Local voices hold the truth and the missing link to real climate action

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Local voices and community-led climate action — rights-based and sustainable — hold the key to global climate solutions, concluded panelists at WACC’s most recent Conversation Circle.

The online discussion “Local Climate Voices: The Missing Link to Real Climate Action?” on 11 October offered members and partners the chance to explore how the voices of local communities can contribute to meeting the global threat of climate change.

We’re talking about climate justice. There is a strong element of injustice in this equation,” stressed moderator Lorenzo Vargas, WACC’s Communication for Social Change program manager.

He highlighted that the communities that have contributed the least to climate change are the most impacted by its effects — and they are often not in a position to exercise their right to communicate and shape the public conversation around climate action.

“There is an element of communication and information poverty, communication and information deficits that don’t allow people most affected by climate change to be seen and to be heard.”

Local communities are responding to climate change.

The panel featured representatives from Indigenous peoples and local communities — including WACC partners — who are already taking action and making a difference.

In the Philippines, the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) is helping new climate voices to emerge from among population groups most vulnerable to climate change.

As climate education isn’t offered in schools, many people find it challenging to articulate their experiences in a way that the government can hear, said CEC Executive Director Lia Mai Torres. With WACC support, CEC developed a climate curriculum rooted in traditional knowledge that equips fisherfolk, farmers, and Indigenous people to take action and to train others in their communities.

In Mexico and Central America, the Ford Foundation is backing collective rights efforts to challenge inequality in accessing, controlling, and benefiting from natural resources. Such inequality is intrinsically related to climate change and environmental degradation, said Victor Lopez Illescas, program officer for the region.

The Foundation and WACC are supporting local partner La Sandia Digital in Mexico to train land defenders in strategic communication.

Cultural Survival is using Indigenous-led community media and advocacy in Nepal to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights, which are closely linked with climate change, land, and livelihoods, said Dev Kumar Sunuwar, Asia program coordinator.

WACC has partnered with Cultural Survival to support radio and TV programming about Indigenous traditional knowledge to address climate change and make information available in Indigenous languages.

Local climate voices counter misinformation and disinformation.

Panelists agreed that voices from the community take a lead in speaking truth to protect the environment and resist unjust policies and actions — all too often with lethal consequences.

Environmental defenders in the Philippines strive to bring to light the profit motives of development projects pushed by the government and business, projects that will harm the environment and have little benefit for local communities, Torres said.

It is the deadliest country in Asia to take on the role of bringing such information to the public. CEC is working to ensure environmental defenders won’t be silenced, especially in relation to climate change impacts.

Protection is needed for these local voices, particularly Indigenous voices, in his region as well, Lopez Illescas said. Mexico and three countries in Central America figure among the ten countries worldwide with the most killings and attacks on land and environmental defenders. The Ford Foundation is supporting measures to keep them safe.