When Kato Ewekia Taomia first walked out of the airport to attend COP26 in Glasgow, he was dressed in shorts and flip-flops. The timid fellow, whose looks may say otherwise, wasn’t even aware of the cold weather of the country, let alone how the annual climate conference is going to change his life. A year back he was on stage, at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, talking to a packed audience how one story changed his life.
“Since my story was shared, our government noticed it and realised the need to send more people from our island nation. Today, we are a delegation of five and we want the world to know about our struggles. I want our country to be not known as a sinking nation but a rising nation,” said Ewekia, at Let Me Breathe and Pluc.tv’s event ‘The Power of Climate Storytelling’ held at Earth Day Climate Education Hub, at COP27, on Wednesday.
The power-packed panel included Dr Omnia El Omrani, first-ever Youth Envoy to COP27 President, Shilo Shiv Suleiman, artist and Founder of Fearless Collective, Archana Soreng, climate activist and Member, UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, Evan Stulberger, Video Content Manager at the Rockefeller Foundation, Rosa Marina Flores Cruz, a member of the “Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory” and the “Indigenous Futures Network”. The eclectic panel was moderated by Tamseel Hussain, Founder & CEO, Let Me Breathe and Pluc.tv.
Talking about what kind of stories need to be told in the space of climate change, “Dr Omrani said, “We need stories of hope. We need to share stories of grassroot actions. We need to share stories of our communities, the challenges they face & how they overcome it.” She also added how voices and demonstrations are so important because it puts the right & necessary pressure on “our leaders who come here to act”.
The event also showcased stories of each of the panelists around their area of work. So while Suleiman presented her work with women from Sri Lanka, Soreng’s journey to bring the indigenous voices to the forefront highlighted the power of storytelling. “Fear is often counterproductive to the change we really need to see. Around the climate crisis, a lot of the messaging is rooted in fear. Our stories need to be rooted in love. Love can sustain our movements,” commented the contemporary artist.
Soreng, who has been working for awareness about climate change and the promotion of the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous communities, spoke on how storytelling connects with people as it’s connecting emotions and facts. “Storytelling has a really important power because it moves people, it makes a difference,” she said. Elaborating further on how climate storytelling needs space, she added, “I truly believe that climate justice is about reclaiming spaces for indigenous people & local communities in the climate action discourse.”
Stulberger who has received numerous awards including Telly, Emmy, and Edward R. Murrow gets into the heart of a story while visually documenting it. “That is how we are going to bring change – by letting people talk about their experiences, letting them share their stories in any medium they can,” said Stulberger who presented his story on how climate change is affecting the Caribbean. “We use storytelling to help explain climate solutions,” he added.
Cruz is an Afro-Zapotec from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico whose first video story around indigenous communities was presented at this event. “We need to bring even those stories that we think are not related to our conversation on the climate crisis, because they actually are. In that way we can build a beautiful network,” she said.
On how climate storytelling can create an impact, Stulberger said, “It is really about just letting people talk. Let people talk and help them get out their truth. Getting that honesty is an important part of getting to the heart of the story.” As the event came to a close, it was clear climate storytelling needs nuanced representation, one that brings to fore the urgency of the crisis, resilience of people and the hope of finding solutions.
We want to hear your pollution stories.
We want to amplify your stories.
We believe your stories can change the world.