Environmental influencers: Asian American and Pacific Warriors

Sustainable Leaders | Global

By Isabel Rowbotham, Co-Editor in Chief

Published June 15th, 2022

This article explores the activism of young people across the globe, as part of a series called ‘Environmental influencers’. There is a lot we can learn from Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities through their history, heritage and contributions to society during difficult times. In this article, learn about the first environmental talk show, how a climate group in the Pacific Islands blocked the world’s biggest coal port, an award-winning climate activist and more.

There is no perfect way to be an activist, Sophie shared that living a ‘sustainable’ and ‘natural’ lifestyle can be difficult, especially when sharing your life on social media. | @sophfei | Instagram

Sophia Li @sophfei

Meet Sophia, a Chinese-American journalist and environmental advocate. With a passion for storytelling and intersectional climate issues, her work is worthy of our attention. She has recently co-founded and co-hosts a sustainability talk show called ‘All of the Above’ available on YouTube and Instagram.

‘There is a lot we can learn from Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities through their history, heritage and contributions to society during difficult times.’

She has an innovative idea of using non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to protect and preserve communities and environments. The Steward collection of NFT includes artwork paying tribute to 8 unique ecosystems (Grassland, Tropical rainforests, Temperate rainforest, Ocean, Tundra, Taiga, Chaparral and Desert). This was created in collaboration with Lydia Pang (@lydia_pang_) and Maria Li (@marialiiiii).

Brianna has been standing up for her community since age 11, which is why she deserved her recognition by Global Citizen. | @briannafruean | Instagram

Brianna Fruean @briannafruean

Brianna is a Samoan climate activist who told millions during last year’s COP26. ‘We are not drowning, we are fighting.’ Brianna has now been awarded the 2022 Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, which recognises those defending the planet and making exceptional actions for their communities.

‘'E pala ma'a ae le pala upu', it means that even stones decay but words remain,’—Brianna Fruean.

She has pushed for climate justice from the age of 11 when she became an organiser for 350.org—a youth network and international movement aiming to end fossil fuels. Like many others that have been touched by devastation, Brianna’s community was seriously impacted by a tsunami in 2009. After helping to install rainwater tanks, she was able to see the impact of helping the village have access to clean water.

Pacific Climate Warriors members and Joseph Sikulu. | @pacificclimatewarriors| Instagram

Joseph Sikulu @pacificclimatewarriors

Joseph is the founder of Pacific Climate Warriors (350 Pacific) and Regional Director of 350 Pacific in Sydney, Australia. The organisation has united 13 Pacific Islands to raise awareness of the Australian fossil fuel industry’s role in destroying the place they call home.

When faced with a disaster: ‘We will rebuild and recover, this is what we've always done.’ This is how Joseph responded after the 2021 Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption which affected Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. 350 Pacific collaborated with communities affected during the cleanup and recovery, which included providing food and relief to families, an effort that continued weeks after the disaster.

‘A warrior is resilient. A warrior is not aggressive or violent but is assertive. A warrior serves to protect their community, culture, land, and ocean.’—360 Pacific

In March 2022, they organised a Tonga clean-up to collect plastic bottles. Helpers mobilised to No Pelesitiki, where the collection took place, and then they brought what they collected to Vuna Wharf for recycling. They also carry out the Solar Scholars projects, a training program run by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities that empowers everyday people to create and maintain a solar power system called TekPak.

Ashley sharing her latest start-up called Hot Jupiter a pro-planet and pro-melanin club. | @heyashleyrenne | Instagram

Ashley Renne Nsonwu @heyashleyrenne

An environmental activist, a mum, a vegan and an advocate for People of Colour (POC). Ashley is part of the online sustainability movement which offers followers simple yet important ways in which we all can live healthier lives. In an interview with ABC News, she highlights that living sustainably is not a new trendy way of life, because for many years people around the world have been living sustainably. Simple changes such as swapping your plastic disposable toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush with plant-based bristles mean that we contribute to the reduction of plastic waste with small and achievable actions.

Ashley is a board member of Climate Power, an informative outlet that uses science and supports the US President’s actions in efforts to combat climate change. They provide insight into the politics of climate change through polls showing opinions from both political perspectives. In an April 2022 survey, data was collected on American voters regarding their views and positions on the impact of climate change. Results showed that 32% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans believe America has been impacted. Similarly, 27% and 30%, respectively, think it is important for Congress to invest in the climate crisis by investing in green energy.

Lily has a blog that shares tips on how to live a realistic sustainable fashion life. | @imperfectidealist | Instagram

Lily @imperfectidealist

Lily is also known as the ‘Imperfect Idealist,’ her journey started with blogging about travelling and running. More recently, she has been an advocate for sustainable fashion and let's face it, ignoring the fast fashion industry is incredibly hard. With a non-judgmental approach, we can all learn from Lily’s research and make better decisions when it comes to investing in clothing.

It is even more difficult these days to live a sustainable lifestyle when bombarded by brand adverts claiming sustainability buzzwords, but what does it even mean? Lily talked about Hive Greenwashing dictionary to educate followers on what the words brand use actually mean, for example, ‘Cruelty-Free’ can be used to refer to cosmetics not tested on animals, but digging deeper, this term has no official legal definition. Fortunately, there are other organisations, such as Leaping Bunny, which certify that the company (and their suppliers) have not tested on animals.

Lily has also spoken out against Shein and Princess Polly, lately, these have become the most overproduced and overconsumed brands in fast fashion. Lily talks about the reason behind Shein's success in the popularity of hauls, where people spend hundreds of dollars to briefly wear to end up in thrift stores later. Buying consciously has never been more difficult, therefore activists such as Lily are important for reminding the public how to live a more sustainable life.

‘With a non-judgmental approach, we can all learn from Lily’s research and make better decisions when it comes to investing in clothing.’

Through this article, we hope to share the efforts of outstanding activists that have gained recognition on their own merits. They have also gained the public’s support through honesty about their experiences in the ever-changing digital world.

‘There is more to climate activism than Greta Thunberg (even if she is great) - Tori Tsui’

Featured Image: Sophia Li / Brianna Fruean / Pacific Climate Warriors / Ashley Renne / Lily | Instagram

ABC News (2022) ‘Social media influencers take on ‘zero-waste movement’,’ ABC Living. Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Living/video/social-media-influencers-waste-movement-84185295 [Accessed on May 29th, 2022]

Climate Group (2021) ‘Asian and Pacific Islands are leading the environmental movement,’ Climate Group News. Available at: https://www.theclimategroup.org/our-work/news/asian-and-pacific-islands-are-leading-environmental-movement [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

Deiseroth D. (2022) ‘Now Is Our Last, Best Chance To Act On Climate, And Voters Want Congress To Take Action,’ Climate Power. Available at: https://climatepower.us/resources/now-is-our-last-best-chance-to-act-on-climate-and-voters-want-congress-to-take-action/ [Accessed on May 4th, 2022]

Glasgow A. (2022) ‘What Does “Sustainable Living” Actually Look Like in Practice?’ Architectural Digest. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/sustainable-living-ecological-existence-round-table/amp [Accessed on May 29th, 2022]

Keck M. (2022) ‘Meet Global Citizen Prize Winner Brianna Fruean, a Pioneering Climate Activist Fighting for Justice in the Pacific,’ Global Citizen. Available at: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/global-citizen-prize-winner-brianna-fruean/ [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

Li S. (2022) ‘About,’ Sophfei.com. Available at: https://www.sophfei.com/ [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

Li S. (2022) ‘How a climate-conscious podcaster tries to live sustainably: Dilemmas over air travel, exterminators and hardwood floors,’ The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/02/23/climate-diaries-sophia-li/ [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

Membrere M. (2021) ‘ ‘We are not drowning, we are fighting’: Brianna Fruean tells world leaders,’ Samoa Observer. Available at: https://www.samoaobserver.ws/category/samoa/94000 [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

Packard A. (2010) ‘Brianna: the youngest 350 organizer?’ 350.org. Available at: https://350.org/brianna/ [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

350 (n.d.) ‘350 Pacific’, 350.org. Available at: https://350.org/pacific/ [Accessed on May 27th, 2022]

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