The IKEA Foundation helps many organisations accelerate their efforts in combating climate change. Facts and figures speak for themselves, but who exactly are the people behind this extraordinary work? In this storytelling series we spotlight brave individuals who move mountains in their climate action strategies and solutions. Today: Nathalia Rocha, senior strategist at Purpose Climate Lab in Brazil.
On the first day of journalism school, our professors asked: “Why are you here?” Most of my colleagues answered that they’ve always liked writing. I told them that, for me, writing and communication are tools, not my final goal. I saw journalism as an opportunity to have a positive influence in society. Once I got involved in impact-driven work, I realised the full meaning of my answer.
My first job was at Amnesty International. As a fundraiser, my responsibility was to attract new donors through storytelling. In Brazil, the human rights discussion is usually labelled “left-wing”. It was a challenge to convince people that human rights is something we all should care about. Afterwards, I worked for a cause-marketing agency, in which I led projects with corporate brands, NGOs and national philanthropies, mainly connected to environmental or human rights issues.But it was when I joined Purpose that I felt I could fully express my activism and my values.
Protecting the Amazon
In 2019 we had one of the worst fires in the Amazon rain forest. One day, the fires were so strong, that the sky over São Paulo was full of smoke. When the fires came, everyone started to talk about protecting the Amazon. Most projects I was leading then were connected to Amazon protection, and I began doing awareness-raising to stop the fires and support the fire-fighters, mostly by creating bridges between the partners I was working with and proposing collective action. This was a moment I felt personally involved in helping the Amazon rain forest. But it was not about me being the protagonist in this story—it was about having the privilege and resources to do something.
We ran a campaign in December 2019 in partnership with WWF and over 10 NGOs to pressure congress to stop a provisional measure from becoming a law to protect land-grabbers and deforesters in the Amazon. The congressional president felt he wouldn’t have support from the community or society, so he decided to not put this provisional measure to vote. Besides the huge success of stopping the measure, we felt successful in using a lot of political cover tactics. We mobilised through Twitter, engaged big influencers in Brazil and sent messages to supporters saying, “Do you know what your candidate is doing right now?”. It was a campaign in which we leveraged a conversation about land-grabbing, which is not an easy issue to approach with citizens, and people were all mobilised to say no to these illegalities and defend the Amazon protection. I’m really proud of that.
A really challenging time
Purpose also created materials to inspire candidates to make climate a top priority and to talk about it in an engaging way. But, at the same time, we’ve been in the middle of a pandemic. So to get people involved in the climate discussion and convince them of its link to health and unemployment is not easy. Sometimes we cannot make this immediate connection between what we want to tell them and what they are worried about. In the end, people vote for candidates promising jobs or to tackle the pandemic.
In Brazil, we are in a really challenging time. But it is also a moment in which global, government and corporate leaders realised the climate discussion is urgent. So my hope is that if the federal government won’t step up and do what they need to do, we have other political leaders who will do so. We are at a point in which mayors, governors and civil society leaders can take the leading role. This is something that we’ve been discussing a lot, regarding COP 26, for example. We probably won’t get the kind of answer that we expect from our federal leaders, but maybe we can get it from other important stakeholders here in Brazil as a way to pressure for stronger commitment to our NDCs.
Hopes for the future
If I had 10 minutes to speak at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, I would say to world leaders: we have been discussing the climate emergency for ages, and there are a lot of things we still need to do. If the pandemic showed us something, it is that with a positive outlook, we can do things quicker. So, why not appoint the same pandemic-relief effort to solve climate change? Together we can. We have the resources and the data showing this is important— and urgent.
There are a lot of things that we want to do in Brazil, but we also have the opportunity to create global pressure. This is the moment we can make other stakeholders and leaders commit to what needs to be done. It’s challenging, but it’s also really exciting to see what will come.
This story was based on an interview with Nathalia in February.
Nathalia Rocha is a senior strategist at Purpose Brazil. Before joining Purpose, Nathalia worked at CAUSE, a cause-marketing agency where she led projects concerning environmental and human rights issues, and before that at Amnesty International. She has a Bachelor’s in journalism and an MBA in marketing and digital communication.
Purpose Climate Lab builds and supports campaigns that inspire people to take bold climate action and adopt fair solutions to climate change around the world.