Tara Santos on Sparking Change Through Your Voice and Passions
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Tara Santos on Sparking Change Through Your Voice and Passions

Tara Santos on Sparking Change Through Your Voice and Passions

Youth | May 18, 2021
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Even amid the pandemic, Tara uses her online presence and voice to spread awareness about the ongoing Climate Crisis.

Tara Santos is a 23-year-old climate activist and environmentalist from the Philippines. I sat down with her to talk about climate action and the changes we go through.

What do you do and what did you study? 

Tara Santos (T): I graduated from Eugene Lang College and Parsons at the New School in New York and studied a fusion of sociology and design in one. [However], I didn’t start studying the environmental side of sociology or ecological theory until my senior year—where they started to introduce climate classes.

I think my experience is unique in that I came from the Philippines—the second most affected country in our climate crisis—and studied sustainability in the US where the conversation is more prevalent. [Given those circumstances], I would find myself having discussions with classmates about the differences in one’s privilege and how the systems are completely different from one place to the next.

And what I discovered during my time at school was what I wanted to talk about—issues in terms of capitalism and colonialism in the environmental [context, related to our country].

What are you passionate about?

T: [Most] of my work in activism is with youth organizations. [Currently], I am the National Coordinator of Extinction Rebellion (XR) Philippines. Extinction Rebellion is an environmental group that started in the UK. Basically, our focus is [on] using non-violent direct action to ask governments and corporations to act on the Climate Crisis.

The thing with XR Philippines is that we started when the pandemic happened. [That’s why] a lot of my activism has been online. Recently [however], I haven’t experienced a lot of protests or anything like that, [since] in the Philippines, the Terror Law is scary and it exists.

What I like to do is amplify the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) activists, because I think that in the Climate Movement, [we mainly need] to decolonize it. A lot of times you hear about sustainability in the context of [White people] or [in] the Western perspective, which is why it doesn’t translate to countries like the Philippines. And we are the ones who need to act on it the most.

Basically, we are [also] looking at the social implications of [the] Climate Crisis especially in terms of race, class, systems of capitalism, colonialism, and consumerism.

What have you been involved in aside from XR Philippines? 

T: What I’ve actually been doing recently is speaking to younger kids—about ages 5 to 9—and teaching them about plastic pollution. [We focus] specifically and how that ties into the Climate Crisis, and I also talk about scuba diving.

[Additionally], I host and do a lot of clean-ups at home. [I then] try to submit it to Project AWARE, where they collate data from divers worldwide and create a yearly report on what kinds of plastics we have in our marine environments right now. I’ve also done a few webinars with different youth organizations [from time to time]. 

How do you think the youth is changing or evolving in terms of our identity and voice? How does this relate to yourself, your work, and your activism?

T: The youth of today are in a very unique position. [We’re] growing up in a time where everything is becoming digital and therefore more accessible. [Thus], we’re able to connect and be critical about different stories of communities around the world, while staying aware of our own at the same time.

This became especially prevalent during the past year, [especially when] the pandemic shed light on social issues such as racism and classism. [This] allowed the youth to question systems that were taught to us. [And] in the context of activism, I think that the general awareness of these issues gives us more power to create meaningful, intergenerational change. [A change] that goes beyond what’s expected of youth as a whole.

What message do you want to give young people? 

T: Be critical [with] information you get about the Climate Crisis. The first step [is] to connect with these issues. [Next], start acting on them through self-education or in trying to find something [you’re passionate about] while also learning about the Climate Crisis. For me, that was through design.

I think that the most sustainable way we can achieve climate justice is by having a personal connection to it. If we simply look at solving Climate Crisis with greed, [nothing will happen]. [We need] a paradigm shift in the way we think, [so that we too can] take action.

Photos taken in Brooklyn, New York | 2020 from my personal 35mm archive 

XR graphic made by subhelic

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Miko is a young New York-based Filipino artist currently working in fashion. He is a goal-oriented dreamer who believes in spirituality and the idea of human transcendence into 5th dimensional consciousness, the authentic self. A lover of the universe and all that is nature. An advocate of self-discovery and exploration through fashion, writing, and the arts.
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