Interview - Issue #8
Where the Leaves Fall contacted global changemakers for their thoughts and responses to this year’s COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference. Isaias Hernandez is a US-based freelance environmental educator and content creator who goes under the name Queer Brown Vegan, focusing on topics like veganism, zero-waste, and environmental justice. You can read the edited interview that was published in the print edition of Where the Leaves Fall here.
Where the Leaves Fall What do you feel are the most pressing issues for COP26 to address and why?
Isaias Hernandez The fossil fuel industry needs to be dismantled and defunded. We can't take serious action on climate change without ending all new oil and gas exploration projects, and setting a timeline for the decommissioning of existing ones. Every day that countries fund new projects we sentence more people to their deaths, especially in marginalised communities.
WtLF What outcomes (and practical measures) would you like to see emerge from COP26?
Isaias Countries need to begin separating corporations from politics: campaign finance reform, increased transparency in politics, and improving voter rights, are all necessary steps in giving power back to the people. Additionally, these corporations and billionaires that have profited from the planet's exploitation must pay for the havoc they have wreaked. Individual action is always an important chance to live by our values but the wealth gap has remained a huge driver in the climate crisis. We lack infrastructure and social services. Why would the lower and middle classes be the ones footing the bill? Marginalised groups and frontline communities have already faced the worst consequences of this crisis - they are the ones who need the most support.
— Isaias Hernandez
WtLF How optimistic are you that COP26 will deliver positive change, and why?
Isaias I'm not optimistic, but I don't think we need optimism - we need creative solutions. Politicians don't come up with their own beliefs, they are representative of the public's beliefs. Until people begin thinking and acting with changed minds, the politicians will not follow them. COP26 is another chance for world leaders to kiss each other's hands, globally broadcast how serious they'll be, and pat each other on the back for making big, promising statements. The kicker is that this is COP26 - we've had 25 international conferences and none of them prevented the situation we're in today. COP26 should show leaders that people are ready for a change. If the right conditions are created, they could spark a climate renaissance, an industrial revolution of sustainability-oriented solutions and ideas.
WtLF What do the world leaders, and everyone else, need to change on a personal level?
Isaias I don't believe world leaders fit into the same category as everyone else. World leaders have a responsibility to regulate in an entirely new way: create circular economies, prevent exploitation, localise supply chains, separate business from politics, and fully fund sustainability initiatives.
Individuals that want to change on a personal level are already doing so and creating change in others - for the ones that don't wish to, they shouldn't have to. The goal is to design sustainable systems and support cultures of regeneration, biodiversity, and cooperation with the natural world. Nowhere is it written that being civilised means we must destroy the planet.
COP26: Separating Corporations from Politics