For studies and work, Sami has been buzzing around major European cities for the past years. Growing up in a sleepy village in the south of France, his curiosity soon pushed him out of this tranquil remoteness toward discovering ever more places and faces across the continent. His interests lay at the intersection of politics, environmentalism and the social sciences. Whether in a sleek open space office or a shady smokey bar, you’ll most probably find him in a corner debating European politics, ranting about consumerism or giggling at the absurdity of the latest corporate greenwashing stunt.

Now settled in Berlin, he dedicates his time to fundraising for climate mitigation projects across the globe with Plan A. Sami is always on the lookout for a catchy argument to spin a conversation into a call for climate action.

Sami Deweerdt climate activist

What is climate change to you? How does it affect you? How to stop it?

Climate change is our planetary system giving humanity an overdue lesson. For centuries, we have been driven by a desire to master, shape and, more often than not, suppress our natural environment. Now, planetary boundaries inform us of the futility of such behaviour.

At home, in my natal South of France, climate change is palpable in the grasslands turning dry, rain making its absence be felt and a looming feeling that the Mediterranean basin is desertifying. This is where it gets personal, daunting and outright outrageous.

Today, with an ever clearer understanding of the ongoing ecological and climate breakdown, the physical world is teaching us how limited our dogmas really are. Resource extraction from mining and farming alone is responsible for 80% of biodiversity loss and 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. In the Anthropocene, our singular actions have global repercussions. We are all the butterfly that initiates the tornado.

Young climate action

Bright kid (Credit: Plan A)

I believe fighting climate change is inherently about binding together these global phenomena with simultaneously unfolding yet radically diverse local realities. This requires us to create a comprehensive and compelling narrative for climate action.
By grounding our understanding of ecology and drawing inspiration from biological communities, we have the tools at hand to build resilience. Through recognizing the different levels of interdependency defining our socio-ecological systems, a common logic can arise. It is in such synthesis that we ought to find the strength to combat climate change, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. 

Where do you get your environmental fibre from? How did it all begin?

My curiosity has always been first drawn to social systems. This is why I first studied political science. Somehow though, the answers provided by the social sciences in my university degree seemed to me as if they omitted a broader understanding of the world. Nature had to be part of the equation.

With that feeling in mind and somewhat disoriented about the next steps to take, I flew off to South America in 2016. This was my first full dive into environmentalism.

Over the course of 7 months, I visited 15 eco-villages and intentional communities that decided to dedicate their lives to protecting their environment by living in autarky and self-sufficiency. Mind you, they always preferred to describe it as “living in the abundance of nature”. From Peru to Panama, I witnessed and documented best practices in building resilient communities, permaculture and preserving local ecosystems. Stepping into such radical approaches to environmentalism offered me a glimpse of what degrowth truly entails.

What is your totem animal (can be a plant too)? Why?

I can’t claim to have a totem animal of my own per se. What I can say is that I have a strange obsession for social insects, be it bees, ants, wasps or termites. The fact that they do not function as individuals but as part of meta-organisms just blows my mind. What this full-blown collectivization has rendered possible is mesmerizing. To name just a few, ants cultivate fungi and construct bridges across rivers, wasps build cities in the skies and underneath our feet while termites elevate self-cooling towers in the desert. The capacity of those insects to adapt to harsh environments through collective effort and burden-sharing provides inspiration for us to develop answers to climate-related challenges, notably through bio-mimicry.

Beau gosse (Credit: Plan A)