Eight Asian changemakers fighting for environmental and climate justice

This International Women’s Day, learn about 8 inspiring Asian changemakers who are fighting for environmental and climate justice.

This year, International Women’s Day is putting the spotlight on women fighting against climate change under the theme of “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” Cold Tea Collective has gathered a list of eight Asian changemakers to watch this International Women’s Day.

Climate change and human rights issues are closely intertwined. Around the world and historically, women have been disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards and climate change. This makes them more vulnerable to food insecurity, violence and poverty. According to the United Nations, 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. They also experience more negative health effects than men.  

Achieving gender equality is crucial to combating the environmental crisis. Drawing on diverse perspectives and knowledge from women will create more inclusive, long-term solutions to the world’s pressing issues. Yet, women leaders remain under-represented across the world in political roles and at key climate discussions such as the COP26. 

Eight Asian changemakers to watch this International Women’s Day

At Cold Tea Collective, we are celebrating North American Asian women who are fighting for environmental and climate justice. Often, Asians are not portrayed in the media as outspoken citizens, let alone activists or environmentalists. Yet in a recent study by AAPI Data, 70% of Asian Americans consider themselves environmentalists. This is more than the U.S. national average of 41%.

In order to achieve gender parity, we must break the gender bias and stereotypes of the model minority, and challenge these systemic inequalities.

Here are eight women using their talents and voices to educate others and steer the environmental movement forward.

1. Sophia Li

Multimedia journalist and director

Photo credit: Sophia Li’s Instagram

Born in Minnesota and now based in New York, Sophia Li is a vocal advocate for climate and racial justice. Named one of the top climate communicators of 2022 by Harvard, the Chinese American storyteller uses her digital platforms to engage and empower more people to take action. A self-proclaimed climate optimist, she is known for making the climate movement more accessible and inclusive.

Li co-founded the online climate series, All of the Above, which addresses pressing questions around climate change in an approachable way. She is also the co-host of Meta’s new podcast series, Climate Talks.

2. Aditi Mayer

Sustainable fashion blogger, photojournalist & labor rights activist

Photo Credit: Aditi Mayer’s website

As an Indian American, Aditi Mayer began her sustainable fashion journey after learning about the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse in 2014. From an intersectional lens, she examines the historically colonial practices within the fashion industry and how it leads to the exploitation of people of colour and the environment. When she is not advocating for garment worker and labour rights, she is speaking at events across the globe. Most recently, she also delivered a TED talk on decolonizing fashion.

Following her passion in photojournalism, she has been named the National Geography digital storytelling fellow. Mayer plans to document the social and environmental impacts of India’s fashion supply chain.

See also: Women of colour are leading the change in labour laws

3. Kristy Drutman

Environmental podcaster and speaker

Photo Credit: Brown Girl Green

Kristy Drutman is a Jew-Pina American podcaster and speaker based in Oakland, California. She created the Brown Girl Green podcast and media series to improve representation of people of colour in the environmental field. Her vision is to also redefine what it means to be an environmentalist in the 21st century.

Her fun personality and humour draws viewers into the world of environmental advocacy in a relatable and personal way. She provides insight on a variety of topics, from environmental racism to sustainable lifestyle tips. Drutman also highlights employment opportunities to help others kickstart their green careers.

See also: The new beauty standards: Be yourself and be sustainable

4. Miranda Wang

Climate tech entrepreneur and speaker

Novoloop founders Jeanny Yao (left) and Miranda Wang (right) / Photo Credit: Techcrunch

The CEO & co-founder of Novoloop is tackling the world’s plastic problem. Miranda Wang’s goal is to turn plastic into valuable resources that can be used to create high-performance products, such as sports equipment, waterproof outerwear, or car interiors. Novoloop has raised $11 million to date and is currently in the process of bringing the product to market.

The Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur and scientist is a Forbes 30 Under 30, a UN Young Champion of the Earth, and a Pritzker Environmental “Genius” Awardee. Her plan to revolutionize plastic recycling is why she is one of the Asian changemakers to watch this International Women’s Day.

5.Varshini Prakash

Climate activist and community organizer

Photo credit: Varshini Prakash’s Instagram

Born to South Indian parents and a first-generation college graduate, Varsini Prakash has been organizing and advocating for climate, social, and economic justice since she was a student. Currently, she acts as an advisor to President Joe Biden’s climate task force, and also serves on the advisory board of Climate Power 2020.

Prakash is the catalyst behind the Sunrise Movement, an American youth-led organization advocating for political action on climate change. In 2018, she was involved in the infamous sit-in at the office of the U.S. Speaker of the House, calling for a congressional climate task force. Now, Sunrise is championing the Green New Deal, a proposal to move American society to clean and renewable energy while creating jobs to address economic hardships especially in communities of colour.

6. Ann Makosinski

Inventor and entrepreneur

Photo Credit: Giullian Yao Gioiello / annmakosinski.com

Another Forbes 30 under 30 on our list, Ann Makosinski bridges arts and science to solve problems and build a better planet. Her invention of the Hollow Flashlight, a flashlight that runs solely off the heat of the human hand, took the world by storm. She earned various Science Fair and Energy Awards for it.

As the founder of her own company, Makotronics Enterprises, and a sought-after speaker, the Filipina Polish Canadian looks for ways to harvest energy without polluting the earth. This young inventor inspires others to lean into their curiosity, and to take matters into their own hands when it comes to climate change solutions.

See also: Young Canadian inventor Ann Makosinski on her experiences as a mixed race creator

7. Tina Yeonju Oh

Activist and researcher

Photo Credit: Indigenous Climate Action

Another Asian changemaker to watch this International Women’s Day is Canadian COP23 youth delegate, Tina Yeonju Oh. Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25, Oh focuses on migrant and racial justice, food security, and fossil fuel divestment. 

As a Korean immigrant-settler, Oh grew up in Alberta, Canada, near the second biggest fossil fuel project in the world. Her firsthand experience led her to becoming a core organizer for Divest MTA, a student-led initiative to encourage Canadian universities to invest in sustainable alternatives. She is also an active voice for migrant and indigenous rights in Halifax/Kjipuktuk.

8. Miya Yoshitani

Non-profit leader and community organizer

Photo Credit: Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Miya Yoshitani is the former executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN). APEN was established at a critical time in history, after the First National People of Colour Environmental Justice Leadership Summit in 1991. There, communities of colour converged for the first time to make their voices heard.

As a child, she moved to Detroit in the 1980s with her immigrant Japanese father during the recession and the murder of Vincent Chin. Her childhood experiences influenced her path as a community organizer. Starting out as a youth organizer at APEN, Yoshitani engaged with Laotian refugees in Richmond, California and challenged Chevron’s oil refinery expansion. Since 2002, APEN has been supporting Chinese seniors and workers in the Oakland Chinatown area, and educating youth leaders on organizing and advocacy.

These eight Asian changemakers to watch this International Women’s Day are among the many women making a difference in the climate space. We hope their stories will inspire you to learn more about climate justice and amplify the voices of women in your lives and in the community.

Featured image photo credit: Burcu Köleli for UN Women (2022)

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