Climate activists are dismissed and shunned regularly in their demands and protests, yet they continue to campaign for environmental justice.
Interview with Zainab Waheed, Climate Activist

This interview was conducted by Rebecca Herbert

 

Dear Zainab, you are a climate activist, writer and speaker. I have your resume, but tell me more about yourself.

I am a firm believer in the power of people, especially young women, to drive change where governments and institutions fail to do so. From the age of 14, I have studied the climate crisis, and have led climate action in my community at the grassroots. From leading plantations to holding conversations with young students in schools, from outlining my climate concerns in speeches to world leaders to bringing underrepresented voices of Pakistan's climate victims to international forums, I have strived to galvanize climate action in my community. Apart from climate advocacy, I enjoy psychological thriller movies with unhealthy levels of suspense, fiction books that have me crying my eyes out and cooking with my mother.

Many people think that global warming is just a political game and that famous activists are puppets of environmental lobbies... What do you think about this?

The very act of denying climate change is a product of propaganda itself! It is not news that fuel companies and climate criminals continue to pump billions of dollars in denying climate science, which manifests in absurd theories that not only negate climate science, but also invalidate all the brave climate activists who have laid down their lives in fighting for climate justice. 

Climate science is clear, and scientists constantly warn us that climate change is happening and it is happening now. Whether we believe it is a hoax or not, it is an objective reality that is taking place regardless. Climate activists are dismissed and shunned regularly in their demands and protests, yet they continue to campaign for environmental justice. If they really were puppets, I think it would be unlikely that they would be able to stand the opposition they face, for I see in them a determination that can't be bought or sponsored. And if climate advocacy was really a political game, we could have seen politicians do something about it, even if it was for publicity, which hasn't happened yet. So no, any climate deniers are either purposefully misinformed, or products of propaganda from climate criminals. 

Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s planet-warming gases, European Union data shows, yet it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. What is your future vision for Pakistan?

I can only see more of my country’s people drowning and dying while COPs become networking opportunities for climate criminals. I see my country’s capacity to tackle the climate crisis diminishing as soaring hunger and inflation make the headlines. I see my country’s plight becoming a mere case study for the world as the global north continues to evade accountability. While I try to assure myself that there is still hope for Pakistan and that the work of all my fellow climate activists would not be in vain, COPs increasingly become annual business opportunities with fossil fuel lobbyists. While young climate activists stand outside of climate conferences with their voices deliberately shunned, climate criminals sponsor conferences whose very agenda is to eliminate climate crimes. I can’t help but despair at the future of Pakistan, set to face exacerbating climate breakdowns amidst stagnation in international climate action.

World Environment Day 2023 will focus on solutions to plastic pollution. What is your plan to educate children and fight plastic pollution?

Over 55% of plastic pollution is produced by 20 companies alone. And so, solving this issue requires us to address the root cause of plastic pollution, which is to call out plastic polluters, hold them accountable, and demand sustainable business practices. I see a lot of encouragement for individual action, like using paper straws, but we must also understand that by shifting the responsibility for plastic pollution to individual consumers, we play right into the hands of polluters who would do anything to keep the public focus away from their climate crimes. Hence, while I do advocate for plastic clean-ups as a way to mobilize young people, I also think educating them on environmental issues must come with a strong focus on accountability for climate criminal corporates who have harmed the earth more than any individual could.

‘At the end of Ramadan, you should make a promise to yourself that you will make a change in yourself by the next Ramadan’, you said in a tweet. These changes can even be environmental. How much can religion - especially Islam - help in dealing with environmental threats and preserving the environment?

Respect for the environment is foundational to Islamic belief. Islamic tradition advocates for environmental protection, declaring deliberate harm to the earth a punishable sin in Allah’s law. As a climate activist, I harness the influence of Islam on public opinion and behavior to promote climate education. By inviting Muslim scholars to make climate education central to their teachings, by sitting down with Muslim students in Madrassas (Islamic schools), and by encouraging Muslim religious leaders to promote climate awareness in the weekly Friday sermons of Islamic faith, I promote climate discourse at the grassroots of my community. Only by ensuring that the people most vulnerable to climate threats are aware and prepared of the risks that await them can we ensure their capacity building to tackle climate threats. My knowledge lies within the structures of the Muslim faith, but I am sure that incorporating climate education in the religious discourse of any religion is bound to spark extensive climate awareness.

COMMENT

A Activiste

La protection de l’environnement est un enjeu considérable pour notre avenir, nous sommes tous concernés si nous souhaitons continuer à vivre dans de bonnes conditions.

11 months ago

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P Pour la France

« C’est Lui qui a fait de la terre un berceau, pour vous, et vous y a tracé des chemins. Et c’est Lui qui fait descendre l’eau du ciel. Avec celle-ci, Nous faisons germer, par couples, des plantes de toutes sortes (et Nous vous disons) : « Mangez et faites paitre votre bétail. » Voilà bien là des signes pour les doués d’intelligence. »

11 months ago

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J Jack white

Is global warming really true??? I do not believe in it.

11 months ago

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T Tangwa Abilu

Are you a Muslim?

11 months ago

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S Sam Ross

Very good interview I hope all people work for the environment, although sometimes environmental activities take a political form For example, the American Democratic Party's confrontation with Greta Thunberg or Trump's confrontation with her

11 months ago

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