Climate Hero Q&A: Selin Gören
In World War Zero's Climate Hero Q&A series, our team goes one-on-one with some of the most influential voices of the climate movement.
Selin Gören is a 20-year-old activist from Turkey currently studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Energy Studies at Yale. She is involved with the school's Environmental Education Collaborative (EECO) and the Endowment Justice Coalition and works with the Yale Program for Climate Change Communication (YPCC). While in high school in Turkey, Selin organized climate strikes with Fridays for Future and helped expand the organization to the high school level, building on Atlas Sarrafoğlus work with middle schools. While in the US, she remains supportive and deeply committed to student groups in Turkey, including her work with the nonprofit Yuvam Dünya, creating an environmentally-oriented curriculum for a wide range of ages.
WW0: Tell us about yourself and what you do outside the sphere of climate change.
Selin Gören: I'm a student at Yale, and I'm interested in majoring in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and minoring in Energy Studies. I'm also interested in theater and dance. In general, these activities help me relax because once you get involved in activism, it will really affect you. You try so hard to change things, but especially when it comes to politics in Turkey, you don't see much change. For example, we've been campaigning for the ratification of the Paris Agreement since we started and Turkey still hasn't signed it. So, it's difficult when you work so hard and yet get so little out of it. Having these different activities like theater and dance is really important -- otherwise, it would be so depressing. Here at school, I do theater with Dramat. I also really like teaching. In general, I just like sharing information -- sharing what I've learned with other people, and also learning from them. I think that's what activism is about too -- sharing what you learn. So, that's what I love to do.
WW0: As a global village, what's our biggest opportunity to reverse climate change?
SG: It's really important that everyone from every field, regardless of our specific jobs -- politics, science, arts; really, any area -- realizes that there's something to do for everyone. There is so much to do. Every person has their own set of experiences and talents and knowledge. We need to think about how we can use all these different people to solve the climate crisis. I really do believe that this is not an issue that one person can solve by themselves. We all need to work together. We need to change our mindset. That's our biggest opportunity as a global community -- to think of all the different actions we can take in our different spheres.
WW0: All Roads Lead to Glasgow, April 28, 2021.
Belçim Bilgin: #BBTalks | Belçim Bilgin & Selin Gören | Climate Change Live Talk with English Subtitles, December 12, 2020.
WW0: What aspect of climate change do you think isn’t talked about enough?
SG: Intersectionality isn't talked about enough. The planet is getting warmer, but that's only part of the problem; we also need to think about social issues and inequalities. Different people are going to be affected differently. People and countries that are less privileged are going to be affected more. Unfortunately, in the media, we see more coverage about the natural disasters, and less about their effects on different groups of people. That's why I believe that climate justice is social justice. There's also a huge stress on biodiversity which should be discussed more. We're already losing millions of species and we're going to continue losing many more species if we continue with business as usual. The climate crisis is a really complex issue. It's not just about the temperature going up by two degrees.
WW0: Are you working on a specific project that you’d like the world to know about?
SG: Yes! I am working with an organization called Yuvam Dünya to create a curriculum for the climate crisis. With this organization, we have prepared a program for a range of ages that involves going to nature to work with the soil as well as learning about ecology, permaculture, and environmental science. We worked with primary and middle school teachers to make the curriculum. We are also working with the Minister of Education, and they actually just accepted our proposal, which is really exciting. Right now because of COVID-19, the process is really slow. But it will be implemented. We already signed a contract with them, so that's really exciting! I'm really excited about this because as I mentioned, I'm super passionate about the climate education part, in general. We need to start with little kids, because the kids will save the world. So, I think that it's really important to start early, and to teach the kids about the complexity of the climate crisis without making them hopeless, showing them that they can make a change.
WW0: How is climate change approached in your country? The good, the bad, and the ugly.
SG: The ugly, obviously, is that politicians don't care enough. The political side is really lacking. As I mentioned, Turkey still has not signed the Paris Agreement. There's still so much we need to do politically. Also, there's a big sea snot problem in the sea of Marmara. Even for that problem, the political response is really lacking. They need to implement stricter guidelines for the factories that are dumping their waste. When it comes to the good, social entrepreneurs and the NGOs in Turkey are doing amazing things. Of course, also activists and even some companies are doing great things to tackle the climate crisis. Social entrepreneurship in Turkey is really growing, and that makes me more hopeful. The NGOs and activists are also really pushing for change. But at the end of the day, it's the politicians who decide.
WW0: Who would be on your list of the top climate heroes?
SG: I have so many. As someone who wants to study ecology, Jane Goodall is definitely one of mine. David Attenborough has done an amazing job communicating the signs of climate change and showing the effect of the climate crisis on habitats and animals, and really makes people care about this issue. Communication is really important and he changed how the media approached climate change. On the communications side, I would add Ömer Madra who created Açık Radyo. That station reports on green issues and I grew up listening to it. Melati Wijsen, an activist from Bali, pushed the government to ban single-use plastic in the island, and plastic pollution was significantly reduced. She also runs Youthopia, a network of social change-makers, and I'm involved with this organization. I would also add Xiye Bastida, who founded the Re-Earth Initiative in the US.
Cambridge University: Jane Goodall - Finding our way to a better future, January 14, 2020.
60 Minutes: Sir David Attenborough - The 60 Minutes Interview, September 28, 2020.
WW0: Was there an event or cause that compelled you to fight climate change?
SG: Being interested in permaculture, I saw how the changes in temperature affected the crops that we grew. That was when I decided that I wanted to do something about this, even before knowing about the climate crisis. Seeing how the climate crisis actually affected the way we could grow crops, I realized that we won't have food security in the near future. I frequently went to permaculture farms, and even from one year to the next, I could see the differences in the temperature. For example, we would have one crop really early the following year because of how hot it got. This led me to understand that climate change was going to be a huge problem in the very near future. I realized that if we didn't have safe air to breathe and something to eat, nothing would make sense anymore.
Selin Gören: Selin Goren UN Women/Future of Equality Keynote Speech, September 29, 2020.
WW0: How do we bring more people together around climate change?
SG: First of all, I would say awareness is key, especially in Turkey where it's so lacking in media representation. I don't think the climate crisis is talked about enough in the media and that's a huge problem. Some people are not even aware there's a crisis, and if they are, they think of it as an environmental problem we'll face in the future and don't care about it now. It's really important to change this mindset. We need to raise awareness that the climate crisis is a huge threat that will affect people in the very near future, and is already affecting many people around the world. This connects back to climate change communication -- we need more climate activists to communicate clearly about this issue.
Also, scientists are not really listened to in Turkey and that's a huge problem. Making sure people behind the science are heard is something that will get people to start taking action. If people are aware, in my experience, people will start taking action -- maybe riding a bicycle, recycling, or buying less. They might attend strikes, write to their local representatives, and campaign on this issue. It all starts with awareness. That's what I'm trying to do in Turkey.
WW0: What do you think is the Biden Administration's biggest opportunity to lower emissions?
SG: Investing in green energy technology is definitely one. I know that Biden is big on investing in green energy. The Green New Deal is a big opportunity. He has a plan but it's not like those of Alexandrio Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders. He isn't as rigorous about this. But if he implements the Green New Deal, invests more in green energy, and supports people working in these fields, that would be a great opportunity. The US has the power to influence other countries as well. I think Turkey is affected by the US in general and by its decisions. So, I think it's really important that the Biden Administration recognizes this and tries to influence other countries, especially to make sure that every country follows the goals of the Paris Agreement.
WW0: If you had an audience with leaders of the world's most polluting nations, what would you say to them?
SG: I would definitely tell them that they have to realize they caused the climate crisis. The whole world -- everyone -- didn't cause the climate crisis. So, when we say that humans caused the climate crisis, I think that's wrong, because not everyone caused it. Not everyone has a huge ecological footprint. I generally disagree when people say that the whole human population is the issue. The polluters are like 1% of the world population -- the ones flying all the time, consuming too much, and owning companies that pollute the world. They are the guilty people. So, when it comes to high-polluting countries, I would tell their leaders to realize that they are causing the climate crisis and that they have to take responsibility for it. The climate crisis is a problem that the rich nations have caused, and they are affected less. Poorer countries are the most affected. If I had that audience, I would stress the importance of this and tell them that it's a huge injustice. They are the ones responsible, so they should be the ones to fix it.