For Climate Week NYC, One Earth virtually brought together a group of visionary frontline leaders working to combat climate change to discuss the philanthro-activism needed to produce systemic change. The panel discussion, titled “Philanthro-activism and the climate crises: Building a just, vibrant future for all,” featured activists from frontline organizations spanning the globe and philanthropists who are dedicating resources to renewable energy, regenerative agriculture and critical conservation efforts. The panel featured female leaders and called for the philanthropic community to support the groups leading the charge in community-led efforts around the world.
A two-year research study developed by One Earth found that 50% of the earth’s land is essential for biodiversity and 37% of that land, the "Global Safety Net," is found within Indigenous territory. "We all know that climate change is a complex global problem. However, it will ultimately be solved by action on the ground; on the land where forests thrive, in the neighborhoods where energy is generated, in the soil where our food is grown," said Justin Winters, co-founder and executive director of One Earth. "It's clear that frontline communities in particular, Indigenous Afro descendant and local communities are vital to protecting nature and solving the climate crisis, but their importance has been underestimated far too long. Right now, we must radically scale support for these groups who are leading the charge on the ground."
To that end, One Earth announced the launch of the One Earth Project Marketplace, an online tool that allows visitors to support impactful projects around the globe.
Uniting diverse voices
"There are a lot of diverse voices around the world that aren't always focused, but they may actually be key to solving the climate crisis," added Leah Thomas, an intersectional environmental activist based in Southern California. “And by not having a diverse climate movement, we're missing out on all of these different diverse voices and ideas that could be extremely helpful in our fight to save our home."
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, program director at Indigenous Climate Action, said she was called to action at the age of seven, after one of the biggest oil spills in Alberta, Canada, ravaged her community. "From this time till now, I had never thought that I would see such immense devastation to our homelands," said Laboucan-Massimo. "The question that came to me repeatedly was how do I build a future that I want to see? After years of campaigning against the destruction of our homelands, I started to build climate solutions." She founded Sacred Earth Solar and built one of the first Indigenous-led, community owned solar projects in the heart of Alberta's Peace River oil sands.
Nemonte Nenquimo, a Waorani leader and co-founder of the Ceibo Alliance, stressed the devastating impact Western oil development has had on the Amazon in Ecuador. "We have seen colonialism and capitalism enter our land and destroy it," said Nenquimo. "I want to keep uniting outliers, strong women like us who have been suffering. We live together with nature and know the destruction climate change can cause. We have been fighting it for thousands of years and these people only come to destroy and pollute. They are killing mother Earth."
Zainab Salbi, co-founder of Daughters of Earth, noted that 36% of women are more likely to care about climate change and solutions than men. Historically, women do the majority of the farming in the world, but don't own the land. Her organization, Daughters of Earth, which announced a partnership with One Earth during the panel, has been working to bring land ownership to women, inviting women to purchase land in different parts of the world in order to preserve it with a donation. "The statistics go anywhere from 2% to 10 to 20% maximum of farming land owned by women. So, we're trying to reverse the process," said Salbi. "If the scientists are saying we need to preserve 50% of earth to give us a break to regenerate itself, then I think women can take the lead in this initiative."
Flipping the 2 percent
Only 2% of all philanthropic funds go towards the environment and climate change. And only .2% of all philanthropic funding goes to women-led environmental action, noted One Earth's Winters. "If we were able to flip that statistic and direct significant resources and support to women-led climate and environmental efforts on the ground, how would that change things?" she asked.
Tabara Ndaiye, program officer for American Jewish World Service who is responsible for Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo, stressed that women are going to lead the fight against climate change. "Women have the power, through spirituality, through the lessons they have learned from the ancestors to the support and pass on the lessons learned to the next generation," she said, referencing shared farming practices. "They have the power to put into practice woman led activities that are central to change in the communities. Women are the ones who can take the knowledge and share with other members of the community.”
Which is why, Salbi added, more philanthropic efforts need to focus on smaller female-led initiatives around the world. “The future is community led initiatives; community led solutions.”
With such a small amount of philanthropic funding going to environmental issues, Julia Jackson, founder of Grounded, stressed why it is critical for organizations to work together rather than compete for that small slice of the pie. “I saw an opportunity to look at less than 3% of philanthropic giving going to the environment and saying, okay, why is that the case? And how can we make a difference to radically scale up, de-silo and build community amongst environmental organizations?” she said. “You need to build community and a strong united front when it comes to reversing the climate crisis.”
Jena King, founder of the Jena and Michael King Foundation, added that she too believes that to create change, collaboration is key. “It’s so important to create communication between scientist, activists, and also scientists and policymakers,” she said.
King added, “I’m really excited to be part of One Earth and helping to bring this message to regenerative agriculture to much larger scale, to waken the Western world, to understand Indigenous wisdom about how to live with nature and understand their farming practices, scale this all up and restoring the earth.”