Enfrentando a emergência climática: uma crise que não causamos

My name is Sofía Gutiérrez and I grew up in the context of an armed conflict. In Colombia, life continued despite the increase in violence. The stories I heard at bedtime were my grandmother’s stories telling me how she and her family had to flee violence in the countryside. Upon hearing reports that the people who remained were killed, people became afraid, even though they still yearned for change and the fight for justice.

But they weren’t just stories; in fact, they are the realities experienced by people in the most vulnerable areas of Colombia, where people do not have time to be afraid because they need to fight on two fronts: to stop the destruction of their communities by extractivism, and by war, at the same time.

Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for anyone who cares about the environment; last year, 65 environmental defenders were murdered . Every day, world leaders, banks and companies ignore what happens to the people and areas most affected  (MAPA), as long as it does not affect them directly.

This situation leaves no doubt that the people and areas most affected are always ignored, mainly because the economic model does not see us as worthy of basic human rights. The Global South has been facing the climate crisis for a long time, which is nothing new for us.

The foundations for the climate crisis were laid in the process of colonization. With colonialism, the massive exploitation of the land and genocide, the murder of indigenous wisdom, began. It was widely believed that our country and people had been given to the colonial rulers as a gift so that they could meet their needs without restriction. They completely ignored the idea of ​​sanctity and preservation of natural resources.

As a consequence, we can still see in our daily lives the dynamics of accelerated consumption and extractivism that are still underway to boost the economy of the Global North. Despite this, it is important to recognize that the countries subjected to colonization are those that emit the least greenhouse gases. We are merely suppliers of resources to explorers, yet we still face the worst consequences of the climate crisis – a crisis we did not cause.

The next necessary step? Stop financing fossil fuels and implement a fair energy transition.

This is what I am defending in my work as an activist. It was only in August 2019, when part of my country’s rainforest was being burned, that I found shelter in climate activism. As I became more involved in the climate movement, I realized the magnitude of the relationship between climate change and social justice, as I heard firsthand from people who have experienced the impacts of climate change in my country. From my family’s experience, we were always waiting to see if our house would flood in the rainy season.

I began to understand that my country could not advance on environmental issues if we did not have access to education and information about how to properly protect our territories and help those on the front lines to do so with legal tools. I had the opportunity to participate in national dialogues with my government about well drilling, declaring a climate emergency, and educational issues. As I became involved in politics, I worked with my local government and decided that I would fight for access to quality environmental education. After hard work alongside NGOs, citizens and human and environmental rights defenders, Bogotá declared a Climate Emergency in the local council and the city council began implementing greener public policies.

Today, I am part of a youth organization called Pacto X el Clima . We started as a youth movement and our main objective was to promote young people in decision-making spaces. Fortunately, the movement that started with 12 passionate young activists has become a youth NGO fighting the climate crisis with different projects, such as the environmental education program created by me.

I believe that change begins with knowledge and part of climate action is providing access to quality environmental information and education to young people, as a right and not a privilege. When people have access to information and the right environmental conditions to learn, this means another defender of social and climate justice in the world. It is our duty as activists and people with access to education to help others achieve equality so that they can have the same opportunities as us. For young people living in the most dangerous parts of Colombia and the world, climate action should not mean putting their lives at risk to defend human rights.

Since 2019, I have been giving workshops to different audiences (especially young people), including government bodies and NGOs, on how to act and help other people to act in relation to the climate crisis. With my activism, I hope to contribute to a change in the society I live in and, in doing so, make it a better world. This is why I  engaged with Fridays For Future – so that my country’s history no longer continues to be forgotten when major global decisions and policies are made, and so that those on the front lines are no longer silenced.


Sofía Gutiérrez is a Colombian climate activist with Pacto  X el Clima and Fridays For Future MAPA . You can watch Sofia’s recent speech before COP26 during a climate strike in Sweden here ..

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