Why philanthro-activism is key to solving the climate crisis

Although climate change is a complex, global problem, it will ultimately be solved by action on the ground; on the land where forests thrive, in the neighborhoods where energy is generated, on the soil where our food is grown. It’s clear that frontline communities and nature are vital to solve the climate crisis, but their importance has been underestimated for too long. Now, we must radically scale support for the groups on the ground leading change.

The solutions to the climate crisis already exist. The One Earth Climate Model and a growing body of science supports three main pillars of action to stay below 1.5°C — a shift to 100% renewable energy by 2050, protection and restoration of half of the world’s lands and oceans, and a transition to regenerative, climate-friendly agriculture. The good news is that on-the-ground action is already happening. While we wait for governments and businesses to set and keep commitments, there are millions of people in communities around the world working to stay below 1.5°C. They’re installing renewables, protecting nature, and changing how our food is grown. 

This is no small thing. These people are part of a huge global movement without a name — they are guardians, innovators, farmers, organizers, activists. They’re both the last line of defense protecting what we cannot afford to lose, and the leading edge of progress, driving the transitions we need. 

So, when we think of action for climate change, we need to think of people like Nemonte Nenquimo of the Waorani Nation in the Amazon rainforest. Her work—supported by Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines—has protected 500,000 acres of Amazon rainforest and provided a legal precedent to protect another 7 million acres from oil auctions. Nemonte and her community are just one example — more than a third of the lands that science tells us we need to protect are held by Indigenous Peoples. They’re fighting hard to protect their lands, their waters, their home, their families’ future - and ours.

When we think of transforming agriculture and feeding 10B+ people, we need to remember that more than 75% of nutrition in the Global South is provided by smallholder farmers. And we need to think of people like Chukki Nanjundaswamy – a leader of the farmers movement in Karnataka, India. She’s helping to train half a million farmers in agroecology and aims for many millions more. And as drought—exacerbated by climate change—ravages southern India, she helps farmers thrive by avoiding expensive and harmful chemicals, restoring soil, increasing food productivity, and storing carbon in the ground.

Leaders like Nemonte and Chukki do this work with limited resources, against seemingly insurmountable odds, and in many cases risking their lives. These leaders need support, but they are massively underfunded. Currently, environmental groups and causes get less than 2% of global philanthropy. And most climate philanthropy has gone towards top-down strategies to shift policy, reform industry or jump-start carbon markets. Few resources have been directed to community-based efforts, and less than 0.2% of all foundation funding goes to women led environmental action

This must change. We need to 10x climate philanthropy.

One Earth is dedicated to mobilizing significant philanthropic capital from high-net-worth families, companies, and everyday citizens. But we don’t just want to increase climate philanthropy, we want to reimagine it. It’s an approach we call philanthro-activism. Guided by the science of a 1.5°C pathway, philanthro-activism directs the resources of philanthropy to the activism of communities doing the work on the front lines of climate change.

Read the full article on Climate Week NYC.