Episode five, Season two of the Climate Curious podcast is now live with our special guest, Melinda Janki.
Guyana is a carbon sink and a climate leader, but has been airbrushed out of the global climate movement due to its status as a developing countries are, says Melinda Janki, an international environmental lawyer fighting for justice for Guyana, on the latest episode of the Climate Curious podcast by TEDxLondon. In our most compelling chat to date, she shares the remarkable tale of how one of South America’s most beautiful countries is fighting back against Big Oil: “It’s not a story that gets told very often… about former colonial peoples standing up against the oil industry,” she says.
Why Big Oil is in Guyana
Having spent the last 25 years working to make environmental damage illegal and save our planet, Melinda is now helping Guyana stand up to multinational oil giants to save one of South America’s most beautiful countries from a carbon bomb disaster.
Rewind to 2015. Exxon Mobil announced that it had found oil in offshore Guyana, about 120 miles out from the coast in the Amazon Orinoco influence zone – a really special part of the planet. It’s the longest mud coastline on Earth – boasting incredibly rich marine life. The oil is about two miles below the seabed, meaning extremely deep and dangerous drilling would be needed to extract it. Add in the context of fossil fuels being seen as dirty and polluting, plus the fact that Guyana has no experience of oil whatsoever, no infrastructure, no expertise, no personnel – and it spelled disaster for the ecological goldmine.
“This is a project from the beginning that is irrational and irresponsible. Basically, it’s crazy,”Melinda Janki
Using the environmental law she created years previously, Melinda got to work petitioning the oil behemoth to stop the drilling by proving how it is damaging to the environment and therefore illegal.
But the story doesn’t end there. Melinda also explains how the climate crisis is hitting other countries in the Global South hardest, too, even though they aren’t the cause of the pollution:
“This is a recurring pattern with climate change – that the people who have caused the problem are not really the ones that are bearing the brunt of it.”Melinda Janki
We must all stand up against fossil fuels
Melinda’s extraordinary story is a tale of passion and persistence, and demonstrates what can be done when you never give up: “Fossil fuels are killing the earth. And therefore we don’t have a choice. We have to stop them and immediately remove the excess greenhouse gas, so the Earth can breathe again.”
As Climate Curious co-host, Maryam Pasha summarises, “What is happening in Guyana can be a disaster for the whole world. But because it’s not here, we don’t see it. We don’t know about it, we don’t care about it.”
In this conversation, hosted by TEDxLondon’s Maryam Pasha and advocate and activist Ben Hurst, Melinda exposes how the people who have contributed the most to climate change are not really the ones that are bearing the brunt of it, how society is still blinded by the false promises of fossil fuel wealth, and a climate confession that will make you feel it’s never too late to turn over a fresh leaf!
Until next time – stay curious!