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Posted on 2022-11-05

A COP Refresher and What to Expect at COP27

Climate action is top of mind for many countries around the world. With the UN SDGs and the excellent work of on-the-ground organizations as waymarkers, we’re taking baby steps towards climate-positive factors like clean energy and restoration. 

However, the more we come together, the better we’re able to pool our resources and make larger-scale changes. For the last three decades, the United Nations has been bringing nations together in international climate conferences. The COPs, or Conference of the Parties, represent the world’s greatest opportunity to rein in climate change. 

This year’s COP27 is happening from the 6th to the 18th of November and is hosted by Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh. But before we dive into what is special about this one, let’s have a refresher on the Conference of the Parties.

All about COP (Conference of the Parties)

In the Conference of the Parties, the term “parties” describes countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As of today, there are 197 signatories to this 1994 convention (196 countries and the EU). It is in charge of directing the Convention so that it may address both national and international needs pertaining to climate change.

The historic Paris Agreement was created as a result of the Conference of the Parties that took place in Paris in 2015. Known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, countries pledged to submit national plans stating how much they will reduce their emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Every five years, they committed to reviewing and updating the strategy to reflect their current ambitions. 

While a whole host of topics are discussed at the COP, climate change mitigation, adaptation to climate change effects, and financial support to developing countries disproportionately affected by climate change are often top priority items on the agenda. 

A refresher on COP26

Last year, Glasgow, Scotland, hosted the 26th Conference of the Parties. After overshooting the deadline by a day, the Parties finally agreed on the Glasgow Climate Pact, which contained a promise to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and to “phase down” coal power. At COP26, the Paris rulebook was also completed, opening the door for trading carbon emissions under Article 6. 

However, many climate activists were disappointed that COP26 did not sufficiently address another vital requirement: a financing mechanism that would speed up the availability of financial help from developed nations in the battle against the long-term harm climate change has caused.

What is special about COP27?

The 27th meeting of the Conference of the Parties will bring together 198 members of the convention to once again discuss where we are on climate change and collectively decide on action points.

COP27 is critical because it follows the solemn finding that we are not at all on track to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC report states that emissions have increased more than ever in the last ten years despite the need for immediate action. The repercussions of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have added further barriers on the road to decarbonization and global climate cooperation.

As the first global climate event in the wake of these catastrophes, COP27 holds great potential and much pressure on its shoulders. Many climate change activists and entrepreneurs are also looking at pushing the loss and damage finance agenda this time around since COP26 did not deliver on this front, and said

“[Countries] need dedicated loss and damage support – separate and additional to finance for adaptation and mitigation.” — Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland.

“Our territories contribute the least to the climate crisis, yet we pay the ultimate price for our world’s carbon addiction.” — Conrod Hunte, Antigua and Barbuda’s UN Ambassador.

South Asian countries are backing this talking point as they have seen some of the worst effects of climate change this year. At least 33 million people in Pakistan have been impacted by catastrophic flooding, resulting in losses of at least USD 10 billion. Similar flooding destroyed the homes and lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh and North-east India earlier this year. At COP27, we can expect vulnerable states to put pressure on developed countries to make loss and damage support a priority during negotiations.

In general, however, the Egyptian COP27 Presidency has defined critical overarching goals for the conference. They are:

Mitigation

All parties will be asked to adopt “bold and rapid actions” and reduce emissions to keep global warming well below two °C, especially those in a position to “lead by example.”

Adaptation

Achieve “critically needed progress” at COP27 to help the world’s most vulnerable populations and improve climate change resilience.

Finance

Make considerable strides in the area of climate finance, particularly delivering the annual $100 billion in aid promised to developing nations.

Collaboration

Encourage “inclusive and active participation from all parties” because the UN negotiations are consensus-based.

Key areas to watch during COP27

According to the World Economic Forum, we can expect high-priority areas to be extensively covered during COP27. They include:

Nature

COP26 saw the shaping of unprecedented multi-stakeholder cooperation to preserve and regenerate nature, including forests and oceans. It is hoped that progress will continue by leaps and bounds during COP27. The Nature Pavilion, in particular, will serve as a key focal point for these multistakeholder alliances.

Industry decarbonization

We can expect the spotlight to shine on materials needed to create low-carbon, climate-resilient cities. This is a particularly critical issue because the global East and South are currently experiencing an unprecedented wave of globalization.

Water

The Egyptian COP leadership has water security as one of its top priorities. There have also been other water-related crises in the last few years, including floods and heavy rain. We can anticipate that this will be one of COP27’s main focal areas.

Food

Agri-commodity prices have increased sharply as a result of the food crisis, which has been made worse by constrained supply chains, the conflict in Ukraine, and rising energy costs. How we scale the solutions necessary to fulfill our expanding food demand while maintaining climate resilience will be a key topic at COP27 and the focal point at the Food Systems Pavilion.

The final word 

We are on the precipice of one of the most important climate conversations. It’s an opportune time to pick up the slack on climate change mitigation efforts at a local and individual level, to create waves of influence too powerful to ignore. EcoMatcher is a staunch believer that, in our ways and at community and organizational levels, we can all contribute to a better planet. 

Posted on 2022-10-13

Creativity, Arts, and Climate Action

More individuals must take climate action to address the climate catastrophe. However, not everyone feels comfortable participating in the climate discourse. Jargon, gate-kept whitepapers, or conferences exclusively open to members of a particular class, age group, or social standing slow things down. This is paradoxical since everyone is impacted by climate change, yet those most at risk are frequently not present.

We must act differently, more effectively, and promptly to maintain a resilient and habitable world. Despite growing consensus that education must alter to combat climate change, the question lingers: how do we do that? How do we take an upsetting, sometimes abstract, and very complex concept and make it into something people of all ages and walks of life can understand? 

The arts and humanities have untapped and underutilized potential in this regard. Why is that?

What arts can bring to the table

It has long been recognized that art can change society, and arouse emotions of compassion, hope, and duty. The visual, performing, and musical arts can offer areas for imaginative creativity, experimentation, and perspective-taking. Our future imaginations can be expanded with the aid of artistic and creative activities and methods, which can help us become more receptive to many scenarios of change.

Harking back to the famous phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, art can add to the narrative on climate change and extend how far and wide it reaches. To borrow from the Creative Responses to Sustainability. Singapore Guide:

“To influence human behaviors, we must go beyond communicating climate change science. The creative and cultural approach to climate change has proved very effective since it speaks to people on an engaging, human, accessible, critical, or fun level. Arts and culture have proved to be effective tools to advance new ideas and influence social norms. Critical engagement from the creative sector is complementary to the engagement of business, science, and industry.”

How can art and creativity contribute to climate action?

According to a pioneering research paper by Julia Bentz, climate change and art can interact in three ways.

Climate change in art

This is where art becomes a form of communication and climate change, the subject. Illustrations, paintings, videos, documentaries, infographics, and comics come into the picture here as mediums that convey a message. However, ecological art dates back to the 1970s, and a common approach focused on environmental problems’ dangers and risks. We’ve already talked about how climate anxiety can be turned into climate action — changing the focus of art from pessimistic to optimistic is yet another way of doing that. 

We’ve now seen the “climate change in art” phenomenon in K-12 education. Children are encouraged to draw, paint, write and create art about the planet and its resources, ingraining the importance of climate action in them from a very young age. Then, the arts become a simplified way to convey the essence of a very complex conversation.

Climate engagement with art

Where climate-based art can be siloed and individual, climate engagement with art can provoke broader involvement. In social, political, economic, and environmental contexts outside of traditional institutions like museums and libraries, exchanges between art and science have grown widespread. It’s not uncommon to go to a popular part of a big city and encounter climate-related art installations, graffiti, and paintings that encourage visitors to engage and think actively. This kind of participatory art can facilitate dialogue and understanding, which means we’re more likely to remember what we came across and how it made us feel. 

Climate engagement through art

On a deep, transforming level, art may work. It may produce responses in a manner that music and text just cannot. When we engage with climate through art, we build personal meaning instead of swallowing the ones peddled by media outlets and institutions, for example. Storytelling is an excellent example of this, as is the theatre. In these, the actors embody the experiences, which means we’re no longer limited by imagination — we can see the effects being played out right in front of us. We’re asked provocative questions and forced to encounter our misconceptions about the planet. We’re also given stories of hope and optimism, and we carry these in our memory as we go about our day-to-day lives.

What might creativity in climate action look like?

Art, science, and technology have often collaborated in recent years to generate awareness about climate change. Here are some of the most popular instances from all over the world:

The F at Burning Man

This is the first fully solar-powered camp at Burning Man and a community that gathers to co-create a beautiful future.

“One Beat One Tree”

This project by artist Naziha Mestaoui projects virtual forests onto concrete city spaces. With each virtual tree, an actual tree is grown in deforested areas all over the world. The current count is 13,000 trees.

“Labyrinth of Plastic Waste”

Created by the art collective Luzinterruptus, the waste labyrinth attempts to inform the public about the amount of plastic waste consumed daily. It is at once beautiful and haunting.

Billie Eilish’s green world tour

Eilish is one of the biggest pop sensations in the world currently and is aware of her potential impact. Recently, she partnered with REVERB, a green non-profit, to eliminate disposable waste, promote plant-based food, and offset carbon emissions during her ‘Happier Than Ever’ tour. Eco-villages at each stop on tour connected fans to local non-profits and allowed them to make donations on the spot.  

The final word

Art has, for centuries, inspired people and planted seedlings of ideas in our minds. It has helped us come to terms with reality and imagine alternative futures for ourselves. It has engaged our hearts and heads — something climate action hasn’t done very well so far. Art inspires that emotional connection that allows people to see just how close climate change is, and how much power we each truly wield when fighting against it. 

Most importantly, using creativity and the arts to inspire climate actions means giving power back to the most vulnerable players: women, children, Indigenous communities, and developing countries. It levels the playing field by keeping giant corporations out of the game and is probably one of the universal ways to communicate globally. When artists come together to encourage climate action, new levels of mass change that we previously thought impossible can become a reality if we meet humans where they are through what they love most: art and creativity!

Posted on 2022-10-03

World Vegetarian Day

Around the world, about one in ten persons identify as vegetarians. October 1 is a celebration of these people and their diet, as it’s World Vegetarian Day. The International Vegetarian Union (IVU) supported it in 1978 after the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) created it in 1977. The annual start of Vegetarian Awareness Month also occurs on October 1. Going vegetarian can greatly benefit both the planet and our physical and mental well-being. 

What is a vegetarian diet?

A vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, and fish at its foundation. It’s not a brand-new phenomenon or fad. There have been documented records of vegetarianism dating back to the sixth century AD in Europe, and it has been practiced for millennia in many different cultures throughout the globe. Even now, a vegetarian diet still predominates in many nations. There are several vegetarian diet variations that include extra allowances or limits. However, all of them tend to have the same foundational food items, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. 

What are the benefits of a vegetarian diet for your body?

The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are real. Eating a plant-based diet is acknowledged as a technique to prevent many chronic diseases in addition to providing enough nutrients. It’s crucial to remember that, just as with any other diet, the key to a healthy vegetarian diet is to consume a variety of meals and limit your intake of sweets and fatty foods. Even if it’s technically vegetarian, eating only chips and soda doesn’t qualify as healthy at all!

Rich in vitamins and minerals our bodies desperately need

Vegetarian diets are meant to be abundant in beneficial vitamins and minerals. These include folate, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K. These nutrients, some of which are not ingested in sufficient quantities, are essential for the health of our stomach, skin, muscles, heart, nerves, eyes, immune system, and other organs.

Lowers risk for cardiac issues

Research shows vegetarians are less likely to experience cardiac events (such as heart attacks) or pass away from cardiac reasons. One of the greatest studies in this field found that vegetarians had a 25% lower overall risk of dying from heart disease. The best foods for heart health are high-fiber whole grains and legumes because they digest slowly and have a low glycemic index. Nuts are also great because they are rich in protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

What are the benefits of a vegetarian diet for your planet?

One of the best ways to combat climate change is to eat a vegetarian diet. This switch may seem insignificant, yet it has a powerful effect. For instance, eating vegetarian meals for a year can save the same amount of emissions as a family taking an automobile off the road for six months! Here are some more benefits of making the switch for the sake of the planet:

Reduces global warming

Currently, nearly 20% of all greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and are produced by humans come from the world’s food chain. Reducing meat consumption in high- and middle-income nations is essential for preserving the environment and climate. We can lower carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions by substituting vegetarian sources of protein (such as nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils) in place of meat.

Protects untouched lands from overgrazing and being lost to agriculture

50% of the livable area on Earth is agriculture, and the great bulk of that farmland is dedicated to raising animals and producing their feed. Natural habitat loss, which poses a grave danger to wildlife, is mostly caused by farming. The most significant contributor to the destruction of tropical forests is cattle farming. Therefore, more meat means more habitat loss and more upsets in the natural ecosystem. 

Saves large amounts of water

While a kilo of wheat requires 1,000 to 2,000 liters of water to produce, a kilo of beef might need anywhere from 13,000 to as much as 100,000 liters. To put that into perspective, it’ll take 38 SeaWorld tanks of water to produce enough beef to feed customers of a fast-food chain for just one day. Eating poultry is a little better, but not as ideal as adopting a vegetarian diet, which takes much less water to produce. Additionally, animal feces, antibiotics, and hormones that enter the water cycle, together with chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers, and pesticides sprayed on feed crops, are the main sources of pollution in our rivers. Turning to vegetarianism would also mean keeping our water bodies cleaner and pollutant-free.

How to enjoy a vegetarian diet

It’s easy to think that vegetarian diets can be as boring as eating rabbit food every day. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. You don’t have to sacrifice your joy of eating — if anything, that joy increases tenfold when you realize you’re eating delicious food while saving the planet, nourishing your body, and supporting local farmers. Here are some ways to go over and above the usual carrot-stick discourse of vegetarianism.

Experiment with farm-to-table dining

The phrase “farm-to-table” highlights the close connection between a farm and a dining establishment. This implies that there aren’t any wholesalers, intermediaries, or grocery shops involved. Your carbon footprint will be smaller since your food will be locally grown and obtained rather than traveling great distances. The farm-to-table movement has inspired a lot of individuals to organize unique events. The most popular of these are dining experience at the same farm that has grown your food, often accompanied by a farm tour and access to fresh produce to take home. 

Explore global recipes

There are thousands of delicious vegetarian recipes from all over the world waiting to be tried. Try cooking outside the box by choosing a recipe from a different global cuisine. Indian dishes make superb use of high-protein lentils and vegetables. Mediterranean diets are world-renowned for being chock-full of nuts, dried, fruit, cheese, yogurt, and vegetables cooked in ways that enhance their flavor. Many traditional Korean meals can be cooked without meat and still retain their taste and charm. Don’t let everyday recipes box you in — experiment!

The final word

Every year, hundreds of individuals change their lifestyles to one that is healthier, more ecologically friendly, and more socially conscious. Adopting a vegetarian diet reduces global warming, protects trees from deforestation, and gives you all the nutrients you need with no side effects or health issues. Why not use World Vegetarian Day as inspiration to take it one day at a time? Your body and planet will thank you for it. 

Posted on 2022-09-19

Protect, Conserve, Prevent and Reverse: A Timely Refresher

When we talk about taking action against the environmental disasters caused by global warming and human activities, conversations mainly focus on either conservation, restoration, or protection. Sustainability, though, needs all three concepts to work hand in hand to be effective in any capacity. 

As a refresher, let’s look into what each of these concepts means and how, in the end, they can interact to make more robust and more adaptable climate change solutions.

Conservation and Preservation (i.e., Protect and Prevent)

Conservation is essential to ensure that we do not lose what is here with us. It focuses on protecting biodiversity, which is seriously threatened. The two main goals of conservationists are to safeguard an already diminishing population of species from further decline (i.e., protection) and to increase the number of an already declining population (i.e., preservation). 

It’s rather easy to confuse ‘preservation’ and ‘conservation,’ as there’s very little difference between the two when you read them. But as concepts and in practice, they’re distinctly different. Conservation safeguards the ecosystem by using natural resources sensibly. Preservation shields the environment from destructive human activity. If we take a forest as an example, conserving it would mean enforcing sustainable logging practices. Preservation would mean designating the entire forest, or parts of it, as no-human zones, like in a Nature Reserve. 

Put simply, conservation seeks the proper use of nature, while preservation seeks protection of nature from use. Conservation is often done for one species at a time and tends to focus on the population levels of that species more than anything else. With preservation, human involvement is mostly always restricted to shielding the place from human development so that nature’s rhythms are free to take the wheel without human interference.

The Indigenous Land Back movement is a prime example of interconnected conservation that benefits not just the planet, but also the people that nurture and nourish it. The movement emphasizes rebuilding a relationship with the planet that is just, symbiotic, and sustainable.

Restoration (i.e., Reverse)

If conservation and preservation focus on preventing and protecting from ongoing degradation, then restoration seeks to reverse the damage caused. The goal of ecological restoration is to restore, start, or hasten the recovery of a disturbed ecosystem. The “disturbances” can be due to logging, intense grazing, hurricanes, deforestation, land abuse, or fires. The goal of restoration activities is to either replicate the ecosystem before it was disturbed or to create a new ecosystem where there wasn’t one. If we were to go back to the example of the forest we talked about earlier, restoring it would mean planting more trees of the same species to restore balance. 

How these concepts interact in the real world

Restoration and conservation offer complimentary advantages despite having different histories and methods. Depending on the project, one can happen before the other. For instance, in the case of wetlands, restoration may be necessary to cover the environmental costs associated with building water-diversion infrastructure. Then, what is left should be conserved.

That said, it’s easier said than done because quite a few challenges need to be overcome before these concepts can interact to have a positive effect. 

For example, as we saw previously, conservation and restoration often have different goals and processes. Where conservation might seek to establish protected areas with minimal human intervention, restoration usually requires human intervention in planting and sustaining species within a selected area.

Naturally, the success criteria also differ. In the case of wetlands, conservation efforts might be considered successful when the biodiversity value and population of the area increase. On the other hand, restoration of wetlands might be deemed successful if water quality is enhanced or erosion is prevented. While these success criteria are complementary and not in contrast, they need to be expressly stated and mapped out right at the start of the conservation-restoration project. 

The final word

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the current decade, which runs from 2021 to 2030, as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. However, conservation, preservation, and protection continue to be just as important. After all, it is only when these concepts interact in the real world that we can create large-scale change on a global level. 

Restoration is at the heart of EcoMatcher’s business. While we started with a simple vision—to bring about better, more ecologically-friendly corporate gifting—our project grew to immense proportions. By focusing on restoration, we also pave the way for the conservation of forested areas across the world, not to mention provide livelihoods for local and indigenous communities. 

Posted on 2022-09-08

How to Turn Climate Anxiety into Action

It is deeply painful to see and experience what is happening on the planet right now. Pakistan, for example, has been bearing the brunt of the global climate crisis this month, experiencing devastating floods that have destroyed a whopping 1.2 million homes.

In the face of this and other similar news over the past year, it is easy, even expected to feel anger, grief, anxiety, and disconnection, maybe all at once. It is an existential issue that pushes us past our window of tolerance.

And yet, there is the possibility to turn this anxiety into the one thing that might get us out of this situation: action. But before that, we need to talk about climate anxiety.

What is climate anxiety?

It is the widespread perception that the ecological underpinnings of existence are disintegrating, along with concern about our reliance on these crumbling environments. This anxiety about the future results in a persistently depressed mood, a sense of powerlessness, and hopelessness. Your body could also exhibit signs of anxiousness, such as trouble falling asleep, difficulty unwinding, tense muscles, and appetite loss.

Researchers have identified two major drivers of climate anxiety. The first is the depletion of nature itself. When there is a chance of a catastrophic disaster, people who are deeply connected to nature might get anxious about the climate because their connection to nature may be broken. Events that cause damage to the environment, such as floods, fires, and deforestation, may trigger climate anxiety in such people.

The second major driver is the methods used to convey climate change. Every day, we doomscroll on social media and are treated to images and news of climate horrors from remote corners of the world. It is often a lot more information than we can handle, which triggers climate anxiety. It doesn’t help that while reporting on climate change, mainstream and social media tend to adopt an “alarmist” and apocalyptic tone. 

Climate anxiety has been a top concern for many psychologists, especially when dealing with young adults, teens, and children. This becomes more concerning when coupled with the fact that the responsibility for climate action— or cleaning up— is always made to fall on the shoulders o the younger generations. Climate anxiety needs to be taken seriously because the socio-economic effects can add considerably to the global costs of dealing with the climate crisis.

How to turn anxiety into action

To begin converting climate anxiety into meaningful action, researcher and educator Dr. Renée Lertzman recommends starting with ‘attunement’. It means feeling in sync with ourselves and understanding exactly what we’re feeling and how much we can tolerate. When we’re wholly attuned to our window of tolerance, we are so much more capable of being creative and adaptive and turning anxiety into action. 

Find your community

Climate anxiety can generate a very overwhelming “me against the world” feeling. The first way to combat that sense of isolation is to find like minds who share the same feelings and also want to spark action. It’s helpful to surround yourself with people from outside your immediate echo chamber, which means you can hear diverse voices and get to more creative solutions, together. Being grounded and maintaining the awareness that you are not alone is critical to lessening the hold of some of these negative feelings on you. 

Develop more connections to what does exist

Nature can exacerbate our feelings of anxiety, but it can also heal them. It’s important to remind ourselves that while we have lost quite a bit, we have a lot more waiting for us to find them patiently. Take a day to explore your neighborhood parks and national forests. Consider exploring an ecosystem you don’t know much about, like forests if you live in cities or the sea if you live in farmlands. It’s a simple yet profound way to re-accustom ourselves to the world outside our bubble. 

Lead with attunement

Once again, borrowing from Dr. Lertzman, to lead with attunement is to be honest about fear and anxiety around climate and to use those to build solidarity and move towards collective action. It may seem counterintuitive — who wants to see a shaken leader, right? — but, doing so shows that climate anxiety is a human condition and one that can be channeled positively with a few steps.

Engage with books and media that revive your hope

Looking up anything related to climate on the internet can lead to a torrent of information that does more harm than good. Instead, I’ve created this list of media and books that fills you with hope and can energize you towards climate action. 

These resources aim to help people transform helplessness into hopefulness. 

Understand that the future is not yet written

In the face of all the doomsaying, it can be easy to write off the future and assume everything is doomed. But to quote writer Rebecca Solnit

“People who proclaim with authority what is or is not going to happen just bolster their own sense of self and sabotage your belief in what is possible.”

It’s happened time and time again: things that the naysayers said will never happen, have come to pass. Costa Rica is close to 100% clean energy. Gay marriage is not only accepted but legal in many countries all over the world. A whopping 192 countries came together to sign a climate treaty in Paris, a feat that even the leader of the cause, Christiana Figueres, once considered impossible. If we make the changes we want to see right now, the future won’t be set in stone at all. 

Remember our ancestors and our history

To repeat a cliche, ‘history repeats itself.’ And while our ancestors may not have gone through an existential threat of such a global magnitude, they have repeatedly undergone life-threatening situations throughout their lives. And yet, their successors (us!) continue to walk the planet today. It is important to learn about and understand how they overcame their battles and stood their ground so we might be inspired, too.

Today, we sit on a goldmine of millennia-old knowledge — about living in symbiosis with nature and striking a balance between growth and harmony. When we look back to see how the people before us have adapted flexibly, we open the doors to more creative solutions, the awareness that we’re not resigned to our fates, and a way of life that isn’t anxiety-inducing, but life-affirming. 

The final word

It is possible to transform the suffering we feel inside ourselves into a powerful force of action — which is consistent with the adage that you should never waste a crisis.

To do that, we must strengthen our “moral nerve,” a phrase writer Joan Didion coined to describe the non-negotiable virtue we can still display even as we stand on the precipice of fear. It does not mean seeing things through rose-tinted glasses or shutting our eyes to climate catastrophe. It means acknowledging all of this while still holding on to the hope and belief that we have what it takes to change our world for the better.

It’s the first step towards rebuilding a thriving future for ourselves and our planet! 

Posted on 2022-08-04

Mental Models to Surpass While Investing in ESG

There’s a pervasive notion that small steps toward sustainability are good enough. But when they don’t add up to meaningful large-scale outcomes, frustration ensues. Effort without returns makes people think that maybe there’s really no meaning to fighting for sustainability in the workplace.

Because of this, many people continue to believe that selecting a more sustainable future requires sacrificing economic development and profit. It’s only natural that we get stuck in this vicious cycle and start to deprioritize ESG investments, like capital costs for reducing energy use and paying livable wages, because they seem more like expenses than investments.

But what if we told you that ESG does pay off, and what it takes to unlock that is a shift in mentality? That’s easier said than done, but it can be done. It starts with recognizing inherent biases and beliefs about sustainability and reframing current mental models, i.e., the explanation of how we think something works in the real world. But before we get into that:

What is ESG investing?

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments are for businesses that seek to improve the world in any large-scale way. The process is based on unbiased ratings and assessments that help us evaluate how well an organization performs on ESG performance and support them with our funding. Some categories to look out for when assessing an ESG investment include:

  • Sustainability efforts and environmental impact
  • Impact on everything related to society, including LGBTQIA+ equality, racial diversity, and inclusivity at senior levels, livable wages, effect on vulnerable communities
  • Standard of governance, from diversity in leadership to strength of relationships and trust with stakeholders

Broadly, ESG focuses on how a business treats its stakeholders, including the environment, consumers, workers, and communities. Investing in ESG, in essence, means influencing positive changes in society by putting our money where our mouth is. 

Biases and incorrect mental models affecting ESG investing

ESG investments are picking up speed but are still relatively new to large swathes of the population. That means many of us are susceptible to biases and incorrect mental models that lead us in the wrong direction. We’ve identified some of these mental models, so you can introspect, correct and invest sensibly in a better future for all. 

Falling for perceived costs when we should look for the real costs

Let’s think small, for starters. When we buy a car, we think about how much it costs, the road tax, how expensive fuel is, and how much annual maintenance costs might be. These are tangible costs that we can calculate in a matter of minutes. However, there’s a real cost hiding behind all those numbers: the cost of all this plus what we’re getting for free from the environment, like air and water.

It’s the same for large-scale organizations, who can see the costs of setting up offices and factories, but often forget about the real cost of emitting carbon and pollutants into the air and water. So, when investors make decisions about ESG investments, it’s only natural that the returns aren’t impressive: they never factored in all the costs involved in the first place.

One way to do this is to impose shadow prices on these “externalities” so they can be added to measurement metrics. When investors get correct pricing signals on everything that is going to be affected by their decisions, they will have much more accurate data to use while planning ESG investments.

Relying on limited perspectives

A problem that arises from treating sustainability as one department’s responsibility instead of the whole organization is that it leads to limited perspectives. It’s human to have biases and be susceptible to groupthink; however, this can have dangerous repercussions when it comes to ESG investing. It makes it easier to fall back on tried-and-tested initiatives, like swapping paper cups for reusable mugs, when there is no healthy conflict in decision-making.

According to former CEO of Unilever Paul Polman and leading sustainability thinker Andrew Winston, the way to break this mental model is to flush out old and stale thinking. This can be done by inviting a diversity of voices into the boardroom: representatives from vulnerable groups, NGOs who have been critical of the organization’s past ESG work, and younger employees who have much more at stake.

By inviting this sort of friction, organizations can bring forth new and counter-perspectives that, in turn, lead to potential solutions.

Sustaining focus only on short-term benefits

It can be tempting to focus on low efforts that bring the highest returns in the shortest possible time. This is especially so because clean technology and sustainable practices are expensive to install, and which almost always is given up in favor of a cheaper option. However, the case with any new technology is that it starts expensive but becomes more normalized as more and more people subscribe to it. That’s the case with sustainable practices, too. 

To reap the true benefits of ESG investing, organizations should broaden their view to include the long term. A few ways to stop being tempted by sticking with the short-term run are:

Misunderstanding ESG factors that are critical to the local area

Surface-level research has many problems — one of them being data from one country or region that is mistakenly applied to another. Areas of the world that will increase in economic power warrant a different kind of investment than those that will be flooded if climate change goes unchecked, like Miami, FL, and Bangladesh. Using data from America to make European decisions is a sure-fire way to tank investments and nip any idea of profits in the bud.

Therefore, it is worth putting in the extra effort to find localized data in order to make more effective decisions. This is especially true if the organization is based only in one country or in different countries.

To combat investment losses to the potential tune of millions of dollars, it’s always best to research the major, nonlinear themes that are affecting society today in both a global and localized fashion.

Concentrating only on one or two industries in one’s portfolio

Here again, there’s the temptation to play it safe by investing in limited industries or sectors. However, it’s important to note that different industries weather economic, social, and climate change differently, so putting all your eggs in one basket won’t do.

To lessen the chance that bad performance in one area may wipe out your investment funds, it is crucial to have a variety of industries represented in your investments. 

ESG investing is the way to go

Today’s investors are very much involved in building a future they would want to experience and would like to create for their children. As a result, they prefer to invest in companies that are leaders in advancing ESG initiatives rather than those that worsen or contribute to these issues. ESG assets are set to hit $53 trillion by 2025, which means it’s a great time to add each of our power to the mix and be the change we want to see!

Posted on 2022-06-14

10 Principles of Ecosystem Restoration

The decade we’re currently in — from 2021 to 2030 — was recently declared the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration by the United Nations General Assembly. This decision was made in response to the urgent need to stop and reverse ecological degradation. It also deals with the critical need to restore damaged terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems worldwide.

While this looks straightforward, it’s hard to do in reality. This is because a project of this scale needs buy-in from dozens of world leaders and investments in the billions. It also needs thorough research and dedicated teams. But before all that, it needs to have a shared vision between everyone supporting this project. This vision becomes the North Star for all activities and a guardrail to ensure everyone is going about ecosystem restoration correctly. 

The United Nations laid out principles that function as a touchstone for all ecological restoration-related activities. 

1.    Ecosystem restoration contributes to global sustainable goals

We all live on this planet, so ensuring our work contributes to sustainable goals is crucial. Our mission is to save life on Earth, and the Earth itself, so the goals are naturally lofty. This principle states that all restoration efforts, programs, and initiatives, no matter the scale, will help meet global goals for preserving life on Earth. These goals—called the UN Sustainable Development Goals—seek to improve livelihoods for everyone worldwide by ending poverty, protecting biodiversity, providing clean water, and more. Ecosystem restoration is one of the ways we can achieve many of these goals on a global scale. 

2.    Ecosystem restoration promotes broad engagement and social equity

Once again, building on the fact that we all share this planet, this principle dictates that all stakeholders, especially under-represented groups, should be given equal and inclusive opportunities to engage in “meaningful, free and active ways.” Ecological restoration is a long-term project that will take decades longer if we limit ourselves to exclusive participants. To get everyone to participate, equal and regular access to information is critical, as is ensuring a pivotal role for local communities in decision-making processes. The principle calls for building trust and respect through ground-level and inclusive governance. 

3.    Ecosystem restoration calls for a diversity of restorative activities

Almost any nature-friendly activity might be called ecological restorative, so this principle sets a definition that participants follow. In the proposal’s own words: “the activity must result in a net gain for biodiversity, ecosystem health and integrity, and human well-being, including sustainable production of goods and services.” Whether done singly or collectively, restoration activities can be implemented in degraded ecosystems of any kind, including cultural, semi-natural, natural, and urban landscapes and seascapes. The UN has also helpfully defined categories of activities, which include:

  • reducing negative socio-environmental impacts
  • recovering ecosystems to where they would have been had the degradation not occurred
  • Reducing threats like pollution and contamination

4.    Ecosystem restoration benefits nature and people

This principle clarifies that restoration isn’t an end-all or a substitute for nature conservation. Restoration should support natural recovery processes and not cause more degradation. To truly halt degradation, we must pay equal importance to conserving existing ecosystems and protecting them from harm. This is what it means to achieve the highest level of recovery.

5.    Ecosystem restoration should acknowledge and address what went wrong

Restoring ecosystems doesn’t mean papering over the cracks and pretending degradation never happened. This principle clearly states that all restorative activities should directly address the causes of degradation and biodiversity loss. If they aren’t, any action that looks good in the short term may fail in the long run because the root cause wasn’t addressed. One way to do this is to adopt sustainable practices that enhance biodiversity conservation while reducing the environmental impacts of our cities and other urban infrastructure. An example of this is agroforestry, which acknowledges that agriculture is essential for survival, but how it’s being carried out is unsustainable. It then provides an alternative that moves away from destructive practices to regenerative ones without endangering life and livelihood. 

6.    Ecosystem restoration encourages and asks for all kinds of knowledge

For ecosystem restoration to work at its highest, it needs the support of all kinds of intelligence, including Indigenous, local, and scientific ways of working. Integrating everyone’s know-how establishes a close connection with nature and between stakeholders and creates a productive decision-making environment. Knowledge about effective practices shouldn’t just be passed along through word of mouth, but documented, shared, and replicated to avoid mistakes and reach successes each time. Doing so will also help the world identify gaps in knowledge and reach out to the right communities to fill those gaps. A critical point to note is that information collection should be consensual, and sharing should keep in mind the diversity of cultures and levels of language and literacy globally. Only when we consider all our differences will we be able to build a wall to climb over them.

7.    Ecosystem restoration is based on achievable and realistic goals

A crucial key to achieving positive long-term impact is planning. This principle calls for establishing realistic and achievable goals of short, medium, and long-term lengths right in the planning phase of any restoration project. To be realistic, it should include targets and indicators that specify the direction of change needed and whether there are any deadlines. To be achievable, this plan needs to clearly communicate expected results and enable monitoring and adaptive management. It also needs to make room for trade-offs and compromises in a way that is transparent and won’t derail ecosystem recovery.

8.    Ecosystem restoration is tailored to global and local contexts

Restorative activities can happen at any scale but have ripple effects on both the local and larger landscapes. Therefore, this principle says it’s essential to consider the multiple contexts while defining project objectives and aligning with local needs. Doing this requires a thorough understanding of land- and seascape-level factors such as threats, ecological networks, boundaries, and energy exchanges. It also recommends using spatial planning processes to tailor projects to the larger landscape while respecting and focusing on the local landscape. When we achieve restoration at both the grassroots and eagle-eye levels, we can maximize our net gain from these activities. 

9.    Ecosystem restoration needs monitoring beyond a project’s lifetime

To understand whether we’re meeting objectives and goals, monitoring biodiversity and ecosystem health regularly is important. These pulse checks are invaluable for understanding the processes of change and the patterns that form over time. It’s an iterative process that can help identify unexpected results and use them to improve future actions. It’s important to note that this principle calls for monitoring not just during the project, but beyond it. This is to ensure medium and long-term impacts are also correctly recorded. 

10. Ecosystem restoration is enabled by policies

An enabling policy environment is necessary to achieve restoration objectives in the long term. This environment should ideally span multiple industries, sections of society, and networks. Promoting successful ecosystem restoration activities at local, national, and global scales can, in turn, facilitate how these laws and policies are designed, adding more to our arsenal in the fight against ecosystem degradation.

The final word

Ecological restoration is at the heart of what we do at EcoMatcher. We partner with local communities worldwide to plant trees in areas that need them. Doing so helps us achieve sustainable goals fairly and inclusively. By playing the role of a mediator, we put the power of transformation in the hands of everyone, including local organizations and the youth. After all, that’s the best way forward!

Posted on 2022-06-07

Everything about World Ocean Day 2022

One Ocean, One Climate, One Future — Together. That’s the tagline for World Ocean Day 2022, which is celebrated (as always) on the 8th of June. This year’s celebrations and campaigns are shaping up to be the most impactful ones yet. The United Nation’s official theme is Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean, a nod to the fact that all our natural resources are interconnected. 

But before we dive into how we might achieve that, we must answer the question: What is World Ocean Day?

While originally an annual event, World Ocean Day also serves as a call to action for ocean conservation throughout the year. It is “a celebration of our one shared ocean that brings together organizations and individuals” who rely on the oceans directly or indirectly. That means it’s for everyone!

A brief history of World Ocean Day

World Ocean Day is a particularly special day to recognize and respect oceans and take collective action to protect and preserve our water bodies. 

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Canada first proposed the concept. Fast forward to 2002, and The Ocean Project began to collaborate with global partners to make this vision into reality through worldwide promotion and coordination. The following year, the official website was launched, and 25 events to spread the word about protecting oceans were held across 15 countries. These events engaged all sorts of sectors, industries, and sections of society, with one aim: “to celebrate and take action for our shared blue planet.”

However, it was only in December 2008, after years of petitioning and rallying, that the United Nations officially named 8th June World Ocean Day. Having their backing meant rallies became truly global and started growing in strength.

To streamline these efforts and produce maximum impact, the World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council was formed in 2016. They created a Multi-year Conservation Action Focus that prioritized preventing plastic pollution and supporting innovation that restored oceans. 

2019 was a huge milestone, as the number of events crossed 2000 and in more than 140 countries. Eighty-seven million people engaged with the social media hashtag #TogetherWeCan, enabling the Youth Council to promote World Ocean Day 365 days a year, instead of only on one day. 

In 2020, a new Multi-year Conservation Action Focus was launched — focusing on protecting 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030 in partnership with Campaign for Nature. This is also what 2022’s theme is building on.

On 2022’s Multi-year Conservation Focus

Currently, only around 17% of land and 8% of water worldwide are protected, and scientists have determined that a healthy ocean is a key to solving the climate crises that the world is going through. Therefore, this year’s conservation focus is #30×30: to conserve 30% of lands and oceans by 2030. 

The organizers expect to see thousands of youth-led events across 150 countries. Nathany Herrera, a World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council member from Brazil, captured the ethos of the day thus:

“The words that guide us are collaboration and resilience; collaboration because we should not rely on a few people acting perfectly, but millions of people acting imperfectly with a commitment to real change and being resilient in the face of countless problems that we are yet to face.”

How to take action for World Ocean Day

Here’s how you can participate in this global movement as an individual and as an organization.

Sign letters to your political leaders

Leaders of over 90 countries have already committed to the #30×30 pledge — however, more need to join for the movement to pick up speed. Signing the official Conservation Focus letter to your national leaders is an effective way to add your voice to the call for action and only takes a few minutes. 

Attend or host a community cleanup

If you live near the ocean, consider hosting a cleanup event with your friends, family, and neighbors. Doing this at rivers, lakes, ponds, and other natural water bodies is also helpful because all oceans are downstream, and you’ll keep their source of water clean. Partnering with local outdoor or water sports businesses can help you spread the word, find volunteers, and make a day out of it!

Educate yourself and others about oceans

We’ve done our fair share of reading at school, but a lot has changed since many graduated. World Ocean Day is the perfect excuse to find some resources on what’s been happening in the marine world. Ocean Todayis a fantastic website for immersing yourself in the beauty and mystery of oceans. If you have burning questions that you want experts to answer, Skype a Scientist is your best bet. It has a database of thousands of scientists ready to come on a video call and give you answers straight from the source. This platform is a wonderful option if you’re planning a neighborhood-wide session or are a teacher of young minds in any capacity.

Plant a tree… or ten

93% of the heat trapped in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. This increase in temperature damages marine and terrestrial ecosystems by killing coral reefs and melting glaciers. Planting trees can help take the pressure off oceans because trees sequester carbon dioxide and slow the process of global warming. Trees in urban areas are beneficial in reducing waste and soil run-off into rivers, which in turn reduces the garbage flowing into oceans. However, take care to plant trees only in places that can support them and need them. Your safest bet is to partner with a local tree-planting organization or a global one like EcoMatcher.

Join Friends of World Ocean Day

Friends of the United Nations World Ocean Day (FOWOD) is an informal group of people and organizations involved in ocean issues. Joining this group means participating in the community that promotes World Ocean Day and meets up to carry out conservation tasks. It’s a great way to expand your network, educate your organization, and even tick off a few CSR goals! 

Sponsor events as an organization

When you work in an organization, you have access to thousands of people who can make a difference in any climate campaign. A fun way to engage these people is to sponsor a sustainable seafood event and invite local chefs to organize food tastings and provide insights. If your offices are near the ocean, consider hosting sustainable fishing tours or marine walks to familiarize your teams with this natural wonder and give them a memorable day. You can also empower action through art by hosting painting events and inviting the community to participate. 

The final word

2022’s World Ocean Day celebrations are historic because they’re the first-ever hybrid sessions. The UN headquarters in New York City will play host to in-person events, while the global public will get access to hundreds of virtual talks and screenings to participate in. The day’s schedule is available on the UN’s official website. Have fun participating in the day that humanity celebrates the ocean! 

Posted on 2022-05-02

Making Ecocide an International Crime

Throughout the years, human activities have harmed ecological resources in the name of “development.” Ecological deterioration was long observed as a mere side effect of progressing in other walks of life. However, we’re all aware that, now, the issue of environmental destruction is increasingly gaining attention. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this decade will determine whether we’ll be able to save the planet, or it will be increasingly burdened by severe climate change and a rise in world temperatures. 

Therefore, the talk about making environmental degradation an international crime has been around for a while. According to the Rome Statute, the crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court include Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes due to Aggression, and Crimes against Humanity. Many environmentalists are rallying to make Ecocide the fifth international crime.

What is Ecocide?

Ecocide refers to mass environmental destruction, both widespread and long-term, caused while knowing the long-term effects and risks of doing so. The term, coined by US biologist Arthur Galston, derives from the Greek “oikos,” which means home, and “caedere,” which means demolish or kill. In the 1950s, Galston was horrified by how a chemical component his team created was used in the Vietnam war to poison human health and destroy the environment on a fearsome scale. 

Despite the support for Galston’s anti-war declarations, Ecocide was never added to any international crime statute. However, in 2008, lawyer Polly Higgins embarked on a mission to develop a bulletproof legal framework that protects the natural world. She uncovered the term Ecocide during her research. In 2010, she made the first proposal that the International Law Commission modify the Rome Statute to include Ecocide, which she described as:

extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory is severely diminished.”

Ecocide causes some of the world’s “worst climate abuse,” and various activities fall under this term. To be included in the Rome Statute, a two-thirds majority (equal to 82 heads of state) need to vote in favor of amending the treaty.

What activities can fall under Ecocide?

The term encompasses all sorts of activities that can harm the global commons as they belong to no one and therefore should not be exploited or polluted as freely as they are today. Wars, deforestation, air pollution, ocean damage, and mining, fall under Ecocide.

Underground accidents that cause mine and pipeline explosions also count as they further harm the environment. Air pollution consists of nuclear testing, chemical weapons, and major industrial emissions. Industrial emissions caused by cement, agricultural, and fossil fuel industries also contribute to poor air quality and Ecocide. Ocean damage consists of plastic pollution, oil spills, and industrial fishing. 

Deforestation is caused by mineral extraction, oil drilling, industrial livestock farming, and wood production. Other miscellaneous issues include textile chemicals, river systems, and agricultural pollution through soil quality and erosion.

Some of the major activities that took place in the past were the Vietnam War, the use of Agent Orange, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, Alberta Tar Sands, and the Ajka alumina sludge spill (2010). 

What is the amendment proposal?

In 2020, environmental scientists and international lawyers came together to develop an updated, transparent, and completely legal definition of Ecocide. This definition would then be submitted for review to a head of state who is willing to propose the amendment to the ICC. The next ideal step would be to garner the two-thirds majority needed for it to be added to the Rome Statute. The proposed definition was considered to be a step forward in turning Ecocide into an international crime. It is posited as a crime both towards nature and humans. 

To make Ecocide a part of the ICC, certain steps are to be followed. The proposed definition of Ecocide is the first step, followed by the following:

  1. A member country of the ICC (excluding India, China, and the US) will have to submit the proposed definition of Ecocide to the UN secretary-general. 
  2. Voting will take place during the annual assembly. Only if the majority votes in favor of the proposal will the rest of the steps be carried out. 
  3. When the law is in place, member countries must enforce it one year later. Under universal jurisdiction principles, any ratifying nation may also arrest a non-national on their soil for a crime committed elsewhere. 

Despite the simple-looking three steps on paper, the process is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Will the amendment gather enough support?

It is against the law to hurt or kill people. However, it is not a crime to knowingly harm the environment for personal gain. To date, environmental laws charge corporations and other perpetrators with financial compensation for environmental damage. It will likely take enormous pressure to go one step further and make Ecocide a crime. This is especially so because the fossil fuel and extractive industries have a powerful chokehold on corporations and economies today, and they happen to be one of the most significant drivers of ecological damage.

However, there have been developments that paint a positive picture: one that shows society’s support for criminalizing Ecocide might continue to grow over the years. For starters, there are the People’s Tribunals, whose aim is to educate the public about Ecocide and develop strong arguments that can hold up once the proposal for the amendment is made. Another major show of support came from Pope Francis in 2019, who urged that Ecocide be recognized as the “fifth category of crime against peace.” 

If Ecocide were made a crime, then it would be quite unlike the hours of talks at global scales that often lead to empty promises and no resolution. Instead of getting away with a fine, perpetrators will be liable to prosecution and imprisonment. Naturally, this sparked contrary arguments that such an action would mean tipping the scales a bit too far away from catering to human needs.

There are other drawbacks to consider. One flaw in the ICC is that many countries, including three of the top five world economies—India, China, and the US—aren’t members. They aren’t exempt from universal jurisdiction principles but can only be investigated with the permission of the United Nations Security Council. 

The chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, Jojo Mehta, has acknowledged that going the ICC route is a challenging choice. However, Mehta added that the ICC is “the only global mechanism that directly accesses the criminal justice systems of all its member states.” 

Although this process could take years or decades to implement, the environmentalists working on this amendment are confident that the ICC will respond positively to it. It may not stop Ecocide entirely but will up the ante on repercussions and hold more systems and corporations accountable in their own time. 

The final word

It is common knowledge that today, humanity stands at crossroads. We’ve left a trail of destruction behind us while achieving progress that was once unimaginable. Our next steps will determine whether we’ll be able to salvage and nourish what’s left of the environment or continue down the same destructive path.

International law has a critical role to play in what choice we end up making. Environment-centric political initiatives can fill holes in the current legislature and turn our relationship with the natural world from one of harm to one of harmony.

Posted on 2022-04-07

How Gen Z is Setting the Pace for Climate Action

Although climate change has been a cause for concern across generations, the way Generation Z has been addressing is markedly different. In a US-specific research survey, a whopping 76% considered climate change as the top among their biggest concerns. 

Millennials and Gen Z-ers are talking more about the need for action on climate change than older adults. They are seeing more climate change content online among social media users. They are also doing more to get involved with the issue through activities like volunteering and attending rallies and protests.

Their action is personal because climate change is personal. 

Experiencing anxiety and youth disillusionment

 

Eco-anxiety has become a source of worry for many psychologists, particularly when working with young adults and children. Internalizing some of the world’s most serious environmental issues has resulted in psychological ramifications of varying severity. Gen Z’s concern for the climate issue is only matched by their dissatisfaction with the degree of inaction they see from those in power. The overwhelming question is, “Is anyone listening to what we have to say?” 

Climate apathy from older generations is also a cause of anxiety. Gen Z has grown up seeing the disastrous effects of climate change and can’t fathom why older generations are so removed from it. Even though they’re shouldering a disproportionate portion of the burden, many believe that they cannot make a meaningful impact.

This stems from the fact that the corporate world does not engage them sufficiently. To accelerate environmental sustainability, we need not just give Gen Z a seat at the table but also capitalize on their ideas and energy to make necessary changes.

Taking matters into their own hands

 

To do this, Gen Z-ers are stepping up to become key players in influencing the climate change agenda. The one who personifies this drive most is Greta Thunberg, whose 2018 protest outside the Swedish Parliament had incredible ripple effects across the world. 

What’s interesting to note is that Gen Z activists have largely been able to sidestep the politicization of the climate action agenda. While communicating the urgent need for global, federal, and local climate-friendly legislation, they’re able to transcend political and socio-geographical divides in order to create an impact on a truly global level. As Katharine Owens, an environmental researcher, and professor, put it:

“Students have a very different kind of power… they bring a sort of disruption that I think makes a huge impression on politicians.”

Gen Z action has come in different shapes and forms. We shine a light on some of the global under-25 movement — and pay special attention to the power of social media in rousing climate action.

Fridays for Future

 

This global climate strike movement came into being immediately after Greta Thunberg’s world-changing civil protest. Her call to action ignited an international uprising, with students and activists rallying outside parliaments and municipal halls all over the world.

According to their website, the movement’s goals are to “put moral pressure on policymakers, make them listen to the scientists, and then take forceful action to limit global warming.” Their Declaration of Lausanne, signed in 2019 by 400 activists from 38 countries, lists out their demands:

  • Keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • Ensure climate justice and equity.
  • Listen to the best-united science currently available.

The hashtag #FridayForFuture now has 1 million posts on Instagram, and the movement has dedicated social media pages to mobilize students in different parts of the world. 

Zero Hour

 

Zero Hour is a youth-led organization that provides access points, training, and resources to new young activists and organizers who want to hit the ground running and take climate action. Their vision statement strikes at the root of the problem:

“We believe that youth leadership in this space is essential since we have inherited a crisis that we had no hand in creating. We will strive to hold our adults and elected officials accountable for their legacy of destruction and inaction regarding climate change. We believe in a solutions-based approach that addresses the real needs of our communities.”

Their current and past actions include hosting climate summits, youth lobbies, and climate marches in the US and across the world. Their Instagram account has over 65,000 followers.

Leveraging the global reach of social media

 

A common thread uniting these and similar movements is the use of platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Information, discussion, and mobilization are three essential aspects of climate change communication that social media platforms provide. As a result, policymakers find them an effective way to perform climate research — both to find grassroots-level information and understand the current discourse.

TikTok is an excellent example of how Gen Z mobilizes others in their generation to speak up, get involved, and have an incredible political impact.

EcoTok, for example, is a collective of 20 influencers who promote environmental action. The account has over 115,000 followers on TikTok and is referred to as “The Hype House of the Environment.”

Eban Goodstein, director of several environmental programs at Bard College in New York, encapsulates the role of social media succinctly:

“This is an extraordinary moment in which we’re living, where people all across the world have tremendous agency to influence the course of the planet, the future of humanity, and millions of species on the earth.”

Reshaping the way their generation works and studies

 

Gen Z knows that it’s far too easy to become paralyzed by a sense of helplessness in the face of climate change. Therefore, many choose to work in industries and companies that are doing something about it. 

According to a poll conducted by global consulting company Deloitte in 2018, 77% of Gen Z respondents felt it was vital to work for companies that shared their values. Hundreds are also leaving their workplaces for the same reasons — because they felt a misalignment in what they were working towards and didn’t want that blood on their hands. 

This shift from wealth-first to value-first is also reshaping the educational environment in many countries. There are an increasing number of MBA programs focusing on social impact and the environment. Sustainability has risen to the top of the list of industries where students have wanted to work in the last three years. It again shows that there are several ways to take action — while some protest now, others set themselves up with the means and education they need to make higher-level changes. 

This shift can trickle down to younger classes as well. Engaging Gen Z in climate literacy now can assist in alleviating their disappointment and concern and provide a path for them to take real action on the climate issue right now.

The final word

 

For Gen Z, it isn’t enough to talk about climate change amongst peers — it is vital that they lead their peers, demand the changes they want for the planet they will inhabit the longest, and actively participate in shaping technology-first solutions. 

EcoMatcher recognizes that we’re well-positioned to offer Gen Z the opportunity and resources to be part of climate change action. In December, we appointed our first-ever Honorary Youth Ambassador: Elodie Lambotte, a 13-year old student from Hong Kong.

We end this article with Elodie’s words:

“I respect and admire young climate activists around the world, but I have a different approach. I want people to listen, but I do it by making them laugh, smile, and feel climate change is possible if we just all take a few steps together. So, I made a video with my “monkey” Jack, representing biodiversity. Through the “I Have a Dream” video, I want to express how young people and animals have a dream about a brighter and greener future and hope that company leaders get inspired and take action.”

Posted on 2022-02-22

Climate Alarmism Can Hurt: Here are Some Alternatives

There are hundreds of conversations about climate change today, but they tend to take an overwhelmingly similar tone: that of pessimism and doom-saying. Phrases like “billions of lives will be lost” and “the world will end in X years” are bandied about to stress the importance of climate action. Photos of forest fires wiping out entire towns and hurricanes razing houses to the ground take center stage. 

However, some scientists say that such discussions actually harm the mental health of those who have to live with these changes: the younger generations.

The rising “eco-anxiety” amongst young people

The American Psychiatric Association defines eco-anxiety as:

“The chronic fear of environmental disaster that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations.” 

Although it’s new to the dictionary, eco-anxiety has been a top concern for many psychologists, especially when dealing with children and young adults. The process of internalizing some of the biggest environmental problems has led to psychological consequences of various degrees of severity. 

This was brought especially into focus in the UK in 2019, when leading celebrities including Emma Thompson and Olivia Coleman promoted Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement. Lauren Jeffrey, a student in Milton Keynes, recorded an open letter to the movement after discovering that there was a lot of misinformation and doomsaying involved in the promotions. She stated:

“As important as your cause is, your persistent exaggeration of the facts has the potential to do more harm than good to the scientific credibility of your cause as well as to the psychological well-being of my generation.”

Jeffrey’s statement encapsulates the psychological effects of environmental doomsaying on young minds. This is especially true when it’s made to look like they’re responsible for cleaning the mess up. Eco-anxiety needs to be taken seriously because the socio-economic effects can add considerably to the global costs of dealing with the climate crisis. 

Alarmist vs alarming

There’s no denying that we’ve dug ourselves into a pretty deep hole in the climate change department. However, more and more scientists are pushing back on fearmongering, seeing that it intensifies mental health issues and worries instead of sparking action. 

In estimates of the severity and urgency of the situation, the discourse on climate change is divided in part between a sense of alarm and a sense of alarmism. According to Hulme (2006), there is a widening gap between the terminology used by climate scientists to describe climate change and the terminology used by green organizations to advocate for action on the subject. In many cases, as shown in a Forbes article, scientific findings were exaggerated to grab people’s attention and spark an emotional response.

It has been argued that alarmist and sensational techniques tend to evoke “denial, paralysis or apathy” over encouraging positive action. In climate reportage, fear is often employed as a way to break through the routine of everyday life. However, it may succumb to the law of diminishing returns, even desensitizing people to an otherwise important global phenomenon. In the age of fake news and spin, fear may damage trust in the communicating organizations — and in doing so, may turn entire sections of the public away from necessary facts.

Another problem is that the younger generations often hear partial information that can cause more distress than the facts themselves. Leslie Davenport, therapist, and author of a workbook that helps kids process climate change, suggested that children often hear information from the radio or TV, research about it on their own, and start having adverse emotional reactions because they can’t process their feelings. 

How, then, should we talk to younger generations about climate change?

Educate oneself first, then the rest

Climate change can be a scary concept for adults and children, which can lead to productive conversations on the topic being shut down before they even begin. Any meaningful conversation, then, would begin with adults thoroughly educating themselves first so that they can explain it rationally to a younger person. Davenport suggests that these conversations need to balance science and emotion. 

Respond age-appropriately

Children under 6 are way too young to understand the complexity of climate change. Davenport suggests starting instead by cultivating a love for nature and understanding the planet’s basic systems. When they bring the questions, respond to them energetically and by balancing both the problem and the action aspects of it. Helping them work through their emotions about climate change and introducing them to creative ways of making a difference or taking action also help prepare them correctly. As they grow older, they’re more likely to engage with the topic in a clear-headed manner and direct their efforts into the proper channels. 

Use sensational messages sparingly and with caution

Images that appeal to fear have a place in reportage as they do draw attention. But researchers suggest that they should be used sparingly, within context, and combined with other types of visual representation to paint a better picture. Setting climate facts within personal and local contexts might also be better to spark affinity and meaningful engagement. 

Focus on solutions instead of only on the problems 

Many conversations about climate change tend to taper off after the doomsaying, leaving conversations with negativity but not many solutions. It might be helpful to discuss solutions to problems and implement them instead of just focusing on them.

Action-oriented conversations might be more effective climate action than any other kind. This applies to both children and adults, as it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of climate news and emerge feeling nauseous and scared. Shifting the perspective from “We can’t do anything” to “What can we do within our power?” is a great way to assess the resources at hand and put together a solid action plan. In doing so, we give ourselves more agency over the problem and can exercise our power the right way. 

There’s no right or wrong

There are many ways people choose to talk about climate change — some positive, some negative. It can be argued that always seeing the positive side of things can brook a sense of false hope, which is also dangerous. However, it’s essential to nurture a sense of balance in climate conversations.

It’s equally crucial to encourage younger generations to understand the problem and find solutions instead of leaving them with half-baked information and buckets of fear. It’s a huge thing that they’re already aware of the environmental problems facing us — but enabling them to engage with it in an action-oriented manner can make a world of difference in the coming decade. 

Posted on 2022-01-19

The Indigenous Land Back movement and the planet

If you’ve been on social media or have been attuned to socio-political and environmental movements, you would have heard of the term “Land Back.” It may seem like a simple term, but it carries a tonne of weight for Indigenous peoples and has a history that stretches as far back as 1492, the year of Christopher Columbus’ arrival. 

Indigenous peoples have long amassed critical knowledge about living harmoniously with nature and caring for natural systems in the most sustainable manner. The Land Back movement is important to understand because Indigenous rights and climate action are inherently intertwined. 

What is Land Back?

In the words of Isaac Murdoch, “Land Back is people returning back and finding their place in those systems of life.” The movement’s main motive is to bring Indigenous lands back into Indigenous hands. The premise is not ownership, but stewardship. Just as love does not equal ownership, although it is often confused for that, so too does respect for the environment not equal the license to abuse it. The movement’s cornerstone battle in the United States is to reclaim the sacred Black Hills, which is where Mount Rushmore— an “international symbol of white supremacy and colonization”—currently sits. 

At the heart of the movement is co-creation: of a more just future freed from the trappings of colonialism. It also involves a fundamental shift in how one thinks about land, from just as a commodity that you can buy and sell to a powerful unifying force that has agency and deserves respect.

Naturally, that means that the movement isn’t restricted to physical land alone. It serves as a framework for the liberation of Indigenous peoples in all aspects: culture, language, food, education, governance, healthcare, and more. 

The Land Back manifesto has a set of principles based on which all spin-off movements occur. Here are some excerpts:

  1. Don’t burn bridges: even when there is conflict between groups or organizers, remember that we are fighting for all of our people, and we will continue to be in community even after this battle. 
  2. We cannot let our oppressors’ inhumanity take away from ours.
  3. Room for grace—be able to be human.

What does the Land Back movement mean for the planet?

As traditional governance structures and ancient knowledge are swept aside to make way for chemicals and aggressive land abuse, we only stand to lose. The holistic perspective of Indigenous peoples has the potential to build resilience and mitigate climate change by a significant amount — but they have to fight for a seat at the table. The loss is also much more personal because climate change, deforestation, and the loss of diversity are critical threats to the culture and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples.

The Land Back movement emphasizes rebuilding a relationship with the planet that is just, symbiotic, and sustainable. Indigenous Peoples account for fewer than 5% of the world’s population. However, they safeguard a whopping 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. In fact, Latin American forests have flourished under their protection, storing more carbon than Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo combined. Indigenous knowledge of lands and rivers has evolved over thousands of years. Many of their land-based practices are inherently solutions for the climate crisis. As a result, their inputs and methods of action can be invaluable to the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. 

The Land Back movement also ties in with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 15: Life on Land. The goal calls for “the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests,” which is well within the purview of Indigenous peoples and their stewardship of the Land. 

Governments have begun recognizing the potential of Indigenous stewardship and have started returning Land to Indigenous peoples. Earlier last year, Australia returned a whopping 395,000 acres—including the Daintree National Park—back into the stewardship of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people. This was the outcome of the Cape York Peninsula Heritage Act, which called for all national parks within Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula to come under Aboriginal management.

How to support the Land Back movement

Allies of Indigenous peoples must first begin by understanding the colonial systems that made this—and the climate crisis as a whole—this critical. The first step to that is education.

Read up on the Land Back movement 

The book “Required Reading: Climate Justice, Adaptation + Investing in Indigenous Power” serves as a primer on the Land Back movement as well as the role of Native people in climate justice and action. It amplifies various Native solutions to the climate crisis and highlights how well-positioned Indigenous peoples are to see these solutions through. Land Back: A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper is also a valuable resource for those looking into this movement for the first time. 

It’s also worthwhile to prime yourself on the history and rights of Indigenous peoples. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a comprehensive universal framework that established minimum standards for rights and dignity and elaborates on existing human rights in the context of Indigenous peoples. 

Find out which traditional territories you’re on

In many of our cases, the land we live on was taken from Indigenous peoples when colonialism was rampant. To understand the Land Back movement, it helps to understand whose traditional territories you’re on using the Native-Land map. If there are any movements or organized groups involved in the Land Back movement, specifically in your territory, attending their meetings can help one understand the issue better.

Support reforestation movements

While Indigenous peoples are fighting for a seat at the negotiation table, many parts of the world are struggling to replenish forest cover and re-balance their ecosystems. If you live on non-Native Land or are outside the Americas, consider supporting reforestation drives where you live or anywhere else in the world.

Doing this at an individual level is great, but it’s even more powerful if you can mobilize your community or organization to support the cause. EcoMatcher, working with many partners globally supporting indigenous people, can help you achieve this at scale while also turning the process into one that is interesting rather than complicated. 

The final word: High stakes all around

The Land Back movement is inherently entwined with climate justice and action. Much of the damage done to the planet is a result of capitalism, forced ownership, and uncontrolled abuse of the environment. As Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective, puts it:

“We’re going to get back to prioritizing the relationship between the Land and the people, rather than thinking about the land as just something that we should extract from for the purposes of money and power. We’re reclaiming our inherent right to assume control, protection, and stewardship of these lands.”

Land Back involves restoring political and social decision-making powers to those who had been stripped of them by settlers. The movement can help us bring Indigenous voices to the table: not only to partake in their knowledge of sustainable solutions but also to respect and protect their livelihoods.