Mariana Menezes:
Living with Climate Change and working for a better future

Mariana Menezes is a journalist and the co-founder of Familias Pelo Clima in Brazil, a climate parent group inspired by the Fridays for Future movement. She has 3 children between the ages of 14 and 9. She says that the unusual weather events of last year have given her an insight into what living with climate change and its consequences means.

This past year we’ve understood what living through climate change means. In February 2023, around 40 people were killed by landslides and floods in Sao Paulo on the south-eastern coast. A few months later, in June, the city of Eldorado do Sul where I live, was hit by three cyclones in less than a month. In one of them, we had no power for 3 days. 

In early September, my State experienced more than 300 mm (11 inches) of rain in a single day. With over 85% of my town flooded, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes. Our children could not go to school, many families had to leave their homes because they were flooded. 

In northern Brazil, the prediction is that El Niño will bring historic droughts, which is aggravating the fires in the Amazon. 

I’ve been a journalist writing about sustainability for more than 15 years. When I read the special IPCC report Global Warming of 1.5o C, 6 years ago, I became very anxious. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about the future of my kids. Still, I didn’t imagine that I would see the consequences of this problem, all over the world, so quickly.

This was in 2018 when Greta started to organize her strikes. I called a few friends and asked them if we should do something. I saw what kids around the world were doing. And I found it unfair. I found it so wrong that adults weren’t doing enough but children were losing out on school to fight for their future. It seemed unnatural that children had taken on the roles of adults. It felt as if the world had turned upside down.

So I got together with three other friends and we founded the Parents for Future, Brazil. We launched Familias Pelo Clima (PFF, Brazil) in May 2019, on Mother’s Day. And since then, I’ve been juggling my roles as a mom, as a volunteer with this organization, and my full-time work.

In 2021, I received the OKC Fellowship and that gave me a new boost of energy. The Fellowship helped me to reduce my working hours and I was able to dedicate more time to the climate-parent movement.

Through the Fellowship training I learned to raise money, to organize a movement in a more professional and strategic way. I gained an understanding of how we should be working in a more impactful and organized manner with our group in Brazil. I understood the importance of fundraising to support our campaigns and to pay for one of us to organize our actions.

We’ve understood that we need to be more present in the campaigning space and participate in political debates. In 2022, we worked in a campaign to raise awareness about the power people have through their vote. In 2023, we created an “action box” to help mothers put climate action into practice. It contains communication materials, a t-shirt, a notebook with tips on changes people can make in their daily lives – like reducing meat consumption, planting trees, donating to environmental organizations, and learning more about the climate emergency. The suggested actions have different levels of engagement – from the simplest to the most complex. Everything is available on a website where the materials we designed can be printed and used by people in public spaces to raise awareness and build engagement. Now we are working on a guide for including climate-related actions and classes in schools, aimed at parents and teachers. 

The whole point of our campaigns is to tell mothers to defend our children’s future. We wanted them to understand that being a mother is powerful. Therefore, use this strength to fight climate change to ensure a better future for us and our children.

Last two years have been especially hard for everybody because we are already living with the consequences of climate change. What gives me hope is that humanity has this amazing ability to solve problems, to overcome difficulties. We have to prepare ourselves to be resilient and press for the necessary changes to be made quickly. We still have time and we need to keep pushing collectively.

I’m raising my children to enjoy and love nature. It’s a balance between protecting them from harsh ground realities and giving them the information that they need to create a better life in the future and be part of the solution. They understand what I’m doing, they are proud of the work I do. I don’t want to look at them in the future and say ‘I knew, but I didn’t do anything’.