed on International Women’s Day in March 2021. The rest, as they say, is history.

Can you tell us more about Lensational and how it came to be?

In the early 90s, in Hong Kong: A Struggle and a Revelation

In the early 1990s, in the vibrant city of Hong Kong, a young girl named Bonnie Chiu resided with her grandmother, Lin Fa. Their modest life was a constant reminder of the struggles Lin Fa had endured after fleeing her home in Medan, Indonesia, during an anti-Chinese conflict. As Bonnie listened to her grandmother’s harrowing tales of survival and the challenges she faced in making ends meet, she realized the importance of preserving these stories for future generations. Driven by her grandmother’s illiteracy, Bonnie recognized that without her own active participation, these powerful stories would remain untold. This profound experience ignited a passion within Bonnie to uplift women who shared similar backgrounds.

An Encounter in Turkey: Unleashing the Power of Photography

In 2012, Bonnie embarked on a journey to Turkey, where an unexpected encounter would shape her future path. While exploring Istanbul’s magnificent palace, Bonnie found herself capturing precious moments with her friends. In a serendipitous turn of events, four Turkish girls approached her, requesting assistance in taking photographs and learning the art. A deep connection quickly formed between Bonnie and these girls. Later, as Bonnie interacted with them through social media, she discovered something remarkable. The captions accompanying their photographs defied the stereotypes often associated with Muslim women. This revelation sparked Bonnie’s realization of the immense potential of photography as a universal language capable of transcending words, geography, and cultural barriers.

A Vision Takes Shape: Lensational is Born

Drawing from her own travel experiences and the shared stories of women she encountered along the way, Bonnie developed a profound understanding of women as powerful agents of change and the custodians of countless untold stories. Fueled by her unwavering determination to amplify these voices, Bonnie founded Lensational in 2013. The organization’s core mission was twofold: to provide women with the necessary skills in visual storytelling and to create income-generating opportunities for low-income community women in regions such as Asia and Africa. Lensational achieved this by showcasing and selling their powerful images, as well as securing commissioned assignments for these talented photographers.

Through the power of photography, Lensational has continued on this transformative journey, championing women’s empowerment and amplifying their stories to the world.

You have authored a curriculum on photography storytelling for climate action. How can visual storytelling help inspire action on climate change?

Photography in visual storytelling is a very powerful tool to inspire action on climate change by conveying the urgency, impact, and human dimension of the issue.

One way is by evoking emotions. Climate change is still seen as a distant and abstract problem, especially for people who are not directly affected. Photography can bridge this gap by capturing compelling images that evoke emotions such as empathy, compassion, and concern. By showcasing the human and environmental impacts of climate change, powerful images can engage viewers on a deeper level and motivate them to take action.

Closely connected to that is raising awareness. When events and stories related to climate change are visually captured, they bring attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as the melting of glaciers, the destruction of ecosystems, or the displacement of communities due to rising sea levels. There are people who without seeing what’s happening in the world would never believe that climate change is an issue.

Photography also puts a human face on climate change by capturing the lived experiences of individuals and communities affected by its consequences. By showing the real people behind the statistics and highlighting their struggles, hopes, and resilience, photography storytelling helps create a personal connection and fosters empathy. This personalization of the issue makes it more relatable and motivates people to take action. This additionally amplifies the voices of marginalized communities, indigenous peoples, and activists who are on the front lines of climate change and gives them a platform to speak for themselves.

Last but not least is showcasing positive examples and solutions. While it is essential to depict the challenges posed by climate change, photography also highlights positive examples and solutions which in addition to giving hope encourage individuals and communities to adopt sustainable practices and support climate-friendly initiatives.

Related: Lensational Climate Warriors: Maasai Women Inspiring Change through Art

You have a background in both development and photojournalism. How have these two fields influenced your approach to leading Lensational?

I find myself standing at the crossroads of two starkly contrasting realities. On one hand, I have the privilege of closely working with underserved communities, affording me an intimate understanding of their realities and lived experiences. On the other hand, I also have the privilege of comprehending the inner workings of development systems and processes, particularly in programming and implementation. What I’ve observed is that despite the goodwill of policymakers to connect with underserved communities, a significant disconnect persists, lacking a common language through which they can communicate and merge their aspirations.

As documentary photographers and photojournalists, we bear the responsibility of bridging this gap. In the realm of photojournalism, documentary work, and development, however, there exists a prevalent tendency to approach underrepresented communities with preconceived notions about what their issues are and how their stories should be told. Often, we evaluate their circumstances through our own lens and determine the narrative angle that should be emphasized, inadvertently misrepresenting them.

By solely focusing on challenges, communities naturally yearn to understand how their situation will improve, which may lead to disappointment if tangible solutions are not presented.

Occupying this intersection has continually challenged me to explore avenues for these two entities to find common ground. Through our experiences working with these communities, I have come to recognize their desire for active participation in shaping how they are portrayed and the role played by development practitioners. At Lensational, we are currently investigating how the women we train can foster collaboration and active participation within the communities they document, even if it involves their own communities.

Our current approach prioritizes including the voices and perspectives of the communities themselves, allowing them to actively participate in the storytelling process. This shift fosters a more accurate representation of their experiences, challenges, and triumphs. By showcasing their resilience, resourcefulness, and agency, we not only empower them but also contribute to a more balanced and authentic narrative that transcends the confines of the victim label.

Lensational works in a range of diverse contexts locally and internationally. Can you share a specific project or experience that has been particularly impactful or meaningful to you?

It is so hard to narrow this down, however, I will say that taking part in in-person training with our photographers interacting with their communities is an experience that is forever transforming me.

Lensational has a focus on amplifying the voices of women. In your opinion, why is it important to elevate the perspectives of women in conversations and decision-making around sustainable development and climate action?

Women make up approximately half of the global population, and their experiences, knowledge, and ideas are essential for creating comprehensive and inclusive solutions. By tapping into their voices we ensure that the perspectives of all segments of society are taken into account, promoting diversity and avoiding the marginalization of certain groups.

Women also have unique insights and knowledge. They play key roles in resource management, agriculture, and community development, which are critical areas for addressing climate change and promoting sustainable practices. By including their perspectives, we tap into a wealth of expertise and foster innovation in tackling environmental challenges.

According to you, what is the role of storytelling and media in creating social change and driving sustainable development/climate action?

Stories form our perceptions of different things. When we think of a particular country for instance, a particular mental image immediately comes to mind based on the stories we hear and see essentially in the media. I firmly believe that every individual has a role to play in sustainable development and climate action, regardless of how small it may seem. However, when we lack proper information about the reality of what is happening, we are unable to effectively fulfill our roles. Hence, the media and storytelling assume a critical role and in my honest opinion, as one of the key players in driving climate action and sustainable development.

How do you define success? 

This is a very tough question! I think success is very personalized and I feel that I’m still working on defining what success means to me.

As a leader in the sustainable development field, what advice would you give to individuals or organizations looking to make a positive impact in their communities?

Having a clear purpose is essential for individuals or organizations looking to make a positive impact in their communities. It provides a guiding light and a sense of direction. Equally important is the active engagement and involvement of communities in the pursuit of that purpose. By including community members in decision-making processes, valuing their perspectives, and addressing their needs, a more inclusive and sustainable approach can be achieved. Together, with a shared purpose and engaged communities, we can create meaningful and lasting change in our communities.

What’s your mantra for life? 

I am intent on knowing and becoming the best and highest version of myself. That’s the mantra I live by.

How can others be involved with you and Lensational?

There are many ways to get involved with us. We are in the process of raising funds for a number of projects and we want to break the idea that philanthropy is the purview of billionaires by inviting individuals with which amount of giving they may have to be part of a greater course. More information on the projects to give to can be found on our website.

We are always looking for new talent to join our team and information about available positions can also be found on our website.

Find Lydia and learn more about her work at Lensational.

This is 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.

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