Advocating for Climate Change: A Conversation With Yvonne Cuaresma
Can you share a little about your personal story and how you came to your life’s work?
In March of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself, like many, rushing onto a flight home, travelling from New York City back to my family in Southern California. It was only supposed to be a few-week quarantine. The extended transition, coupled with layers of uncertainty from the pandemic gave me a looming sense of loss. I particularly grieved the momentum of climate solutions through my community groups and projects. However, as I relived in my childhood bedroom, and was surrounded by my old diaries, something encouraged me to fill the blank pages. I decided to dedicate my journal and yoga practice to the environment. Through these daily reflections, I was able to release the stress and tension I was harboring about the climate crisis. Hence, the Climate Journal Project (CJP) was born.
The Climate Journal Project, practice and community has taught me that the first step towards planetary healing is internal healing. This involves practicing mindfulness and gratitude to nourish our ability as climate advocates and leaders. Gratitude is the key. It is the center and compass to any impact we want to make. So long as we keep strengthening our appreciation for each other, ourselves and the planet, climate action will follow.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a climate activist?
I believe our task at hand is a long term project because of how quickly society moved to control our natural resources. From my experience, I am surrounded by solutions, ideas and inspiration for change, implementation takes time. Not every proposed solution will accomplish tremendous environmental conservation, however, patience is key. And, while I observe progress, another challenge is that trial and error may turn folks into disappointment. I recognize this planet is shared. While climate-related decision making on a personal, community and policy level can be challenging, I’ve stuck to remembering that we all make an impact in our own way. As a climate activist, I encounter many challenges, but as the climate community sticks together on the same team, we will accomplish great things!
What do you do to take care of your environment?
This is my favorite question because I am so energized by taking care of the environment. I have been plant-based for 8 years. I have accepted that I may not be the perfect eco-conscious individual, however, through the food I eat and consume, I am able to stay aligned with my eco-values. I made a decision a few years ago to only purchase items that I need, and when gifting other people for special occasions, I make a conscious effort to purchase experiences versus items. Besides eating plant based foods and practicing conscious consumerism, I have also leaned on re-connecting with the environment to strengthen my advocacy efforts. Through the climate journal practice, I’ve been able to hold myself accountable for the eco-goals I set.
Describe something in nature that nourishes you and why?
The sound of nature automatically nourishes me. Nature in the parks and rivers truly helps me refocus and regroup. As an environmentalist, exploration and evolution fascinates me. So, learning more about the natural flow and cycles of nature nourishes me as well because it reminds me of how lucky we are to be able to witness the power and beauty of nature.
When you hear the word intention what comes up for you?
To me, intention is acting with and in line with your purpose. It is a commitment to consciousness and awareness, not only for ourselves but for the people and world around us. After experiencing the rush of large and beautiful cities like New York City and Los Angeles, I’ve come to realize the significance of slowing down to meet optimal and intentional productivity. By moving too quickly all the time, I may miss a few marks, unable to truly dig deep and work towards my purpose. Through my journal practice, I’ve been able to progress with intention.
As an advocate for the planet, what role do you believe intentionality plays in fighting climate change?
Love and gratitude. Year after year, the fight for climate change resonates with me stronger and stronger. And, love and gratitude for the planet makes sense of why I am still fighting for positive environmental impact. Without a connection to nature and other people, our climate path can start to feel long and heavy. What I’ve learned is that when I lead with my heart I discover an appreciation, everything else follows. And, the pressure of the climate crisis releases — that's not to say it disappears, but I return to a path where I encounter others and projects who are dedicated to the same environmental mission.
What small steps would you suggest to our audience so that they can take responsibility in creating a healthier, more sustainable planet?
I would suggest that folks reconnect and replenish their relationships with the planet as often as they can. Not only does this help people experience more of what the world has to offer, but it helps us keep grounded. It reminds us of how important land, ocean and environmental conservation truly is. We protect what we love. Fortunately for us, nature shelters and protects us. However, the more we take away from nature and the further we move away from reconnecting, the harder it will be for Mother Nature to continue protecting us.
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
I wish for the opportunity to invite more and more people to global experiences so that they can immerse themselves in different cultures, people and places.
I wish to inspire others to keep an open mind and an open heart when it comes to differences in opinions. For example, water pollution is not more urgent than air pollution — at the end of the day we must stay on the same team and try to prevent fighting fire with fire as much as possible.
Lastly, I hope that there is more focus on our developments and technology to solve waste and disposal challenges and move towards a more circular economy… together.
Yvonne Cuaresma is a California native with an M.A in Food Studies from NYU. She is the founder of The Climate Journal Project, a space and practice to alleviate environmental anxiety and fears. The project addresses the intersection between wellness and environmentalism -- helping people become closer to the planet through a climate focused journal practice. A series of climate journal books, centered around individual and planetary healing is available on their website. In her free time, Yvonne enjoys cooking plant-based foods, surfing, and hanging out with her friends, family and of course, her dog Amelia.