- Going Green
Green is the New Black founders Stephanie Dickson and Paula Miquelis share how a trip to the Arctic Circle inspired the theme for the Conscious Festival 2019.
It comes after the women’s expedition to the Arctic Circle in June, during which they witnessed the effects of global warming first-hand. Dickson and Miquelis, whose GITNB endeavours to promote conscious living, were among more than 80 sustainability leaders from the world over aboard the National Geographic Explorer with Robert Swan. The first man to walk to both North and South Pole, he is the founder of 2041, which works to preserve the Antarctic.
Held 2 and 3 November, The Conscious Festival 2019 is its first-ever all-vegan event and themed Climate Change is Real. The programme is led by four talks sessions featuring speakers from Christine Amour-Levar, Nicole Yau and Barney Swan, and offers a marketplace with over 100 pop-ups and edutainment booths. We find out the details from Dickson and Miquelis.
The Conscious Festival is into its 5th edition. What are you most excited about?
For the first time, we have a theme, Climate Change Is Real. We have expanded and evolved our knowledge and sought to create more awareness in an engaging way. Besides collaborating with more artists on installations and experiences, as well as thought leaders like Barney Swan, the first man to journey to the South Pole, and Assaad Razzouk of The Angry Clean Energy Guy podcast.
The festival opens with The Naked Arctic Adventure, a documentary of your expedition to the Arctic Circle. How did it inspire this year’s theme and/or content?
The Arctic is magnificent. The sun never set; every time we looked or stepped out, we found ourselves staring into icebergs, sea ice, and creatures like polar bears and walruses. It was unseasonably warm for June: we were told to expect 0 to -10 deg Celsius but we got 0 to +8 instead! One could walk across the North Pole like 30 years ago but that’s impossible now since the ice has melted. That knock-on effect is global — rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns and natural disasters. This realisation led us to our theme, Climate Change Is Real, as well as the decision to delve deeper into topics such as youth voices shaping our collective future, and solutions for a changing climate.
Personally, what lessons did you learn about climate change during the making of The Naked Arctic Adventure?
Among the most shocking is that the ice is melting faster than our actions. The Arctic, along with the Antarctic, is like air-conditioning for our world. By reflecting half of the sunlight we receive, it helps keep the planet cool. The more ice that melts, the more the planet heats up; the warmer the planet gets, the more ice melts. It’s a dangerous loop.
According to the Paris Agreement in 2015, which aimed for 2-degrees increase (instead of 4 degrees if we conducted business as usual), emissions should have dropped by 2% every year. In 2018, however, emissions went up by 3%! By removing CO2 from the atmosphere, through planting more trees and reducing deforestation, we can achieve net zero emissions. We can explore carbon offsetting and neutralising too.
In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, all of us must work together — individuals, governments, businesses… we need to do better and do more now.
Are we lagging behind by a lot?
The hardest part was realising that while our individual decisions had a collective impact, the real focus needs to be dismantling the fossil fuel industry. So we don’t just reduce current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere but also future emissions.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of this task but we are hopeful of the progress in technology and the collective change that we are seeing. While trying to go very low-waste and vegan was a stretch for us, it wasn’t impossible.
Another difficulty about going naked was single-use plastic, especially on flights and having to be very well-prepared with food and water. Surprisingly even though we refused a lot of plastic, some restaurants and stores insisted we took it, thinking they were doing us a favour. It showed that a lot of awareness, education and change still need to happen. We’re both on our own journeys of sustainability, and we are taking more little green steps forward.
What can we expect from next year’s event?
Next year we are bringing the festival to our third city, possibly in Europe! Every year we always push ourselves further; our event is now vegan and almost zero waste. We strive to do as much as we can to ensure as low our impact as possible.
(Main photo: Flavien Prioreau and Zoe Kovacs)