Like many events this spring, the original EarthX Women in the Environment Summit had to be re-imagined into a virtual setting for attendees instead of gathering in person as planned. Although disappointing, that didn’t slow the momentum of the powerful messages delivered by women on the frontlines of climate activism.
Just a year ago, Xiye Bastida organized her school of 600 students to take action against climate change and now she’s delivering talks at the United Nations. When Kathy asked Xiye to tell the audience what she was all about, she said her main goal is for everyone to come together “to have a better and dignified life.” In response to the lockdown measures put in place because of the pandemic, Xiye shifted into action with fellow student activists and created a global campaign for Earth Day. “We the Planet” encouraged kids to pledge an individual and systemic action to take for the earth in the coming year. To date, the campaign has more than 300,000 participants.
“I was getting very depressed last year because I knew I wasn’t doing enough,” said long-time activist Jane Fonda. Inspired by the book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein, she ignited weekly civil disobedience via Fire Drill Fridays, which until recently, took action to the streets of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. She said that engaging with young climate strikers lifted her depression. Jane also noted her research on biodiversity and emphasized the need to fight for Indigenous cultures. “80% of the world’s remaining biological diversity is on lands that are stewarded by Indigenous peoples. The research shows that on the land stewarded by Indigenous peoples there’s 2-3 times lower deforestation.” Xiye, who is Indigenous, added, “People thinking that the climate movement is recent is disrespecting what Indigenous people have been fighting for, for thousands of years, which is a culture of tradition that comes from the connection to the land.”
Renowned marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle argued that despite the global pandemic and the climate emergency our planet faces, this is the best time in human history to be alive. “We have the knowledge that did not exist and could not exist before,” she said. “We are the agent of our own source of problems and we also are the source of solutions. Taking care of the systems that make our existence possible has to be the no. 1 priority. Everything else follows.” She emphasized that we can accelerate recovery now because we know what to do. Vassar Seydel spoke passionately about an upcoming meeting in July of the International Seabed Authority that will vote on The Mining Code, which is being advocated for by countries with a deep-seabed mining agenda. This concerns climate scientists and activists alike because, Vassar stated, this code is being written “to have little to no environmental regulations.” And because the ocean provides us oxygen and sequesters most of our carbon, the ramifications of this type of mining without necessary regulations could be catastrophic.