Cecilia is a passionate climate activist in Fridays For Future Argentina and works closely with the local youth climate movement. She currently works as an Environmental Communication Strategies Coordinator for a local foundation. She has also received mentorship from Nobel Prize recipient Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.
Cecilia, you have been one of the main organizers of Fridays for Future in Argentina. Do you see FFF as a protest organization or is it something different to that?
Fridays For Future is a worldwide movement mobilizing young people to raise their voices to demand climate action. Protests are a key component of the movement because we need to address our demands to decision-makers and big polluters, but the movement also contributes to education, communication and outreach with different stakeholders on the ground and internationally. In those interactions and joint work, it is possible to build partnerships and collaborations, so that everyone can get involved and engage with the goal. Being an activist isn’t easy and it can be overwhelming, so FFF (as well as many other movements) implements strategies of regenerative culture, such as mental health approaches, non-violence, empathic communication, and many other tools to protect activists and grow together into a more resilient and caring society. Last but not least, each chapter at FFF has the autonomy to work on its own projects and propose its own ideas.
As well as being a climate activist, you are working at an increasingly high level in political structures in order to affect changes. Do these two roles come into conflict, or can they be complementary?
Being an activist means having something important to say to the world, in order to make it a better place for everyone. It is also having the sources, facts, examples, and experiences to explain why it is important to you.
When the right doors open, we have to be ready to face decision-makers and different stakeholders who will not always agree with our points of view or may also have to deal with conflicts of interest. Diplomacy and negotiation skills became important to me when I realized that we may not have enough time to change the system before the climate breakdown occurs – but we still can do amazing work if we engage with the institutions and processes to improve their positive impact.
I do believe that activism and high-level conversations are complementary. If we can sit at the decision-making tables, then we can make our voices heard and our opinions count. It is essential to have activists working to influence the people in power so that our demands can be turned into action. We all have a role to play – in my case, I feel the need to be part of a movement that expands the message of climate urgency from civil society and demands a systemic transformation via the climate strikes, but I also understand the need to build consensus within existing institutions such as governments, academia, and international organizations like the UNFCCC.
There are currently far more women in the plant-based space than men. Do you think that women, in general, are more concerned about climate and sustainability? And if so, why do you think that is?
Yes, and this is something that we can see in the climate, sustainability, and plant-based movements. Between 70-80% of the people actively concerned and engaged with sustainability would self-define as women/feminine.
The ‘eco-gender gap’ has been the subject of marketing research in order to position new sustainable and eco-friendly products in the British market.
Women all around the world are paying attention to their role as consumers, but also taking political actions for change – we find inspiring women working for climate resilience, including Greta Thunberg, Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, and many more. They are out there, protecting our water, soil, air, and animals from polluting industries, taking action for environmental education and public participation, advocating for the rights of nature, and building and growing agroecology communities.
Eco-feminism is the study of both movements, which were once apart and are now closer than ever. Toxic masculinity has been stopping men’s engagement with climate-related issues while also shaping their behaviors. It is still complex to talk about sustainability with some men, or for them to think about following a plant-based diet, or switching their cars for bikes or public transport when having a car is still seen as a symbol of status, luxury, and ‘success’ in some cultures.
There is, however, a big challenge to ensure women’s representation as decision-makers, and the COP event is still far from reaching gender equity. During the last two UN Climate Change Conferences, less than 35% of party delegates were women, and only 20% of the Country Heads of Delegation at COP27 were women.
What are three things that people can do in their own personal lives to help mitigate climate change and restore the environment?
I believe that everyone can be a changemaker and that everyone can play an active role in changing reality. To do so, it is important to be conscious of the decisions that we make every day, understanding and questioning our impacts on the planet, its people, animals and ecosystems.
Adopt a plant-based diet: where I come from in Argentina, key biodiverse ecosystems such as wetlands are being burnt to expand meat production. Globally, more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions are related to animal farming. This is the easiest way you can make a huge impact to help restore, protect, and expand natural ecosystems, with the potential to preserve biodiversity and capture CO₂.
Refuse, reduce, reuse: overconsumption in the current linear (as opposed to circular) economy is creating stress on nature in order to produce goods and services for 8 billion people around the world. We need to refuse the things that we don’t need, reduce our demand for new items, and make our goods more durable so that they can be reused.
Be energy efficient: fossil fuels have expanded in the last year, despite the war and the pandemic, and they are making a lot of money by polluting the soil, air, and water. How many times do we drive a car when we could be walking? How many times do we leave our laptops, tv, music, or lights on when we are not in the room? Be mindful of your power use, at home, at work, and in public/shared spaces, but also when traveling and moving around within your town/city/area. Even when there is big progress in clean energy, we still need to de-grow our demand for energy and become more efficient in its use.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity. The opinions expressed here are the respondent’s personal opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of ProVeg International.