My passion fuels my climate art

by Kori Malia

"No Planet B." Portrait of Tori Tsui, Climate Activist from Hong Kong and Bristol.

Artwork by Kori Malia

I am 21 years old, from Los Angeles California and grew up next to the Torrance Oil Refinery which exploded five years ago. It narrowly escaped a tank of lethal Modified Hydrofluoric Acid under a mile away.

This preventable disaster so close to my childhood home led me to research climate change, and how it was not a problem of the future, but a crisis that is already affecting people and our planet right now. And in my case, right in my neighbourhood.

The injustice of some people putting profits over the value of human lives and irreplaceable ecosystems propelled my anger into action. I live in a county in the United States that struggles with racial and socioeconomic inequality, food security, drought, a homelessness crisis, dangerous heat waves amplified by urban heat island effect, and some of the poorest quality air in the entire country.

These issues may seem unrelated, but I see the connections. Climate change is a global #humanitarian crisis, and we can not solve one without solving the other. The intersectionality between human rights, #environmental #injustice, and the climate and ecological crisis can not be ignored.

"I realized I needed to dedicate my life to fighting against the systems that are rapidly destroying our chance at a liveable future".

Part of the fuel for my activism was the fear of the climate emergency affecting my generation, and the world’s most vulnerable populations, the most.

Love and rage were the two catalysts for my activism: love for humanity and the irreplaceable biodiversity on our planet; rage for the mass extinction of countless species, the lives lost and displaced, the murders of environmentalists around the world, and the irreversible damage to Earth caused by human exploitation of nature. This was what transformed me from an ordinary student to someone who took time off college to organize full-time with climate organizations. Love is what gave me the desire to protect, and rage against injustice is what propelled me to fight for systematic change.

"Water is Life." Portrait of Ta'Kaiya Blaney, Indigenous and climate justice activist from the Tla A'min Nation, Turtle Island. Art by Kori Malia

My Youth Activist Series was one of the first art series I created. A year ago, I launched my art account and website Bee Tree And Sea focusing solely on environmental and social justice art and education. I have had the privilege of meeting incredible activists around the world due to the project. My paintings are my way of showing gratitude for the work of my fellow activists and sharing their message.

Art was one of my first forms of climate activism. I strongly believe in the power of thousands of people on the streets participating in civil disobedience, and I also believe in the power of the arts to create social change. Art is a catalyst, a connector, a universal language that brings a personal, intimate connection to causes that sometimes facts and data do not.

I create illustrations and write music to spread awareness about important issues and bring a deeply personal connection to my activism. Artists like Banksy and Keith Haring, who have used the power of art to invite society to think about important social issues and to take action, are among my inspirations. They have proven the remarkable impact of a single image.

A few months ago, I made a piece for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a devastating epidemic in North America. This image was a channel of my grief for all of the Indigenous women who have gone missing and been killed, and a way to honour them and their relatives.

Portrait of Elizabeth Wathuti, climate activist from Kenya and founder of Green Generation Initiative. Art by Kori Malia

Recently, I have focused my art on the global movement for black lives. Creating art surrounding social justice has given me an outlet of expression, and a chance to share these messages with the world. Art is a form of my activism, and a form of my solidarity. Art is a method of grieving, empowering, and connecting. I believe art will create the social change we need to create a world in which we all can thrive.

Portrait of Sônia Guajajara, Indigenous activist and leader of Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil. Art by Kori Malia

Kori Malia is a twenty-one year old activist and artist from Los Angeles, California now studying in the United Kingdom. She is an organiser for the climate and social justice movement in LA and coordinator of Extinction Rebellion Youth US.