“The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.
Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message:
To care for ourselves we must care for nature.
It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.
It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.
This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.”
To mark World Environment Day we invited conservationist and Arctic Angels’ coordinator Emma Wilkinson to share with us the stories of Arctic Angels’ young female leaders.
Global Choices’ Arctic Angels is an intergenerational action network empowering youth. Together, we advocate for the urgent protection of our Global Commons, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Founded last year, our network is continually growing and filled with imaginative and ambitious young leaders who live intuitively with our planet, doing all that they can to realise a world where we live in harmony with our environment. In celebration of World Environment Day and as the coordinator of Arctic Angels, I want to highlight the deeper motivation and goodwill behind the achievements of our Angels. Ahead of the day, I asked two of our twelve founding Arctic Angels, Astrid and Chess, about what this calling means to them.
From a young age, Astrid Tuuli Grace Determan has dared to be different. “Ever since I was a very little girl I felt deeply connected to all animals. I saw myself in their eyes”. At age five Astrid founded EPIC-Animals, empowering kids to speak up for the animals. EPIC stands for Every Person Initiate Change; it’s a call to action. Now at the age of thirteen, Astrid still believes that kids’ voices have a unique power, a grace, and when she and her peers around the world speak from their hearts and direct their efforts, policy-makers listen.
“We kids simply need permission to tap into our own power and the tools and opportunity to project it”
Age 8, Astrid lobbying congressmen and women to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
How did your time in the Arctic change how you see the world?
“I spent a few extraordinary weeks 120 miles above the Arctic Circle as a guest of the Gwich’in Nation. Actually being there, listening to my Gwich’in sisters and brothers, witnessing the caribou migration across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, profoundly deepened my belief that we humans are forever interlaced and one with Creation. What my heart saw, I will never forget and it will guide what I do for the rest of my life. Recently, EPIC-Animals partnered with Global Choices to help launch the founding group of Arctic Angels, and I spoke at their first event co-hosted with NEXUS Global. I am the first founding Arctic Angel and surrounded by the most brilliant and passionate co-founders. We not only fight for the Arctic, we stand for the entire Global Commons.”
Age 9, Astrid addressing the Gwich’in Nation spiritual gathering 120 miles above the Arctic circle.
How important has guidance from others been to you in your fight to protect animals and wildlife so far?
“So so many mentors have helped me along the way. My parents taught me to be the wind… to blow down or gently pass around all obstacles, to spread good seeds and to restore balance. An art teacher from Greenland first awoke me to the injustices experienced by First Nations children and the unfair burden of the consequences of climate change. My Gwich’in friends showed me up close what connection to Creation feels like. And now, my new partners in Arctic Angels, especially a wonderful friend named Emma, have helped me understand more clearly the science behind the changes to the Arctic and how to be a better advocate. I never hesitate to ask for help and the universe always conspires to support me!”
For me, mentoring Astrid has been a hugely fulfilling experience. I encourage her to question all that she is taught and told; to think creatively about how she may approach a question, problem or goal. We may live in different countries and have varied passions and experiences, but we are joined by our overarching ambitions, teaching and challenging one another.
Chess Fearnley is an environmentally and socially conscious global citizen, host of The Common Ground Podcast and accomplished campaigner in her local community, most recently leading her town to Plastic Free Community status. As a result of her activism, Chess became an Arctic Angel at the start of 2020. She is a firm advocate for the power of individual action and encouraging others to create change in their communities.
“Never believe you are too small to make a difference”
Chess representing Malmesbury Climate Action Network at a local climate strike.
How would you describe your relationship with the world?
“Earth is the common ground of all species – it’s not just what unites us all as citizens, but it’s what we have in common with all other living organisms. The world is something we are part of and belong to, and not something we have dominion over. Being a global citizen means engaging with the many crises the world is facing – from the melting Arctic ice to the deforestation of the Amazon jungles – and finding out what we can do about it. As Fashion Revolution say, the best way to do this is to ‘Be Curious, Find Out, Do Something’.”
Chess working to conserve sea turtles in Kefalonia, Greece.
What ignited your passion for connecting individuals to their power to create change?
“It comes down to the fact that not only do we all have a moral obligation to stand up against injustices, but we have immense power to act as individuals. We all care about something or have something that makes us angry – from plastic pollution to gender inequality. It’s not always obvious at first but the mission is to find out what that passion is and to harness it as a force for good. If everybody stood up, there would be 7 billion individuals creating change – that’s incredibly powerful.”
As Astrid and Chess’ stories illustrate, our Angels are diverse in their areas of action. We support one another’s missions, speaking candidly about both our achievements and setbacks, learning from and inspiring one another. Despite having varied passions, we are united in our goal to protect the Global Commons. These are the supersystems, like the oceans and the polar ice, that ensure global climate security and require global, collaborative and collective action.
Arctic Angels is an action network within the non-profit foundation Global Choices. We are feminine-led, co-founded by Sally Ranney, a long-standing and accomplished environmental campaigner, and Inge Relph, a highly experienced policy advisor. We aim to work with generosity of spirit in all that we do and strive to achieve a consciousness in action that we are all one. We call for the use of collective intelligence to make strategic choices to protect our environment, which requires prioritising the Arctic and the Antarctic.
Our rationale for this prioritisation is simple: we can’t plant ice – once it’s gone, it’s gone.
In the words of The Female Lead, ‘seeing is believing’. By placing a spotlight on the achievements of two of our Arctic Angels, I hope that you too will believe in the power of your voice and your choices.
On this World Environment Day, and every other day…
“Let’s think beyond what is and imagine what will be” – Astrid
“Let’s pause, reflect and be grateful for how lucky we are to live on such an extraordinary planet” – Chess
Let’s realise that we are our environment.