Impactful stories
December 14, 2020

Diogo Silva, activist for climate justice: "the challenge of our generation"

His name is Diogo Silva, he is 28 years old, and he is an activist for climate justice.

With a path marked by a succession of experiences that, because they are so diverse, seem to have been inevitable so that today, it is the voice, arms and legs of a collective that advocates the urgency of structural change, Diogo says that this "is the challenge of our generation": acting for a "just future on a habitable planet" for all people and not just some.

Being the work he does as a fully voluntary activist, Diogo is also a "freelance communicator", always trying to be connected, in some way, to the theme that makes him move and working with entities that he believes have a vast potential for change.

Nesting in Costa da Caparica, he collects several memories in Aveiro. He remembers, in warmth, his childhood holidays in the city where BUGA surprised him at a time when it was not common to ride a bicycle and his presence, with Project 80, at the Gafanha da Nazaré Secondary School, where the vast and diverse mountain of vehicles with human propulsion became marked in his imagination.

Among several initiatives and projects, we highlight his journey in the Transformers Movement, which was his first "great school" in the universe of social impact, and theco-creation, in 2019, of the Art for Change Collective, an artivist collective for climate justice which seeks not only to stop the climate crisis but also to advance social justice.

"I didn't know I wanted to be an activist", but today it is with the certainty that the transformation of society is urgent and that it is going through a fair transition, in which "the people least responsible for the climate crisis are the most benefited and th emost responsible those who pay the most."


Bursting the bubble

In a family very close to the countryside, who left for vacation with "bicycles on their backs", Diogo always had a very close contact with nature, although, at the time, he did not yet perceive it as a concept that also includes being human. At the age of 7 (and not at 6, as he had tried), he joined the Scouts, where, with environmental awareness, they joined forces to do things that also aroused interest in social impact.

But it was at the age of 15 that the "bubble of privilege" he had inhabited until then occurred. At an international meeting of young people, which brought together people from all parts of Europe who came from social neighborhoods, he realized he was "a stranger there", they lived completely different realities. "It was, on the one hand, complicated to accept," he says, "but, on the other, very interesting for someone aged 15, who wanted to discover the world, to know, to know more. I was very hungry", he shares. It was a "key moment", which awakened the now activist to the world's immense weaknesses.


Building the journey

With a thirst to explore and learn, seeking to "find a middle ground between the most objective and the most subjective worlds", he entered Economics at the New School of Business & Economics, in Lisbon. At the school, he soon tried to be active and weave other paths than just the degree. He joined AIESEC, the largest student organization in the world that promotes leadership among young students, he joined the Youth Commission that supported Fernando Nobre's presidential campaign, he launched a company with a group of friends, and in the second year, he joined the Transformers Movement.


This would be his first big "school"of management - belonging to the Coordination Team and expanding a movement of "people who make a difference through what they most like to do", using their talent, or superpower, to improve their world.

At the end of the degree, with the certainty that he did not want to be an economist, he remained focused on the Transformers and, interestingly, it was in a presentation of the movement that he found the next challenge: Project 80, "a program, of national scope,which seeks to promote associations, education for sustainability ,entrepreneurship and democratic citizenship."

In a three-month roadshow, he crossed the country to promote the project and encourage students to design their own sustainability project, eventually passing through Aveiro, after a period without visiting the region.

Work in the social area followed, which quickly disappointed him and made him realize that the way to be a better manager would not be there. He started looking for opportunities in different consultancy agencies and, when he was about to give up, iMatch, a collaborative consulting company, happened. "It was love at first sight," he says. There, he found space for new learning, having achieved a position of responsibility quickly. But something was missing. With the rush of everyday life, it was difficult to materialize ideas that could have a profound social impact. "What we did had a social impact, but not at the level that we wanted," he says. "I felt that I was becoming very objective, that the creative part was absent", and that was why, after three and a half years, he left the company to go on to new projects. 2019, the year in which climate justice would be a "key theme", would also be the year of reawakening.


Art, climate and social justice

While still working at iMatch, he read a book by Naomi Klein, entitled 'This Changes Everything', which "really changed everything". Suddenly, the social impact and the environment went from separate worlds in Diogo's imagination to inseparable worlds. He started to get involved in demonstrations against oil while at the company and, in 2019, made the change palpable.

Twenty pages of Word ideas later, something was clear: "I wanted to work in the area of ​​climate justice and I wanted to do it by reconnecting with art." First, he joined Climáximo, a "group of activists driven by the urgency of combating climate change and its serious effects" and, later, in an attempt to connect the two worlds - art and activism -, he launched, with other people, what is now the Art for Change Collective (initially, 2degrees artivism).

Based on the premise that, for there to be effective change, "it is necessary to involve culture", the collective's mission is "to mobilize, train and connect a new generation of activists for climate justice", focusing not on small individual actions, but in the transformation of society. This implies, guarantees Diogo, "not seeing the climate crisis as an island", isolated from other social issues and struggles. On the contrary - the collective also raises awareness of the interconnections between this and several other issues of social and environmental justice.

Present in all major moments of national mobilization for climate justice since its creation and with several actions carried out - of which, in September 2019, the first edition of CineClima stands out, an initiative that materialized in more than 40 free sessions of cinema and debate, from north to south of the country, for 3 days -,the collective is now preparing to launch the first season of a podcast -'Clima e…' -, which already has pilot episodes on Feminism and Waste, among others.

Today, Art for Change Collective already contemplates some ways to be able to grow in a sustainable way, with an account on the Open Collective platform and, occasionally, Patreon accounts associated with projects.


Aveiro: casings and bicycles

With a family in the town of Moliceiros when he was a child, Diogo has "an emotional connection to Aveiro". He happily recalls the holidays he spent cycling around in the city and when, at night, after dinner, he go to a stall to get a typical sweet that, even today, he cannot resist.

Later, with Project 80, he returned twice - once to Aveiro, once to Gafanha da Nazaré, where the number of bicycles he found at Escola Secundária surprised him. "It was incredible," he says, stating that, having grown up with one of the few who rode his bike on a daily basis and took it on vacation, to Diogo, the BUGAs and the immense space dedicated to the means of transport in Gafanha da Nazaré are a cause for wonder. "Even today, these two cities are examples in this regard," he says.

With iMatch, he was also in the region, with a startup acceleration program in partnership with PRIO which, being "interesting from the point of view of innovation", generated some discomfort in him, he confesses, from the proposed angle, which aimed to"contribute for innovation in a company that I think should change its business area".


What does it take to be an activist?

"Being an activist is tough." Often, perfection is sought in beings, by default, imperfect. "It is a work of resistance", says Diogo, who, with what he does as a freelancer, tries not to disconnect from what is also "the daily life of people and companies", maintaining the balance between a more macro and micro in the world.


To be an activist, he says, what you need, in the beginning, is "to feel great discomfort; to have the feelingt hat things, as they are, do not make sense" and to use this restlessness as a vehicle for empowerment. It is necessary to "ensure that you feel empowered to make a difference," and this "is possible if we join other people", being "part of a movement that leads to real change"and be able to "dream new utopias".


This content was originally written in Portuguese and published in AveiroMag

Diogo Silva

Diogo Silva

Alumnus'13 | Social entrepreneur, Consultant, Activist

8. Decent work and economic growth
13. Climate action
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