Youth activism and the arts as catalysts for climate action

Quezon City – Youth activism and the arts could be a potent combination for driving climate action in our communities, emerging Filipino activists and artists said during the 24th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Never Too Young to Lead: Emerging Pinoy Artists Reimagining Climate Action.”

In celebration of the National Arts Month last February, the episode featured stories of young climate and environmental activists who are elevating climate discourse and driving climate actions through the arts.

“Art can make a difference,” architect and visual artist Riel Amadeus Diala said as he emphasized the role of the arts in engaging the public with new perspectives and solutions on climate change.

Diala became a Climate Reality Leader in 2020, which sparked his passion to make climate discourses more accessible and comprehensible for the public. Since then, he has regularly created artworks for Climate Reality Philippines’ ClimArtivism—a space for Climate Reality Leaders to share their visual, literary, performance pieces, and other inspiring climate-related creations.

Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) Convenor Mitzi Jonelle Tan agreed with Diala, adding that art can depict the difficulties of the world and likewise help people picture a better reality for everyone.

Tan shared that she became a full-time climate justice activist when she realized that humanity must do everything and use anything to save the planet. She added that the arts is one of the best ways to communicate the tangling climate issues that affect society. 

Art as a vehicle for climate activism

In the Philippines, activism has been tainted with fear and violence while climate change has been often associated only with technical and scientific information.

“We have to show the young people that activism is not dangerous. You can do fun things [with activism] through art, ” Tan said, explaining how she utilized arts to raise climate awareness at different levels.

Tan convened YACAP in 2019 to lead protests against global climate inaction. The youth alliance immerses in urban communities to capture how people see the interplay between the climate crisis and their daily routines and translates scientific information on climate change into empowering and relatable materials, such as comics.

Sparking curiosity through the arts

“Through art, I want to give a visual of important species that are soon to be forgotten because they aren’t really taught in schools,” multidisciplinary visual artist Anina Rubio said as she explains the importance of biodiversity protection. “Not only you can use art to promote conservation, but you can also use art to educate,” she added.

Rubio, in partnership with My Little Smarts, released a playing card deck as an educational tool for the young ones to learn about the different endemic and native species—mostly threatened, critically endangered, and vulnerable—existing in the Philippines. She believed that visual images could spark curiosity from the audience leading them to dig deeper into the state of biodiversity and the environment.

Putting the spotlight on the people most affected by the climate crisis

Documentary filmmaker and photographer Kathleen Lei Limayo, meanwhile, highlighted how photos and videos could reflect the untold stories of the communities most vulnerable to the climate crisis, as she shared her journey of documenting existing problems and non-existing opportunities for indigenous people rooted in the climate crisis

Limayo, who also serves as Asia and Pacific Video Producer of, emphasized that the way people treat ancestral lands mirrors their vision of the world they wanted to live in. She added that human actions play a crucial role in coursing through the future of humanity.  

Harnessing the youth “dividend”

“We’ve seen how young artists inspire revolutions and movements. Having that with climate activism is important because that is the next step,” Tan said as she highlighted the need to tap the creativity of the youth and the power of social media.

“Young people are always creative. Being able to use Tiktok and memes and popular media is the way to reach people,” Tan added.

Rubio echoed Tan’s statement, reminding everyone that the youth are the ones who will inherit the planet. She said that empowering the youth to claim their space in the climate movement builds their sense of accountability and ownership as the stewards of the environment.