After learning about climate emotions, and seeing climate doomism proliferated in the media, Stella knew she wanted to have Isaias on the show to unpack this and understand how it's connected to the fashion industry. In this episode, Isaias Hernandez (who you might also know as @queerbrownvegan on social media) unpacks the complexity of climate emotions and the harms of climate doomism narratives, and discusses why “evidence-based hope” is essential for reorienting action and working towards equitable solutions for the fashion industry - and how we can all cultivate this hope in our own lives. Hit play to dive in!
After learning about climate emotions, and seeing climate doomism proliferated in the media, Stella knew she wanted to have Isaias on the show to unpack this and understand how it's connected to the fashion industry.
In this episode, Isaias Hernandez (who you might also know as @queerbrownvegan on social media) unpacks the complexity of climate emotions and the harms of climate doomism narratives, and discusses why “evidence-based hope” is essential for reorienting action and working towards equitable solutions for the fashion industry - and how we can all cultivate this hope in our own lives.
Hit play to dive in!
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When you think about the realities of the social and environmental crises caused by our extractive fashion system, do you ever feel overwhelmed by a wave of many overlapping emotions, especially when the media is filled with doom and gloom stories of the climate crisis?
Some days I feel despondent, and other days I feel deeply, joyfully connected to the world around me. Then some days I feel sorrow, and other days I feel endlessly hopeful.
And sometimes I feel alone in this complex mix of feelings. But what I have learned from following today’s guest, Isaias Hernandez — who is an intersectional environmental educator whose work I deeply admire — is that this range of emotions is normal. He calls them “climate emotions.”
After learning about climate emotions, and seeing climate doomism proliferated in the media, I knew I wanted to have Isaias on the show to unpack this and understand how it's connected to the fashion industry.
In this episode, we are grappling with the complexity of climate emotions, unpacking the harms of climate doomism narratives, and understanding why what Isaias speaks of as “evidence-based hope” is essential for reorienting action and working towards equitable solutions for the fashion industry - and how we can all cultivate this hope in our own lives too.
You can also visit the show notes in the episode description for any relevant links mentioned, and to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, which is called The Conscious Edit. It is packed with resources for you to keep learning about all things sustainable fashion – from articles to podcasts, and events. It will land in your email inbox once a week and all you have to do is subscribe at consciouslifeandstyle.com/edit or click on the link in the episode description.
Now, let’s get into today’s episode!
Welcome to the Conscious Style podcast. I am Stella, and today, I am delighted to be in conversation with Isaias Hernandez as we speak all about why the narrative of climate doomism is unable to help us action solutions and rethink the relationships we have with ourselves, others, and our natural ecosystems. And also how hope can be a remedy for this, plus how all of this is linked to sustainable fashion.
And for those of you who don't know, Isaias is an environmental justice activist and educator based in Los Angeles, California.
In 2019, he founded the Queer Brown Vegan platform to help make Intersectional Environmental Education accessible.
Welcome, Isaias, before we dive into the conversation, I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to work in the climate education space.
Yeah. Thank you so much again for having me. And, yeah, like you mentioned, I grew up in Los Angeles, California, and as someone who's a 1st generation immigrant kid, my parents fled their countries from Mexico to the United States for a better life due to being displaced from their own farmlands and other land theft that was happening from Global North Government.
And I think for me, like, growing up my education from the environment was very limited in terms of how it was introduced. So In terms of how I saw it in media and TV, it was usually through Nat Geo, Discovery Channel. These very famous conservationists, typically, white cis men, that would go to these different countries and explore wildlife or explore people and cultures. And, you know, that was my introduction to what an environmentalist really looked like.
And inside my home, growing up in poverty, living off food stamps and affordable housing, I knew at a young age that the life that I had was honestly inaccessible for a lot of things.
And I remember as a teenager, I would work during the weekends with my father as a landscape regarding assistant. So in Los Angeles, for example, there's a whole economy of predominantly Latin migrants that usually work in these affluent homes in Los Angeles to clean up their gardens, to nanny, or to do other things. And my dad was a landscaper, and so he would take me and my brother at the age of thirteen. My brother is, I think, fifteen at the time to go and clear houses with him for gardening. And I remember just realizing the amount of green spaces these rich areas had in Los Angeles, even though in my community, there was barely any green spaces or safety protocols that were implemented in my community.
So already off the bat, I felt like I didn't have the right to claim myself as an environmentalist or to even study the environment because my lived experiences were deemed unworthy, dirty, or poor, and not knowledgeable.
And I think that was very disservice that I really did to myself in my younger years because I'd I've recognized how much my parents were true environmentalists. Like, they were farmers and, like, would tell me so many stories about Mexico. And I felt that as someone that grew up in the US, but still grew up as a Mexican. Like, I have so much immense privilege to be able to navigate the world, but yet reconnecting to my culture seemed like a bit of a difficulty on that.
And so my mom was an educator, actually, and she got her degree in Mexico. She worked to earn her degree and then 2 years later moved to the United States. And one of the things that I realized is that she always made sure that education should be accessible and should be free and equitable, specifically towards women, because she was someone that her parents didn't want her to go to school, and she had to work herself through that. And so she taught my sister, brother and I, how to, you know, read and write in Spanish, and I'm very privileged to have gotten that experience because of her.
And I think that just then my curiosity to be an environmental educator on that end because I think with environmental education, I felt like poor people like me knew what was happening in our climate, didn't have the right words. Maybe you had the stories to describe them. but felt disempowered in many academic spaces.
And so when I got my degree in environmental science and graduated, I realized I don't need a degree to call myself an environmentalist. I was always an environmentalist the day I was born, and so that's what really spurred my curiosity to look into digital media as a form of education.
I love that. I love how you took, like, us on the story of parts of your life, and I can see how that has shaped who you are today and the work that you do.
What stood out to me is this idea that environmentalism has to look a certain way or an environmentalist has to look a certain way, which is such a harmful narrative to impose on the world and on people.
And I can really, like, resonate with a lot of that as well from a South African perspective because of the deep inequalities in this country as well and to see the way, you know, that the climate crisis is is affecting people differently and the need to really center lived experiences in understanding these impacts and in understanding how we can craft solutions. So, thank you so much for sharing how that has led you to where you are today and also the importance of your parents' roles in in shaping that.
And you touched on your Mexican heritage and the role that has played in informing your curiosity and your understandings of who you are in the world, but also what environmentalism means. And I was wondering if you could shift gears a bit to talk a bit more about your heritage and fashion because I know that you recently attended the Global Fashion Summit. And I was reading on one of your posts that you had conversations about, like, the importance of Mexican heritage in the way that we rethink fashion solutions. And I was wondering about how you would describe your relationship with style and also what fashion lessons you've learned from your heritage?
Yeah. You know, I would describe my fashion style as a very dynamic experience. So one of the things I think I recognize that being a queer person is the policing and how queer and trans individuals are police. You know?
I grew up in both a very historical heritage household, but a very traditional, unfortunately, religious household. And so growing up on my end, I really was embracing gender diversity and just realizing that I like to wear any type of clothing that made me feel comfortable.
Unfortunately, my dad was very homophobic growing up, like, majority of my life, and so he would force me specifically because I would sometimes try to rebel to wear different colors or wear scarfs, for example, that were, you know, just different colors of a slight light green or slight pink, and he would make me wear very large denim jeans, like, extra sizes large, flannels and just, like, weird tennis shoes that were, like, grandpa's shoes.
And at the time, it was funny because I hated it so much. And it's funny now because I wear a lot of that kind of be comfortable in life. I feel like the rules have reversed on that end when it comes to my house.
But I think on that end, it it eventually evolved as I got older because the more I got older, the more freedom I had. Once I got to college, I actually recognize that what type of clothing I really liked. And for me, one of the things that my mom always kept or would sometimes give me as some of her own traditional sweaters that were woven or scarves that she would weave.
My mom actually, a very fun fact about her, is that she knits. So every year, every 6 months, my mom would knit us these slippers. And sometimes would add flowers to them if you wanted to. I mean, she didn't really care. She was just like, let me do it if you want.
And so my mom weaving clothes at a very young age and knowing how to do, to sew a needle to repair clothes. I felt like I was very intrigued by that type of style.
And so because I grew up majority of my life thrifting, a lot of the things that I would really call me are colors that represent in my culture. So, like, green, red, brown. You know, this matches my skin tone. And like complements it. And so I started to go very more to the earth tone type of colors that were really about me.
And the amazing thing is I I felt like in college, I had different types of styles, like, every year if you would see me. And my friends would always say, like, How do you change your style so quickly and fashionable? I'm like, I don't really know. I think it's just what I was going through that point. Like, I had a fast fashion phase at 18. It was horrible. I was like, get rid of this style. It's not worth it. Vintage clothes is where it's at. It's literally where the best clothes I've ever found. Some of the clothes I have from high school I still wear today like, as an adult. Like, they fit me still, and it's like, people are always surprised.
Like, some of my shirts are, like, now have, like, tags on them that are so not because I repaired them. They look a little bit janky, but it's like, it works. It looks fine. It can still be worn. It's it's not an issue.
But I think with attending the global fashion summit, which is huge privilege to attend, is connecting with fashion designers that are based in Mexico. And so I I actually have an interview that I’m supposed to release soon. When I interviewed the founder of Deserto, which is a plant-based leather company that uses cactus to produce this type of clothing. And it was really awesome to see that because I think the founder, I can't recall his name. I think Adrian. I don't want -- Yeah. -- butcher his name. But he and I just had a very deep conversation about with the importance of Mexican entrepreneurship and Mexican sustainability, and they're important to invest in local economies.
And as a vegan, it was very interesting because I think in Latin America, veganism definitely is embraced in different ways. But it was the very first brand that I saw that was like, well, we don't use animals in our product. And I was like, oh, interesting. Like, I wanna learn more.
And as someone this is kinda like the food side that comes into the fashion. Is that I got into fashion through food, so I do a lot of foraging. And one of my favorite foods I grew up eating is cactus.
Cactus is so abundant in Mexico. Like, my mom, every meal we would have, it was cactus with it. Cactus has a lot of water, so it's a good hydration if people do not have access to water in a nearby area, but it just tastes really delicious, and I I grew up with it.
And so I think on my end, seeing the intersection of how food can be used as both medicine, clothing, for food, nourishment. Like, these are all important elements that we should be consider.
And so I I think with the Global Fashion Summit, it allowed me to really expand my mindset from just not looking at just a narrowed mind of, like, food sector and culture, but food, culture, and fashion are the same thing. You cannot remove them.
How do we reduce these dyes and clothes from natural elements? And if you go in different parts in Oaxaca where there's more indigenous communities that live there, they have a lot of sacred practices that uses a lot of plants and flowers to get natural dyes, and they teach you how to weave over there.
And I I think with my mom, she really learned from her mom how to sew clothes because they didn't have money. And so I think the style I have today and I would just describe as very, vintage, but also very just electric type of different styles. Like, there's sometimes people will be like, I didn't know you can fancy or sometimes before, like, I didn't know that you were adjusting this way, and it's like, well, inside my home, if you were to see me, I am just wearing, like, long shirt and, like, big pants. But, like, outside, I try to get together.
That's very, relatable and I also enjoyed the journey of your style because I also am somebody who has moved through different phases of style.
And I also love how you spoke about those intersections around fashion and food and medicine because I think a lot about how solutions to our climate and social crises are going to need us to look intersectionally at things and not just stick to one silo of, okay. We need to solve fashion problems, so let's just look in the fashion industry.
We really have to broaden our understanding and scope of, yeah, the connections between things because that's where the most powerful solutions come from.
I think I wanna switch a little bit to speak about climate emotions because I was reading also a post of yours that spoke about the climate emotion scale, and I found it really interesting because it was a framing that I've never really come across before, and it was really useful to understand sometimes complex feelings that are very difficult to really put into perspective. So could you share a bit more about what this is and also what has your experience been with climate emotions with working in the climate space?
The climate emotion scale had crafted back in 2020. So during that time, there was massive wildfires from Canada and in US too that were engulfing all the West Coast. Now we saw that with the East Coast, right, that happened literally, and it's still happening right now.
And the idea behind it was the fact that I really struggled to identify with the word eco-anxiety because I didn't have fear of the future of the planet anymore. I was angry. I was grieving. I felt sorrow, and I felt a different complex of emotions.
And I also felt, how did I feel before as a kid growing up my relationship to the environment? Why is it that we laugh at adults for talking to trees of the land in our urban society. Like, why is it that when kids are touching dirt, sometimes they're eating it, sometimes they're making weird stories about it, about fairies and goblins or whatever they want. And it's like, what happened to those emotions? Why are we like this as humans now?
And so I crafted the climate emotion scale using, of course, the terminologies that were crafted and coined by different professors. And I always acknowledge that, like, Glenn Albert, that is a professor, I believe, in Wales and Australia, maybe. He he coined a lot of those words, and I always tell people, like, I wasn't one that coined the words crafted the into a scale because I believe that was the best way for me to learn.
And so I I crafted this term because a lot of people kept messaging me during the wildfires season saying, I just lost my home. I don't know how to process this. And so, as I was doing more reflection and as the sky was very pitch black with smog, I crafted this scale on top of what I was thinking.
So I adapted the framework of how it looks like through the law of attraction model. Many people know, like, what law of attraction means and things like that, but I used it as a reference point to kind of create diagram because I believe that, obviously, emotions vary from scale. You don't just go from, like, one to the other. It's actually you just vary on different ones. And different days too. And so I started off from starting it up from the first word being Euteria, I believe.
The first word basically showcases that a people that are born innate in this earth have a deep relationship with the land regardless of who you are. And that emotion is usually this deep love and appreciation you have as a young child. Like, you can see this with babies and kids. They're curious about the world. They're not trying to hurt people. They're not trying to dominate people. They're not trying to exploit people. They're just trying to understand the landscapes around them.
And so as I crafted this scale, I got more into as you we we've gotten older. Right? Those emotions start to fade, then we go to, like, example, like, Solastalgia, which is, like, this deep sorrow that one has when your when the environment changes. And a lot of this a lot of us have experiences, whether that was through urbanization where a small lot that was fenced off became a hyper development or I used example now where where I grew up in LA, a movie set studio is literally being built right next to the old chemical factories that I used to live in, and my parents home, and that's gentrification.
But, also, I feel a bit lost and disconnected of, like, I used to walk around there because that's the only area that was kinda safe to walk in. But now I can't because it's a movie set studio and it's privatized and it's off limit. So what's happening with any spaces that I can walk in in that area.
The point for climate emotions actually started to kick off again this year when I started to recognize that people were emailing me about the article and asking me if I'm planning to write more things about it. And I said, no. I mean, I just used it as the way to navigate my feelings and hopefully help others. It's not supposed to be, like, a mental health solution. It's just a resource for people to use.
And my assistant and I recognized that the reason why there was so much searches the last 3 months is that we correlated it to a study that was done recently by the believe by the Guardian that found that people were seeking therapists in mental health sectors trying to talk about climate anxiety.
And so we saw the article views per day. It was, like, 300, 400. And I was like, why are people reading this article from 2020. Like, it's been years. I didn't think it's gonna be relevant. But then you recognize, like, wow. Like, people actually need this. Parents need this. Kids need it. College students need it to validate what they've been feeling.
And I recognize, like, Wow. I didn't think that it would become so popular years later that it's been included in textbooks and random places. And I'm like, I didn't expect that, but that was a way for me to contribute to academia, but also to contribute to our collective good of, like, I'm not telling you that you have to use these words. I'm not telling you that you relate to these words. I'm just saying that some people may find it useful for them to figure out their life.
That's amazing. And I I have so much empathy for that. And also this feeling that sometimes we just need words that we don't have ourselves and when that is offered, and allows us to reflect on unpacking what we're feeling. Like, it is actually super transformative and like you were saying, you didn't expect it to blow up the way it did and be so widely shared, but I think it also just speaks to the moment time that we are in and the need that there is to really confront and unpack these very complex emotions and context that we are living in.
And I think what I was also picking up on is climate anxiety. I also really stopped relating to that term and, like, the description of it a while ago, and it felt almost like something that had been popularized and almost forced on me personally, just like if you do care about the climate, then you should be feeling climate anxiety almost, like a narrative.
And I think I've started coming across then climate doomism as well, which started becoming, you know, used. I saw it everywhere. Like, articles I was reading people would say it, like the way people would describe the climate crisis and climate catastrophes and just like the narratives even around solutions became climate doomism. And it framed the way we understand the social and environmental crisis.
So Yeah. I know that you speak a lot about this, and could you just describe what climate doomism is? And, also, where do you see these narratives coming from? Like, where do they originate? Especially in the fashion industry, because I haven't heard a lot of that being spoken about.
Yeah. I absolutely love this. I think climate doomism can be best defined as a pathway to ecological destruction due to, quote, unquote, anthropocentric actions. And if we think about the anthropocene, right, is usually the error that we're in today. That is the beginning of industrialization of colonization of child slavery. And what it says right institutionally is that due to human supremacy. Right? Human induced actions in the anthropocene. We are here today for this reason.
Now I I really don't like the framing of how climate doomism was defined, and I think that's the best way I really have defined it in the way describe it on media and how it's how it's been said.
But the reason why it's very dangerous to get on this narrative and this rhetoric of human supremacy is that, yes, I agree that if you look at emissions as colonization was happening, emissions started to rise. Right? But what I'm really trying to get at is that it's white supremacist corporatized systems that allowed us to get to the point of exploitation because indigenous communities have always existed and still exist today. We're not creating these types of emissions during their other scenes, and they're the ones to least contribute yet protect, right, the largest percentage of biodiversity in the world.
So the issue with climate doomism is that it's going viral on media because apolitical-ness and clips of people being burned alive or animals being burned alive is gonna get you to stop and watch. The issue with that is that many of the people that are posting those videos are not experts in handling about climate change. Instead, they're really focused on virality in getting those views.
And that's the dangerous thing about what I don't like about TikTok and Instagram today. It's just, like, what's getting viral is usually doom, not gloom. Because when many have said this, it's easier to imagine the end of the world than actually looking at yourself saying what needs to radically change in our lives? What are we willing to give up here?
And the issue that we see today is that there's a theory that's going on by a lot of outright groups called the Great, I believe it's called the Great Replacement Theory, Or great displacement theory. But what it says is that that Northern Europeans or Anglo Saxons European white people are soon to be replaced by black indigenous people of color.
So there's an uproar of this narrative that's coming in outright groups here in the United States saying, they're trying to destroy the white population and our white kids. We need to protect them.
Now I understand the point that when people are trying to say human supremacy, they're not trying to inflict any violence. But what I'm saying that it's very, education and language is both a dangerous and liberating tool. It doesn't matter if you don't have the intent to say human supremacy means to harm other people. People will twist that narrative of what saying, get influenced by the ideas that you said and say, you know what? You're right. It's human supremacy. Therefore, let's unalive Black Indigenous People of Color because they're taking up too much of our resources.
And you see this a response from a lot of global North governments where you saw this example in, I believe, in Germany, when few years ago or a year ago, like, if the whole town flooded and woman said, oh, I thought this would happen in Africa, but not here. And those are kind of the responses that you're seeing or here in United States when we had the El Paso Texas shooter that was an eco fascist that literally said Latinos are stealing natural resources, and in order to protect the world, I need to unlive them and did a mass shooting murder. And so these are the things where social media etiquette is super important is that we need to call it for what it is. Right.
I'm not calling for anyone to harm white people. But I'm calling is that we need to look at this white supremacist system or whiteness as a system of what we've been valuing and collapse those narratives instantly to ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism is implemented in that.
And I think with the fashion industry, it's really interesting because the fashion industry relies, and the large part of the large fashion industry relies on immigrants. So what are fashion industries doing as a climate crisis is making things worse?
Factories are flooding. Factories are on fire. They're getting exploited at such a massive rate. These industries have so much wealth accumulated within their CEOs and C Suite boards, that they're not redistributing those funds.
And so I think with the the narratives around certain fashion brands trying to create messaging for the planet, I think it needs to go beyond the messaging of just having climate activists on their fashion campaigns. It needs to be about having real conversations that bring in, first of all, those that who make our clothes giving accreditation acknowledgment to them.
But two to really have this conversation of, like, I'm tired of hearing like, conversations around fast fashion or who who needs it or whatever. Like, we don't have time. The planet's on fire.
And I think I I try to be realistic of, like, yes, you can feel despair, but you can also feel hopeful at the same time. And those feelings are going to change every day I think if the fashion industry has actually worked more locally with their communities where they're based, they'd actually become more agents of change than trying to fight for this this brand being the most sustainable because there is no most sustainable brand out there.
Right. Exactly. I think just to take a moment to all acknowledge the gravity of the situation, as you were saying, it's not something that we need to grasp for quick wins or easy distractions. It requires us to engage with systems change and there isn't an easy way out for that. You know, we have to be committed to it on all levels, and it's not about speaking about sustainability and environmental terms, but ignoring the fact that the fashion industry is built on exploitation. And as you were saying, many, many other systems are also based on exploitation and extraction. in so many different forms, and that becomes the root cause of the crises that we're in.
And so yeah, I think that the narrative of climate doomism is also erasing that sense of responsibility and where the change actually needs to originate from.
And I think you've touched on this already, but I just want to ask you again if you have anything more you wanna add. But climate doomism, you've spoken about what it is and the narrative that is proliferated on media. And why is it unable to help us action solutions and really rethink and reshape the relationships we have with ourselves and others and natural ecosystems?
Yeah. I think it's used as a tool to disempower communities on their journey to environmental liberation because I think a lot of people today are not lost. I think there's a loss sense of connection to community, and I don't wanna romanticize community because there's always issues obviously about community too.
But there also is this understanding that young people feel the need that, this is a youth movement, and this is a youth led solutions. And they're they are the ones that are going to inherit this Earth, which I understand that point. However, this idea of inter-generational collaboration always comes up, and I feel that it's been a bit hijacked in the ways of just saying, well, just bring us to the rooms and board to take pretty pictures, and that's it. It's like, that's not really an inter-generational collaboration.
I will be honest, the people that I've worked with sometimes celebrities. Like, we're not friends. Like, it's not real. Like, don't believe that. What is real is actually people who I rarely still on my social media, but they're my mentors. They're my elders. They're the ones who keep me on check. They're the ones who, like, reach out to me to see how I'm doing. Right?
And so I think there needs to be an understanding that with climate doomism, like, the easier way to put down people is when you're already dealing with someone who does has a loss of sense of their identity or their values or don't know where things are going. and yet they are disconnected from talking to older people.
Like, how many young people have we met that we can say that are so uncomfortable to talk to older people? People are afraid to talk to me. And I'm like we're literally, like, 5 years apart. I don't know. Like, I used to be your age, but like, if you're scared to talk to me and I'm not an elder, I'm scared about that.
And so I I think we need to really soften our hearts and harden the relationships of those who are really going to be around us than trying to chase different movements. I think a lot of spaces really right now have, like, different arguments or different things that have been happening where people are like, you're not doing enough or you're not helping the planet, and it's, like, very self sacrificial mindsets. And I really have had to really fight against that in my younger years because the same people who were constantly shaming, calling out. I'm better than that, or I'm just analytical. It's like, you are analytical. But, yeah, you are part of problem too because you don't look at yourself for a few minutes and wanna ask yourself those questions either.
For sure. And just, like, as you were saying that also that individualistic spirit of being, like, We all live in silos, but we really don't, and nobody can say that they do, honestly. And so that acknowledgement as well goes a really long way in understanding how we can all be a part of of change, and as you were saying, also just, like, care.
So we've spoken about doomism, which, as we have said, is, like, a very, very harmful narrative in many ways. But a lot of your work, but also just who you are is about shifting these narratives in an accessible way that really centers around hope and as you call it evidence based hope.
And I've heard, you know, the word hope before, but I haven't really heard the term evidence-based hope. So what is, yeah, what is your understanding of framing of evidence based hope, and how does it help you to challenge climate doomism?
Yeah. I think as a digital media creator in this space, a lot of my work focuses on storytelling through social media. There's obviously double-edged sword to social media. We can all we can get into that later or in the future.
But I think the main thing to know is that evidence-based hope was defined by one of my mentors, Ellen Kelsey, that basically talks about that sometimes we cannot physically see hope. Right? It's not we cannot see it, but we can imagine it, or we can understand that it exists, but not to our eyes sometimes of what we can see or hear. Evidence based hope looks at the continued progress and momentum that has been happening on the ground for local solutions.
And to me, that actually means that there is this idea that sometimes when we think about hope, we just think about praying that someone will get up and do it. Evidence-based up is looking at, these are actually real solutions that our people are doing on the ground.
And so I as a climate communicator, I used to do a lot of infographics on my early days but now I've been getting into entertainment media doing long form productions of episodes that, you know, they're posted on YouTube, but one day wanna get a TV show.
And I I did this episode called teaching climate together with Ellen Kelsey where we talked about evidence-based hope. And in the segment of the episode, we talked about the fact that, when I'm in the sea, I just think about, oh my god, all the animals who have died here. How many species that we lost? Is everything dead here in this ocean? And in the interview, she says, actually, it's untrue to say that animals species they're all dead. In fact, there's a lot of species that are coming back to restoration to coastal communities. And we focus specifically in California and the Monterey Bay area because in that episode, she has relationships with the scientific and the community there.
And so on that end, it made me recognize that you know, crafting stories around evidence-based hope is a central piece of what I need to do now on my work because I'm not here to talk about toxic positivity either. I understand there's realities and horrors that are happening right now. But I think for a lot of younger people who don't have the privilege to travel, who don't have the privilege to sometimes interact with these spaces that I have privilege over, how can I transmutate that information so younger people get inspired and start to ask questions more and start to recognize that if I was able to do this, they can do it too.
And that's point of the the series is to diversify, of course, the environmental media creators. But to start to recognize, like, we are so focused in the society from problem identification mindset of, like, these are the top polluters, Shein is a fast fashion brand, like, they pollute the planet. It's like, we get that. We everyone knows it now. I think a lot of people we love it for what it is, but I am tired of seeing the same problem identification. Like, as a content creator, but I think it's still useful for a lot of people who don't know about those things.
So I focus on storytelling and and having a problem identified in the solutions mindset in a realistic view of what's happening and what's working, what's not working, based on solutions-based journalism, which I worked with a few years ago, the organization.
So I think on my end, this combating doomism and this fatalistic approach in media is that we have to create our own networks of media and hope that actually center our stories and center the stories of academic elders who don't often get accredited for this work.
I mean, when I did this collaboration out of evidence-based hope, no one really knew about the term. Like, a lot of young people I didn't know about the term, obviously. I was like, well, I'm gonna start using it. work. Of course, referencing and crediting Ellen Kelsey, a PhD scholar. But I was like, I didn't know about this woman until she reached out to me, and she's like, I wanna work with you guys. And I'm like, you sound like a really cool person, let’s work together.
So it to me, like, I think I this is where I'm at in my next evolution of life is that, Queer Brown Vegan isn't so much to this, like, just Instagram account. It's like a storytelling page. It's a diary of my life of what I think how I've really navigated through my emotions.
If you see my earlier writing, sometimes it was a bit angrier. Sometimes it's a bit confused, and sometimes it's a bit sad. And now it's more like I've had to become more grounded of who I am in knowing of what I'm doing, and some of that is just providing realistic. And I think it's not gonna work for everyone. It's not gonna work for some people in my content, but a lot of people like it, so I say I'm gonna continue doing it.
And I think it really resonated with me because when people ask me about how can you work in sustainability and climate justice spaces and not just feel constantly full of despair. And I always say, I just look around me. I look at the NGOs I work with and the grassroots organizations that I see everywhere. And I look at the work that you're doing, and and it's not too dilute or undermine how difficult and challenging that work is, but to say that they're committed to it every day. And how can I not believe in what they're working for and what they've already created.
So, I think the lesson there is also just to speak to our elders. Like, we have to create spaces all those conversations even if it's just in your own family and even if you don't have access to other scholars or, you know, like, other people in academia just to really connect to those stories.
And I wanted to touch to just dip back into fashion. And I know that the United Nations recently published a long-awaited guide to sustainable fashion communication. And, basically, the message or assertion was that the industry's dominant narratives will not allow us to reach our sustainability targets, which I thought was really interesting and also in, like, preparing for this interview, I was like, Isaias, this is, like, is exactly what you always speak about.
Could you touch on, you know, how the narratives that are formed about the fashion industry really shape the way that we take action for a more equitable fashion future?
Yeah. So I I think, you know, fashion has always been used right for storytelling, for self expression, cultural reverence on that end. But I think that the dominating narratives around fashion, specifically with whether you look at luxury, right, it's seen as very exclusive. When you look at fast fashion, it's like it's for everyone. Right? If you look at other brands that are ethical, small-owned, it's about reframing your relationships to that.
And that report, actually, I briefly read it too, on my end, is that there is concerns to understand that the current solutions that are trying to be scaled are not enough. We are running out of time.
Luxury brands do not wanna be do not wanna think about you know, extending themselves to help out local designers. They don't think that they're part of their issue. Fast fashion brands are, like, recreating grant programs for certain things. Like, certain things are good. I like, the OR foundation, what they've been doing on there.
But I think on that end, like, it's same as the food space is that I think that we've really played a dangerous game believing that certain capitalistic solutions are going to help us at the rate that where the planet is going. Right?
You know, there's a Vogue article, it was written by Emily Chan recently about the Mylo Unleather. And Mylo, I worked with them a few years ago when they first launched in I think they were gonna launch in 2020 or 2021, and they lost money. And now they're I don't know what's going to happen with them. I don't I think they went through they shut down, or I don't I don't really know, actually. But I I think, you know, those are just issues where I feel that the narratives calling out narrative is no longer enough. There needs to be a radical shift in the ways that we're collapsing part of these industries and recognizing that you cannot live or eat or breathe a diamond. You cannot survive with the apocalypse with your $5000 Gucci bag. Like, that's the first to go on that end.
So I think you know, the importance about the fashion industry is that they still have time. They still have recognizing to do so, but I think the reason why the fashion industry is a bit divided is that there's there needs to be more groups, specifically people targeting specific industries than trying to just group them altogether.
It's like we need people who are experts in the fast fashion to start to talk to the fast fashion. We need people who are luxuries to start talking about the luxury people, because there's already higher case in the fashion system. Like, people look down at fast fashion brands. They look down at these brands. They're like, oh, that's not editorial. That's not that's not luxury.
And similar with the food space, right, like, we think about lab grown meat. We think about plant-based meats or whatever. They're still in hierarchy that exists. And the idea of these plant-based meats being coming popular almost, what, 8, 9 years ago is that it was going to destroy the industrial agriculture system. What did it destroy? It hasn't really destroyed as much as they thought it was because companies are apolitical. Again, that's another issue is that if you're going to present a technology or solution, you cannot be apolitical. You have to be political.
Saving the planet, unfortunately, is a political issue. Therefore, you recognize that this is something that you need to invest in in the future and know that it may not be as profitable as you think it is.
But that's where we constantly have those hindrances. Investors want more money. People are like, we had to think about more growth.GDP. Right? It's like a such a dangerous measurement to even think about. And now that I think the fashion industry is getting more involved in the United Nations and things like that, I do think there's a lot of good opportunities that will come out of it. But I just think that the key players that are the ones that are responsible are not really paying attention.
I totally agree, and it is very frustrating because, yeah, you can see where the tension points and the levers will change are in the industry and, yet, it feels like those people aren't yet realizing how urgent these crises are. But like you said, there are really, there are organizations doing really amazing work, like the Or Foundation, as you mentioned.
And I think what I've been thinking a lot about in this conversation is balance. And, you know, we've spoken a lot about how the realities of the climate crisis causes a lot of just intense feelings within many people, and sometimes that those are not hopeful feelings. And sometimes on some days, they are.
And I wanted to know from you, like, how do you balance these different feelings and create both space for positive and negative and everything in between while still looking for solutions?
Yeah. I think when I was younger, criticizing a solution isn't saying that you're shutting it down. I recognize that there are good people that are trying to create solutions, and I think there are people that we need to get comfortable saying this is that I see the world through the end of capitalism. Some people see the world of redesigning a solution that still will uphold a different type of capitalism. And that's fine.
I think that at the end of the day, we have different truths that will coexist in some way, but that's the way I think that people who have gone uncomfortable with talking to me. It's like, I don't fully agree, but I'm not gonna cancel your idea. Right? We need solutions. At this point, I'm like, You know what? Labgrown meat. Sure. Like, plant based leather is, like, fine. Like, let's see what happens. I'm not an expert in that industry. So, like, fine. Let's do it. You know?
But I think that when people get mad when I criticize industries, they're like, well, you're part of the problem you're not helping. It's like, no no no. The issue is the fact that, like, as we are redesigning these solutions that are gonna help our planet, we still need to recognize is it just white people that are having control and power over these new solutions? Do they care about diversity? I mean, like, white woman is not true diversity. It's some gender diversity, of course, but, like, that doesn't mean anything these days.
Like, the liberation of black indigenous people have color should be front and centered. And so on my end, I think, like, these technocratic solutions that have been popping up I've just been very concerned that it's just white people. And a lot of the times, they're apolitical. So how do we get them to be more political? And I I recognize that there's issues trying to get investment and they have to be, you know, play the game too. But it's just very hard for me to imagine that that the same people who got us here in the issue are trying to redesign solutions for my people.
And to me, it's like but aren't they a millionaire or a billionaire that doesn't really have the same values as me. The climate movement or environmental movement is always made up of poor people, a working class people.
In fact, the most sustainable people I I said this recently is that I used to be very sustainable as a kid. And if you go to poor communities and low-income communities, they're the most sustainable than the idea of what a sustainability expert looks like in social media. There's that's the illusion. I'm not and when people would call me that, it's like, I hate I hate claiming that, but it's also an illusion today because what I was before was much more sustainable. Doesn't matter if I'm vegan today. It doesn't matter if I try to ever just plastic. Like, I fly, like, so many so much that it's like, what am I doing?
And like I was saying, it's also just about holding space for that complexity, but not shying away from the fact that we can't create transformative change without addressing systems of power, it's not possible. And unless that is at the core of our work, then we can change our the way we create and what we create, but we need to really address who and what benefits and who doesn't from the way our world runs.
So, yeah, I think I was also thinking about a recent episode we did with Safia Minney of people tree, and she was talking about how a regenerative world and regenerative fashion is also about regenerative leadership and regenerative relationships. And I think that's so important in this conversation as well because sometimes we get so caught up in technocratic solutions that we ignore the extreme value of, you know, spiritual and indigenous and all different kinds of solutions that cannot fit into high tech spaces and all of those kinds of, yeah, ways of looking at the future.
I wanted to ask as we come to the last few questions. Something that I was just wondering when I was thinking about you and the way that you engage with the world, which is what is your favorite way to reconnect with hope?
I think the favorite way to reconnect to help to me is through foraging. I think foraging to me, as mentioned, localization is that every time something's sprouts from the ground or a fruit is buried from a tree or a barrier rises in the seasons, it reminds me that life is still alive, and life nature life as ourselves as nature is still trying to gift us delicious food and culture and connection.
And every time I I I've picked that fungi or the fruits or the plants. I obviously thank the land, but I also remind myself, wow, there there is so much to fight for in this life. And I had to really reframe this dangerous relationship of, like, what am I really doing on social media? What am I meant for in this world? And am I heavy? We come too carried away from trying to chase the social image over just valuing the simplicities of life.
And it's hard in this capitalistic world when you're trying to survive for yourself and support your family. But there's those moments where I feel in solemn, and I feel really this deep interconnectedness of everything I'm doing is still worth fighting for. Because if this tree can bear fruit, I can also bear that pain and turn it into something I want to give in the world.
Right. Yeah. And there are so many lessons to be learned from just being outside and finding small ways to connect with nature even though we do live in a very capitalist system. And many days, it's hard to avoid. But, yeah, I think that that was really, really beautiful and and, like, important to remind us all of.
And I think to then journey into your style and practical steps when it comes to fashion because we've been speaking a lot about the big systems, which are also so important that the way it engages all we engage with it on a day to day is also, you know, an important part of the conversation.
And do you have, like, a few practical stiffs that you think we can all take to ensure that we don't get wrapped up in these doomism narratives in the fashion industry and instead continue to remain hopeful and committed to the cause?
I think the best thing within fashion narratives and and histories that exist out there is be ready to be wrong than to be right most of the times and ask questions about curiosity. I mean, I think one of the things I've been really getting into is touring companies and touring sustainable fabrics or materials or biosynthetic fibers, like, you know, so many industries that are popping up now. And every time I go to a company, I realize it's not about me highlighting the the brand or product. It's actually getting the stories of the people who got inspired to work there, and that's what makes me happy, is realizing that there are who care in the industry.
It's not just people who are trying to be billionaires. It's honestly really great scientists, R and D people, people from different sectors that wouldn't have you wouldn't have think that they were gonna work in the fashion industry that do really believe that they can change it, and that gives me much more understanding and to give grace of, like, we may not always agree with certain theories of changes, but I also agree that you have the right to find value and passion in what you're trying to do in the industry because you really believe that. I'm not changing the fashion industry. I'm part of advocating for it, but I'm not in it. Yeah. So who am I to say that about that individual?
Instead, I wanna highlight those stories on that end. So I really recommend people to just really give grace and also recognize that it's okay to disagree because real validation means not always agreeing with people. But it also means that you don't need to shut them down either from the conversation. So, typically, they're really not one of the meanest polluters that exist in the industries right now.
I have one final question for you, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for just saying that it is and also holding that space for all the different nuances that you have shared in this conversation.
But to end of the episode, I want to ask you the question that we ask every guest on the podcast, which is, what would a better future for fashion look like to you?
Yeah. A better future for fashion would actually look at highlighting and creation of local manufacturers that are created by the people designed and politicized and structurally built by those communities to ensure there's a type of power that is centralized within their economies, and also that those that are representing brands or individuals from the global south that there is equal leadership that is actually represented from the global south.
That is not just like we're just working with these these women from the global south, yet they don't have any positions in the company that they have actually opportunities for leadership and that there's equitable pay that increases over time because I think a lot of the times people just think, oh, it's ethical pay, but it's like, is there a way for them to grow in their roles in leadership? Because women deserve that. The non binary folks that work in those industries deserve that. It's that we should not stay stagnant of those ideas. Are those political statements of when people say, like, oh, it's fair wage, but it's, like, fair wage for who? You or them?
And I I think that's what the future of fashion would look like to me. It's, like, it's not so much futuristic, but when we're coming back to its origins and histories of those who have been the ones doing it for so long.