These Environmental Artists Are Changing The Perception Of Environmentalism

October 20, 2021

When people hear “climate activist” they often think of scientists, environmental science majors, and people who just get science. These people are so important in the fight for our planet, but here’s the thing- they aren’t the bottom line.

There are so many people out there fighting just as hard who aren’t in the science arenas of the field or fight. There are musicians, writers, poets, painters, and chefs who use their art to advocate for stopping the climate crisis. In many ways, their approach can reach more people, as art is a universal language. The average person is more likely to be moved by a film or poster than they are by a lab report or detailed study. Not everyone is a scientist, but everyone has at least some appreciation for the arts.There is a reason why films like Before the Flood and even Avatar reach more people than statistics-filled reports do. Humans are artists- whether they make it or partake in it. It’s what makes us a unique species. Speaking to that is a deeper and more impactful way to speak to people as a whole.

This is why artivists are vital in the fight, and have just as much of a place in environmentalism as anyone else does. Their art is activism, and if scientists and artivists teamed up, they would be unstoppable. Here are a few artivists making a difference right now:

Jenny Kendler

An ecological artist by trade, and a forager in her free time, Jenny creates art that highlights the tragedy of biodiversity loss. Her work has been shown at museums around the world for the last fifteen years. Her goal is to change the anthropocentric view that people have on the world to eliminate the otherness given to the rest of the natural world. She sits on the board and fundraising committees for many environmental groups, and has even created The OPPfund—a group that gives grants to environmental artists and social justice organizations. In 2014 she was the first Artist in Residence for the NRDC, and continues to push the boundaries in artivism around the globe.


Photo courtesy of Nathan Keay for Newcity’s “Chicago’s Top 50 Artists”


Pattie Gonia

Pattie is an intersectional environmentalist, drag queen, educator, and social media celebrity. They have been featured in Conde Naste, REI, Outside Online, Backpacker, BBC, Vogue, Sierra Club, The Guardian, Teva, and many other platforms. The trail is their runway, and Pattie is bringing diversity and inclusivity to the outdoors through their art, collaborations, and comedy sketches. They have become an icon for the queer environmentalist community, and their videos about the way Mother Nature is treated and litter-made fashion has captured the hearts of those all over the world. They have even set up a job board for LGBTQIA+ people in the environmental realm, to make these opportunities more accessible.


Photo courtesy of Pattie Gonia


Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Kathy is an environmental poet from the Marshall Islands. Her work focuses on the violent legacy of nuclear bomb testing on her ancestral islands, and the environmental and social impact climate change has on the land around her. She has even co-founded a nonprofit for local youth environmentalists called Jo-Jikum, which she directs herself. On top of earning a PhD currently, she works as a Climate Envoy for the country’s environmental ministry. Her book Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter has received praise from Publishers Weekly, Alice Walker, and many others.


Photo courtesy of Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner


Aka Niviâna

Aka is an Inuk writer who explores the devastation that both colonialism and the climate emergency causes in her northern lands. She is from northern Kalaalit Nunaat (Greenland), and writes poetry about the loss she is witnessing. She has performed with Kathy on screen, making for a powerful exchange of two islands being destroyed due to climate change- in the northern ice and tropical ocean.


Photo courtesy of Emil Asmussen


Pekka Niittyvirta

The Finnish installation artist focuses on the idea of consequences. Human actions are the center of his work, and his pieces are scattered throughout the globe. His series, Lines, focuses on sea level rise in places that will disappear when the water comes. One of the installations can be found at Miami Beach, and the other in Scotland in a small coastal town. Using illuminated lines to interact with high tide, the lines show where the new sea level will be in the future.


Photo courtesy of Pekka Niittyvirta



HULA (a.k.a. Sean Yoro) is an environmental street artist and painter. He is famous for painting oceanic murals that are half-submerged in water, while standing on his paddle board. His art is deeply influenced by his childhood in Oahu, and the passion comes through. His striking, watery art has gained global recognition, with big publications around the world highlighting his paintings. His praise is a testament to the fact that the world is changing, and our hearts are turning toward the Earth.


Photo courtesy of Hula

Also by Emily: What It’s Like To Be An Environmental Studies Major

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Emily Iris Degn
Emily Iris Degn is an environmental travel writer, editor, passionate eco-journalist, professional artist, and published eco-poet. She is from the San Juan Islands, but currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her incredible partner and beloved sea shell collection. You can find her in many spaces on Instagram: @emilyirisdegn @happyvegansfeed @emfallstoearth @emilydegnart OR at


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