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A special conversation between Macon Phillips and Catherine Constantinides
April 19, 2016

[Macon Phillips] Hello YALI Network. It’s Macon Phillips coming to you from Washington, D.C., with a special message about Earth Day. That’s right, Earth Day is on Friday, April 22nd. We wanted to make sure that everyone knows about this important moment. You’re organizing events in your communities, you’re talking to folks about climate change, about the environment, and we’re really excited about the YALI Goes Green initiative that we‘ve been pushing to raise awareness about important climate issues. Today I wanted, in addition to sending you this reminder, to offer you a special treat. We have been working on a YALI podcast that’s going to be coming out soon. We had a great conversation with a member of the YALI Network. As part of that I wanted to get to you even sooner, before we even started the podcast. So without further adieu, this is Catherine Constantinides who comes to us from South Africa and we asked her about Earth Day. Hope you enjoy it.

[Catherine Constantinides] So Earth Day’s a huge deal for me. This year Earth Day I’ll be doing several things throughout the week.  One will be a Twitter chat that we host on Wednesday night and then on Earth Day itself we’re going to launch a campaign. And the campaign specifically stems from a huge challenge we have found here in South Africa, where we’ve had the biggest municipal collection of our waste come to a halt.

[Macon] When people ask you what do you do, which I’m sure you get a lot, how do you answer that?

[Catherine] I think the easiest way to describe it very quickly and in a nutshell is, I describe myself as an international climate activist and a humanitarian who focuses on human rights issues across our continent.

[Macon] Why climate? I know that there’s a number of other issues within the human rights area, but why do you lead with climate? Why is that the most important?

[Catherine] You know, through my work, I have actually seen how climate change has affected our people across the continent. How people are no longer able to live the way that they used to 10, 15, 20, even 5 years ago. We see here in our country in South Africa the drought has affected us in a huge way, especially over this past summer season. We have seen people who are dying and people who are termed climate refugees.

[Macon] So I think one of the challenges that we run into with climate change, this has certainly been the case in the United States, it’s pretty clear where you paint a picture of where the problem is. To run through all the effects that the change in climate is having on food security, on the weather patterns, and the list goes on and on. But you almost do that at the cost of painting such a dismal picture — people wonder what we can do about it. So what’s your message to your peers? I guess, where should they start? And what are actions that people can take and inspire others to take?

[Catherine] So I think first, identify the problem, work collectively, and also you need to really understand that education and awareness around climate change and the issues underneath that big umbrella needs to be unpacked at a local level for people to understand. And allowing the community to feel like they can take responsibility to look at the small things that they can do within their home, at work, and within their communities; those are the ways that we’re going to be able to solve the climate injustices that we do see across our continent.

[Macon] Well wonderful, I really enjoyed the conversation; it’s really nice to see you again. Congratulations on being named a Washington Mandela Fellow, so we look forward to hosting you when you come out here to the States. Until then, if you have any other thoughts or feedback about podcasts or things generally, I know you’re not too shy about reaching out, so I look forward to hearing from you.

[Catherine] Awesome. Thank you so much and thank you for the opportunity. And again thank you for an amazing platform that allows us as young Africans to really be inspired by each other through this specific network.

[Macon] Awesome. Okay, have a great day.

[Catherine] Take care, you too, bye.

[Macon] Bye.