When Sophia was dipping her activist toes into the sand she hosted events in a friendly online community called The Lab. Naira came along to those early experiments and they’ve been collaborating ever since. Time to find out more about Naira’s story.
Naira Bonilla hails from Colombia and is currently living in Barcelona. She defines herself as “a quiet activist…, not really a protestor”, then added that she sees herself as “a ninja activist”. And she told me a story about her earliest piece of activism: although being nervous to speak to people she didn’t know, she dared to ask the caretaker at school for hammer and nails to put up posters about environmental awareness. So maybe not so ninja after all!
What concerns you about the world today?
Once again, for yet another of our Inspiring Activists, lack of connection to the natural world came up. Naira is concerned that although “all aspects of our life involve nature from the water for a shower, to the tree in the street”, for many of us living in urban environments, we don’t ‘get’ that. We don’t see ourselves as part of the natural world, or even as having anything to do with it. If nature is a ‘thing’ at all, it’s a separate-from-me thing. Or even worse for Naira, the people who are aware of the connection, but don’t care: she fears that for such folk, it’s “profit over everything”.
What positive contributions are you making?
Naira’s background is working for Colombian NGOs on biodiversity and deforestation projects, then working more generally in environmental communications. She now runs her own company as an environmental communications strategist and is a Climate Fresk facilitator. She often works with the With Many Roots facilitator community.
Have you had to make any sacrifices?
“This question really made me think…”, Naira admitted, realising how she had ultimately dedicated her whole career to the climate crisis. She wondered if she hadn’t, would she “have had more mental peace” but also realised that even from early on, she had wanted to do something that had meaning: something in the social or environmental world. Naira’s mother is an anthropologist, and this impacted her career decision. She found a reframe for the question, seeing her actions as “investment rather than sacrifice”. She agreed there have been disposable income sacrifices, though she still flies since she has close family in Colombia, as her partner does in Egypt.
How do you stay motivated?
“I’m sometimes NOT motivated,” was Naira’s instant reply to this, “and I will just break down and cry”. But then she added that she’d make the decision to do this work, and she will keep doing this work. That ‘keep on keeping on’ thing. She will do another workshop, she will continue being connected to like-minded others, she will continue sharing thoughts, ideas, plans. Naira added that her parents’ work and support helps to motivate her, as does music and her interest in Champeta dance which is rescuing the Afro-Caribbean roots of the Colombian coast.
Take a look:
What gives you hope?
Naira explained that 3 years ago she felt she had no hope for the world at all. Before she began meeting people from the climate community, she felt completely hopeless. But then she started finding people both online and face to face and began to learn more about the feelings around the climate crisis, as well as ‘hard’ information. She realised it was okay to sometimes be in despair in what was/is a desperate situation. She finds hope now in the tools she has to understand more about the feelings of both despair and hope. And on the opposite side of the loss of connection issue, she is hopeful too about how many individuals are connected and involved, and how many positive actions are taking place.
What if…we make the changes needed, what will your world in 2030 look like?
For Naira, the essence of this is the difference in the attitude to world economics: it will be a world where it’s not that profit rules – it’s not ‘business as usual’ in the sense of profit for profit’s sake. We will be using tech to improve climate situations rather than for more business as usual, more money, more goods, more materialism, more profit. Naira realises that whilst a techno-utopian rural romantic lifestyle is unrealistic, a way will be found to incorporate the best of innovative technology for providing the best situations for helping with climate crisis. Naira shared that she and her partner have plenty of discussions/arguments revolving around the activities of a certain Elon Musk!
A book that has helped you grow
Naira chose a non-climate focused book and a climate focused book:
A song that keeps you going
(not this interviewer’s choice of music tbh, but I do love the video!)
A quote that lifts you up
For this, Naira wanted a saying her father always uses, although he doesn’t remember where it comes from. Naira says it sounds better in Spanish, so she provided it in both languages:
“Ser con miedo pero no dejar de ser por miedo.”
“Be with fear, but don’t stop being because of fear.”Unknown
Your message to the world: imagine we gave you a microphone and every person on the planet can hear you, what would you say?
“I want to encourage you to realise that absolutely everything and everyone is nature and is worth protecting. You don’t have to be a hiker or outdoor fanatic to appreciate this: everything is from the natural world from food in your fridge to the water for your shower. Ask yourself, what do I want to protect?”
Daphne Pleace Yorkshire, UK Daphne is our well-being director and in-house writer. She has over 50 years’ experience of ‘people’ work in a range of contexts. She has been, or still is, an English and drama teacher, a counsellor in educational and relational settings, a psychotherapist, and a facilitator and mentor in both personal and professional developmental contexts. She chooses now to devote her time and skills to individuals and organisations working with the climate crisis. View all posts