#WorldEnvironmentDay takes place in June every year. Here are the little squares inspiring us to do our bit.

#WorldEnvironmentDay is a UN-organised event that is part of its Environment Programme to encourage global awareness and action to protect the planet. By now, there can be few of us who remain unaware of the struggle we collectively face as the climate emergency takes hold. For far too long, we have been exploiting and depleting the world’s ecosystems, without which we face an existential crisis. Daily we lose vast swathes of forest (enough to cover a football pitch every three seconds) and we have decimated more than half of our wetlands. In addition, we face the loss of half of our coral reefs by 2050. All of this deprives nature of its habitats and the ecosystems it relies upon to survive. It also catastrophically diminishes our carbon sinks – all while gas emissions continue to increase year-on-year.

World Environment Day exists not to paralyse us with terror at the prospect of the future, but to inspire and empower us to take action. Its tagline this year is ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore,’ underling the focus on restoring ecosystems that are so vital for the environment and urging us to halt the damage and reverse it where possible. This year also marks the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021 – 2030), which aims to revive ‘billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.’ Explore how you can support the efforts here.

We can never have too many angles on this story; it is, after all, the most important challenge we face. To that end, we’ve rounded up just a handful of brilliant and tireless environmentalists to follow Insta, whose feeds provide both sobering facts and inspiration to do what we can – in however small a way – to make a difference.

Greta Thunberg

No list of social media savvy environmentalists can start without a nod to the most famous of them all: Greta Thunberg. Now eighteen years old, the Swedish teenager is the descendent of Svante Thunberg, who devised the greenhouse effect model and was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1903. For Greta, it all began in 2015 when she won a climate change essay competition. Both buoyed and geared up, a few months later she started to protest in front of the Swedish government building, vowing to continue until it met the carbon emissions target agreed with world leaders in Paris in 2015. By 2018, she had a legion of followers around the world, inspired by her dedication, and the following year, aged just sixteen, she addressed world leaders at a UN climate conference, an event which spearheaded a worldwide climate strike. You can follow her here, where she continues to hold those in power to account.

As she posted recently, ‘We can’t call for climate justice while advocating for policies and phase-out-dates based on targets that exclude aspect of equity and historic emissions. The first step towards climate justice must be to include ALL (especially) high income nations emissions in the targets (like consumption, burning of biomass and waste, land use, international aviation and shipping etc). To surrender the aspect of equity based on historic emissions and climate justice for low- and middle income countries in order to create goals and targets that high income nations consider to be ‘politically possible’ is not just immoral – it violates the heart of the Paris agreement.’ Her documentary, Greta Thunberg – A Year To Change The World, is now streaming on iPlayer.

Nina Gualinga (@NinaGualinga)

‘I tell stories. Motherhood. Amazonia. Women. Indigenous people. Extractivism. Violence. Climate Change and love. It’s all connected.’ So goes the Insta bio of Nina Gualinga, a 27-year-old indigenous leader from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku. She spends much of her life advocating for the environmental protection of the Ecuadorian Amazon – both for its wildlife and its people. When she was just eighteen, she represented her community in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after an oil company – with the help of the Ecuadorian government – began to exploit their land. The people of Sarayaku were victorious. The stories she tells via her little squares – sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in English – are testament to the beauty and richness of her indigenous heritage we stand to lose if we do not treat the environment with care and respect. You can follow her here.

Tori Tsui

A 27-year-old activist, Tori Tsui grew up in Hong Kong and now lives in Bristol. Her grid is a great source of tips for the small changes you can make – for example, only buying from environmentally responsible beauty brands (not as many as you’d hope, alas) and switching your account to an ethical bank – as well as being a good source of information for her new initiative: Bad Activist Collective. They are a community of ‘change-makers, artists, storytellers and activists dismantling perfectionism & fighting for liberation for people & the planet.’ We’re in. Follow Tori Tsui here.

Pass The Mic Climate

This website and Insta account began as a campaign in 2020 to get people in positions of influence to pass the mic to those at the frontline of the climate emergency. As they explain, ‘In late 2020 we asked environmentalist and natural history presenter Sir David Attenborough to pass the mic to frontline activists. This was after announcing the closure of his Instagram page of 6.2 million followers. Climate activists from all around the world subsequently launched an online campaign and petition asking for Sir David to #PassTheMic.

We now want to continue this momentum by calling on other people of influence, brands and organisations to pass the mic to frontline activists.’

Get to know some of the activists and organisers through this grid and tune in to what they have to say.

Vanessa Nakate

If you ever wanted evidence that action inspires action, look no further than Vanessa Nakate. After seeing how Greta Thunberg took the world by storm, she too was motivated to start her own climate movement, this time in Uganda. In 2019, Vanessa too took up a solitary strike outside the Parliament of Uganda in protest at inaction on the climate crisis. Gradually her initiative gained momentum and growing crowds of young people began to gather with her, and to lend their voices to the plight of the Congolian rainforests. And that’s not all. She also founded the Youth for Future Africa and the Rise Up Movement. As she posts simply, ‘Stop destroying our home: We cannot eat coal and we cannot drink oil.’ Follow her here.

Autumn Peltier

Another account, another unfeasibly young yet indomitable woman invested in righting wrongs created by the generations that went before her. Autumn Peltier is a sixteen-year-old Anishinaabe Indigenous clean water advocate from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. Labelled a ‘water warrior’, she is now Chief Water Protector for the Anishnabek Nation – despite not being of legal drinking age. She rose to prominence when, aged thirteen, she attended an Assembly of First Nations and held prime minister Justin Trudeau to account on his record for water protection. For her work, she was nominated for an International Children’s Peace Prize. Follow her here and be inspired.

Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Dr Johnson’s Instagram bio reads: ‘Marine Biologist, policy nerd, Brooklyn native.’ She is also co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities, and the co-host the podcast How 2 Save A Planet. A brilliant account to follow if you want a deeply informed, nuanced take on climate solutions from someone ‘at the nexus of science, policy, and communication.’ And frankly, who doesn’t? Follow her here.

By Nancy Alsop
Updated August 2021


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Nancy Alsop


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