Climate Hero Q&A: Tori Tsui
Tori Tsui is a UK-based intersectional climate activist and mental health advocate. Tori is one of three co-founders of Bad Activist Collective, the podcast-turned-multimedia platform for activists, artists, storytellers, and change-makers to share, learn new perspectives, and "collectively readjust." She also started Pass the Mic, a campaign that calls on brands and people with influence to "pass the mic" to global activists in order to amplify the voices of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Tori has been sponsored by Stella McCartney to Sail to the COP. Additionally, she is currently part of the collective's Rail to the COP project for Glasgow's COP26. In 2020, she shot and presented a short film on the fragility of Svalbard in the arctic circle and is part of the collective.
WWO: Tell us about yourself and what you do outside the sphere of climate change.
TT: I am an intersectional climate justice activist and organizer from Hong Kong but based in Bristol, UK. Most of my activism and organising focuses on building bridges between different climate networks and implementing a framework of restorative justice and coalition building between different communities. It also focuses on how activists in what is termed "the Global North" can work to decenter and amplify the voices of people and areas most affected. Besides being a climate activist I speak a lot about mental health advocacy (and unsurprisingly, how it ties into the climate). I'm an avid creative who likes to spend her free time crafting, painting, and living life in the slow lane. I also have a penchant for being a full-time cat mother.
WW0: As a global village, what’s our biggest opportunity to reverse climate change?
TT: I really believe in the power of coalition building and finding commonality and striving for accountability. Global networks are powerful, and if we can build movements on love and collaboration over dismay and scarcity, there's a huge opportunity to transition to a more just future.
BBC: Why are climate activists asking Sir David Attenborough to #PasstheMic on Instagram?, December 3, 2020.
WW0: What aspect of climate change do you think isn’t talked about enough?
TT: I think aspects of climate change aren't centered enough, not necessarily "not spoken" about. Because many people are speaking about certain issues, they're just not being heard and amplified. I genuinely believe the movement could benefit from making climate justice the main goal here [and] ensuring that we're not just transitioning to a "green" version of what we've already been doing (which got us into this crisis in the first place). How do we liberate people AND the planet? How do we strive for accountability and move towards a world which is not based on overconsumption and subjugation of marginalised people?
WW0: Are you working on a specific project that you’d like the world to know about?
TT: I feel like I'm spinning plates sometimes but I'd love to shoutout @badactivistcollective -- a platform dedicated to dismantling perfectionism in the climate movement and justice spaces, while striving for accountability. It's a network of change-makers, collaborators, artists and storytellers. Julia Gentner (who heads editorial) is a major powerhouse and working with them has been such a joy.
WW0: Could you tell us a little more about the "Sail" and "Rail" to the COP project? How did it come to be and what did this actionable campaign mean to you?
Sail to the COP was a project in 2019 that I partook in along with 35 other European youths, where we would sail across the Atlantic in hope of attending COP25 in Santiago, Chile. But, sadly the COP was relocated to Madrid. So, the team instead championed a new project Rail to the COP, which encouraged people to adopt sustainable transport for the COP. Despite the relocation, I still ended up sailing to Cartagena in Colombia, where I helped evolve a project taking Latin American and Caribbean youths to a UN conference in Germany. More than anything, these experiences taught me the importance of collaboration between regions and the importance in addressing the inequalities that exist in the climate movement.
WW0: How is climate change approached in your state? The good, the bad and the ugly…
TT: I'm actually based in Bristol in the UK which is honestly such a brilliant city. Community and collaboration is how I'd sum up Bristol. Though admittedly like most places, there are issues and inequalities that need to be tackled. We are considered forerunners in the climate space, and this is in part due to the strength our Green Party has here. We were the first city in the world to declare a climate emergency.
WW0: Who would be on your list of the top climate heroes?
TT: I feel like there are far too many people to list here. So much of what I respect about community organising is the power of people together, as opposed to spotlighting sole individuals. Many of my friends from a project I work on, Unite For Climate Action, are utter powerhouses. They don't necessarily occupy the media and social media realm as public figures, so they don't get nearly enough public recognition for their work.
WW0: Was there an event or cause that compelled you to fight climate change?
TT: There wasn't any particular event. Mainly my love for the environment (having grown up in the countryside in Hong Kong) and problem-solving. Mary Hegler says brilliantly: "The thing about climate is that you can be overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem or fall in love with the creativity of the solutions." I try to live by that.
WW0: How do we bring more people together around climate change?
TT: By seeing our humanity and commonality. I recently read Emma Dabiri's "What White People Can Do Next" and it really made me take a hard look at what I was doing in my activism. She speaks a lot about the importance of coalition building and the necessity to build alliances with other justice seekers.
WW0: What do you think is the Biden Administration's biggest opportunity to lower emissions?
TT: It's interesting because despite being in the UK, I am a citizen of the world and US politics inevitably affects us all. I think the Biden Administration should really focus on a green transition -- a just economic and energy transition that makes sure that nobody gets left behind or disadvantaged in the process.
WW0: If you had an audience with leaders of the world’s most polluting nations, what would you say to them?
TT: We have everything we need in front of us, we simply need to enact these solutions. Climate justice is more than just lowering emissions, we need to make sure people and the planet benefit from the actions they take.
Grist: Just Transitions Explained, July 27, 2017.
Columbia University Earth Institute: Intersectional Environmentalism Panel with Kristy Drutman, Aditi Mayer, and Tori Tsui (moderated by Lauren Ritchie), November 19, 2020.