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Exclusive – in conversation with Larissa Pinto Moraes

We went to the Natural History Museum’s Generation Hope: Act for the Planet event to highlight the Brazilian activist’s insights on the climate crisis and how we can drive positive change for the Earth’s future.

Climate justice activist Larissa Pinto Moraes is the Executive Director of Engajamundo, a Brazilian youth-led organisation dedicated to fostering awareness among young Brazilians about their socio-environmental impact and encouraging them to take part in their community and engage in local, national and international decision-making processes to bring about change at scale.


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Thred: When did you decide to dedicate your time to safeguarding the future of our planet? What made you want to take it to a global height, from project to mission to life’s work?

Larissa: In 2018, I left college with the desire to make a difference. So I began volunteering with an organisation focused on gender-related issues. After seeing a lot of injustice, I soon realised that there was more to be addressed. So I started my work with Engajamundo.

This highlighted to me the importance of showing young people that they have the power to bring about change, that they are a key part of the solution to the social and environmental challenges of Brazil and the world.

Thred: What are the biggest issues in your country right now? How can we fix them?

Larissa: Brazil is huge. All over the country are different issues that urgently need addressing. The most pressing one is inequality. If we tackle that and then link it to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples, and the climate crisis, we can move forward.
An intersectional approach is essential. The climate crisis is deeply rooted in inequality.

Thred: Your passion evidently lies in encouraging the world’s younger generations to step up, rather than shut down, against any matters they are passionate about. Why is this so important?

Larissa: We all have something to contribute. If we encourage young people from different backgrounds to speak up and take action, we will be able to address all the issues at hand.

Thred: Too often, young people are excluded from decision making spaces. How can we ensure there is greater youth involvement in the conversations aiming to instigate change?

Larissa: We have to take up space and stop allowing ourselves to be patronised.

We deserve a seat at the table and a role in the decision-making process. The way to secure that is to keep improving communication.

This is why at Engajamundo we work with both activists and people in power.

Thred: Could you expand on Engajamundo’s current focus?

Larissa: Brazilians – especially those involved in the climate movement – are preparing to host COP30 next year. Right now, we’re focused on gathering youth from around the country for this, as well as forming an alliance with the rest of Latin America. Brazil’s also the president the G20 summit this year. So we’re looking at how we can influence the discussions at that event. And, more locally, we’re highlighting to young people how city elections present us with a great opportunity to talk about adaptation policies and what small communities can to drive the conversation forward.

Thred: What was your takeaway from COP28?

Larissa: The conference is where people from all around the world can gather, exchange ideas, combine interests, and plan together. It’s marvellous that civil society is able to occupy this space. The negotiations are still largely being occupied by big tech and the fossil fuel industry, however. We did the best we could under the circumstances, but until this changes, we won’t achieve justice.

Thred: The science is clear – we need urgent and effective action to reduce the growing threats against biodiversity and the health of current and future generations. However, many industries (primarily coal, oil, and gas) spend time and money trying to cast doubt on research examining the climate crisis. How can we educate ourselves on environmental disinformation used to mislead the public and address this problem to stop it from delaying progress any more than it already has?

Larissa: By listening to vulnerable communities because marginalised groups have historically come up with ways to combat the climate crisis that are accessible to all.

We should be combining science with community-based solutions in order to distance ourselves from misinformation. The integration of storytelling with research is really important because it lets everyone use their voice.


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Thred: How can we be amplifying the voices of frontline communities and marginalised groups – those most impacted by the crisis – without resorting to tokenism? And, more pressingly, how can we be pushing for better representation and inclusion from a top-down level?

Larissa: The first step is to listen! As the Global North continues to dominate these spaces, we must listen to what frontline communities are asking for and cater to their specific needs. Be an agent of facilitation. How can we support marginalised groups? By doing things with them, not for them.

Thred: Multiple generations of Indigenous Peoples have and continue to live closely with the natural environment. Their knowledge and practices are vital in protecting the Earth’s ecosystems (which they safeguard roughly 80 per cent of) and for the future of people and the planet. What can be done to ensure they are at the heart of climate and environmental action?

Larissa: We have to assess how facilitate their access to funding so they can continue to protect the Earth. And we have to listen to what they have to say because what they’re engaging with aren’t global issues but localised ones. For example, how can we address gender-based violence in these communities? It’s once again a matter of tackling inequality and allowing the needle of change to move from there. We don’t need huge-scale projects to make a difference. We must localise and show Indigenous Peoples that we recognise and care about their basic human rights.

Thred: Gen Z is suffering with a debilitating fear of our climate emergency known as eco-anxiety. How do you involve yourself with this activism without letting it consume you? And how can we go about dealing with this universal – and often overwhelming – feeling of powerlessness in the face of climate change so that our mental health is protected?

Larissa: To cope with eco-anxiety, we need to be promoting collectivity.

When we see it as an issue that doesn’t only affect us as individuals, but us as a collective, we can carry the weight of it together. Find your people. Don’t take this on by yourself. And, of course, find joy in what you’re doing.

Thred: Why is intergenerational collaboration so important and how can we be fostering it?

Larissa: This isn’t a new problem. It’s a problem that older generations have been dealing with for decades. But if we don’t talk to them, we’re always going to assume we’re being innovative and doing things from the ground up.

We should be learning from older generations. Their wins, their losses, and what needs to be done differently. The climate conversation should include us all.

Thred: What do you deem the top priority in the fight against climate injustice?

Larissa: We have to address vulnerability and the conversation around adaptation. When we talk about vulnerability, we’re talking about how colonialisation and imperialism is still impacting marginalised groups today. When we introduce this to the climate conversation, it can seem quite sterile, but if we exclude it, we leave a lot of people out of the solutions. So including it is vital. Vulnerable communities being affected by the crisis isn’t going to happen, it’s happening now.

Thred: Besides the changes we can make on an independent level, what’s the best means of approaching influencing change on a grander scale? Aka how do we shift the focus of the conversation from individual to corporate action (think recycling versus manufacture).

Larissa: Make noise! Once you have everyone’s attention, then you put on a suit and speak with policymakers.

Be present, be seen, and be creative.

How can we talk about something that’s talked about often in a new way that gets the message across and wakes people up to the severity of this?