Two Feet on the Ground: This Activist Stopped Flying to Cut Her CO2 Emissions

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Helena Bennett’s social media is as diverse as her many interests. A theater fan and performer, she’s comfortable when facing a crowd, so whenever she appears on her feed — between her text-only educational posts — it’s to convey a message of action and shed light on important topics.

Topics include the relationship between privilege and climate change. There are also posts about more quality-of-life oriented yet equally-important issues, like ‘why linen is the best fabric’ or ‘how to have a sustainable period.’

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Currently an MSc Environmental Technology (Global Environmental Policy) at Imperial College in London, Helena considers herself an intersectional climate and human rights activist with a strong inclination to politics. One of her recent posts reads: “The first thing that’s important to understand is that everything is political. Politics governs how we live our lives. It governs our values as a society; the things we want to develop and progress; how we treat others and how we treat ourselves. By labeling something as ‘not political,’ we ultimately create ignorance around the impact that our elected government has.”

Besides hitting the streets to join one of the many climate strikes organized in the Big Smoke, Helena is also making sure new planet-first policies are drafted via her work with the Green Party of England and Wales, where she’s one of the 30 under 30 members. 

I’m pretty interested in politics, so I spend a lot of time reading and learning about things in political news too,” she says when asked about her passions. “I love reading a lot, and my favorite way to take time out of work is to go camping and hiking.” Mostly to nearby places she can get to by public transportation or car (she lives a flight-free life). 

Despite most of her work appearing to be highly-intellectual, she’s not sitting on academia’s high horse: Helena keeps her feet on the ground and stays connected to underprivileged communities. A cause she believes has yet to receive enough attention is the promotion of “land sovereignty to Indigenous Peoples who are already living so closely with the land; Indigenous practices, by nature, sequester carbon and protect biodiversity. Extending this practice to larger swathes of land will help in drawing down the climate.”

Between posting mindful content, reading for her exams and meeting with fellow policymakers, Helena manages to make time to work with the Climate Vulnerable Forum. If that weren’t enough, she’s also part of the campaign asking renowned broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough to ‘pass the mic’ so that activists who are on the frontlines can be heard by his 6.5 million followers. 

How does she find time to do it all? Like most of her generation, she worries about her future after being hit by a “wave of understanding” that overwhelmed her with information regarding climate issues and injustices worldwide. For now, Helena will stay put in London continuing her work, but perhaps one day we might see her hopping on a flight to engage in a site-specific project. Most likely, on a solar-powered airplane. 

Eco-Warriors Around the World