TIZIANA MARTIN is a 19-year-old environmental activist, who began in her hometown of Mar del Plata, Argentina, 3 years ago and moved to Spain to develop her language skills and study International Relations as part of her legal studies. Tiziana joined the Alicante group of the Fridays For Future climate movement, and maintains strong links with Argentina, highlighting climate and environmental issues, and speaking regularly with journalists. Here she speaks with RACHEL NELSON of the Heartfulness Institute.
Q: Hello Tiziana, it’s great to speak with you and thanks for joining me. Is there anything in particular that started your activism, and why is it important to you?
TM: It happened over time. I didn’t wake up saying, “I want to be a climate activist.” Shortly before entering that world, I represented Argentina in the Model United Nations (MUN). We discussed the role of our country with respect to the Paris Agreement, which binds participating countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to limit global warming to well below 2 (preferably to 1.5) degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
In the MUN, we had to negotiate and deepen international cooperation and that understanding and knowledge of other countries increased my interest in the climate crisis. Moving to Europe last year reaffirmed how much I like international relations.
The important thing is to be able to do more and more work, to have the freedom to express my ideas and opinions, to promote work on an international level, and to travel and get to know countries and people that contribute as much as Argentina did for me.
My current goal is to study international relations related to environmental activism here in Spain.
Q: Climate change is a global problem, but are there specific issues in Argentina or Spain you’re involved in or want to change?”
TM: Yes, my home city’s government was recently in favor of letting companies carry out seismic exploration in search of oil and gas, but it is a coastal city, and its main economic activities are tourism and fishing, so they would be affected by oil spills.
Although I disagree with the need to continue using fossil fuels, I also understand that we can’t transition to clean energy overnight, and we can’t be an environmental movement that is limited to opposing the productive projects of our country. I believe we have to devise projects that create the best possible environmental conditions, that rely on strong environmental impact studies, and promote development guidelines to enable us to generate the foreign exchange that our countries need.
As citizens, we can’t be left out of decision making. It is why we try to have a political influence. This issue of the oil companies touches me very deeply, as it’s happening in my city. Knowing that thousands of people have demonstrated against this project gives me hope.
The other day I was talking with my parents who attended the protest, and I understood that not only activists but average citizens are protesting, people who want a healthy future for their children, who don’t want to drink contaminated water, who want to enjoy the coast, and much more.
Q: I live in Scotland, and we have a similar situation. A lot of our money comes from tourism and fishing, but we also have oil in the North Sea. We are asking similar questions, and we’re lucky that Scotland is very windy, so wind power is very good here. We just had the COP 26 in Scotland, so there’s been a lot of thought about it recently, but maybe fewer demonstrations here.
It’s interesting to look at other countries like Argentina and see what other people are doing. We are lucky in Scotland that we’re not going to be hit badly by climate change until later. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and do nothing, because it’s other countries we need to think about.
How do you think human rights and social justice relate to the climate crisis? Is there a link?
TM: Yes. The climate crisis especially affects the sector that contributes the least to it. The social and environmental crisis is an intersectional problem, encompassing many other struggles. I have been in talks with people from Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, and many of them are native peoples, the main protagonists in the fight for the defense of land. When we talk about intersectionality, we not only talk about them, but we also talk about the fact that the gender inequalities that existed before the climate crisis are going to be a central issue. This is how the climate crisis relates to rights.
In Argentina, with the installation of offshore platforms, Article 41 of the National Constitution is being delayed. It establishes that all inhabitants have the right to enjoy a healthy environment. It also establishes access to health, to clean water, and to security, among other things. So, this is a matter of human rights and social justice.
Q: Yes, these problems are all interlinked. It’s not just “we’ll deal with the climate crisis then we’ll deal with social injustice,” as they’re often coming from the same issues.
Can you tell me about the groups you’re involved in? You mentioned Fridays For Future. Are there other groups? What do you do in those groups to try and help?
TM: Three years ago, I joined Jóvenes por el Clima (Youth for Climate), which is affiliated with Fridays for Future, the movement led by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish activist. We grew together in Latin America with the perspective that the climate crisis is a matter of human rights and social justice. Now, in Spain, I am with Fridays For Future.
Q: The groups you’re involved in are aimed at people your own age. How do you think young people can positively affect the environment and climate change? Do young people have something that older generations don’t, or do you think it’s just a kind of push because the older generations have let things go for too long?
TM: I believe in the power of young people. We are the present, and we have to guarantee the future for future generations. There is a phrase we use a lot at Youth for Climate, “Si el presente es de lucha, el futuro es nuestro!” which means, “If the present is a struggle, the future is ours.”
We know what is happening, and we have to do something about it. We need a systemic change. While there are many issues that can’t be changed overnight, if we have the intention to do things well, they will become reality.
Sometimes we are afraid to talk about politics, but I feel that politics are fundamental to transforming the present into the future we want. We need an involved and politicized youth.
Q: Definitely. You can’t get away from the fact that the power to enact change comes from people and from government. The people in charge have to be willing to change and move things forward. Some governments do more than others, but we need a global consensus. Are governments doing enough?
TM: The government projects don’t match the objectives set in the international agreements, for example, at COP 26 in Glasgow. It’s necessary to influence the areas of greatest social transformation, for example, politics and in the streets. Demonstrating and environmental discussion must be open to everyone. It is very important that there is intersectionality influencing the people in power, as they are the decision-makers.
For our part, one concrete action is to police politics in relation to the climate and ecological crisis; to change people’s minds and encourage them to participate in their country’s development.
Protests are a main tool to express our claims and achieve the transformation for which we fight. A clear example of this happened recently in a province in Argentina, in response to a mining bill. Thanks to demonstrations in different parts of the country, the bill was repealed.
Q: COP 26 saw people getting together for change, but I know a lot of activists felt that while a lot was said, not a lot was decided, and not a lot changed. You’re right that sometimes we need more than a conference. We need people to get out there and make changes themselves. With your example, we can see that it worked.
Do you have a message for young activists and people in general?
TM: Something I always highlight is for people to really get involved, if not as activists, at least as citizens, as people. Many young people don’t realize the power we have; our voice, our ability to understand the need and be part of the projects and solutions.
If you are thinking about getting involved in an environmental movement or organization, take heart, understand what is happening, and think of environmentally sound solutions that go hand in hand with development. Obtain new experiences and tools.
For me, activism is a way of life. Once you’re committed, and advance in that process, there is no turning back. For every decision you make, you will find an intersectionality in what you think and do, and the impact your actions will have in the present and the future. I always liked international relations and politics, languages, and cultures, but five years ago I never imagined being in a social environmental movement, giving interviews on TV, etc. During the years of activism in Argentina, I made friends and colleagues, and involved myself in other struggles that have given me knowledge and values.
Since I was young, I dreamed of being in Europe to continue my education. My activities here in Spain are wonderful, and I have met activists from all over the world. I learn so much from them. I have gained new tools, encountered new cultures, and practiced English, and I will take more values and knowledge with me.
I am very passionate about what I do, and hope that everything I do from now on will improve things.
Q: This has clearly become your life. It’s not just “Oh, I’ll do some activism today.” Everything you do lends itself toward that.
With these interviews, we want to make sure that young people are being heard. Many of them are stepping out and putting themselves forward when it comes to climate. When people are doing so much work, we want to be able to hear their voices and amplify their voices.
What do your family and friends think of you being an activist? Are they supportive?
TM: My friends in Argentina are activists, and my family supports me and my friends, too. During the last demonstration in Argentina against the oil companies, my family attended the protest and sent me pictures and videos, because I miss them so much.
Q: I can understand that. Do you have any plans for the near future?
TM: My dream is to continue to grow in Europe and in Argentina too; to grow as an activist, to be able to study, to work toward environmental issues, and more and more rights for young people, for my country, for Spain. I also love meeting people from other parts of the world. I love learning about other cultures and other languages. They really teach me so much.
Q: Europe’s quite good for that. There are so many countries in such a small area, so it’s easy to meet lots of different people.
TM: Since I was eight years old, I dreamed of living in Europe. I told my parents I would travel to England for the Beatles, my favorite band, and for the history, too. It’s incredible to be here.
Q: Do you have an idea of what career you want to pursue?
TM: As a child, my dream was to work with the UN or in a United Europe. I want to be a better person with good values, to work for climate change, for human rights and social justice in Argentina, Latin America, Spain, and the rest of the world, with my friends who are activists. That is my dream. I work for that and study for that. It’s my dream to continue growing as an activist and a person.
Q: Thanks, Tiziana. Maybe we should interview you again in five years to see how far you’ve gone. That would be fun!
Interview by RACHEL NELSON
Tiziana is a 19-year-old environmental activist. Born in Argentina, she moved to Spain in October 2021 to further her studies, develop her language skills, and fulfill her objective of studying International Relations. Tiziana has continued her environmental activities in Spain, joining the Alicante group of the Fridays for Future climate movement.