Farhana Yamin’s Journey from Climate Summits to Street Protests


“I felt that the entire multilateral world, the international framework for human rights, was collapsing around me,” Yamin said.

When Ms. Yamin watched from a meeting room at the United Nations climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, she was devastated by the election of Mr. Trump. She felt that her 30-year career as a government lawyer and climate negotiator meant nothing.

“Everything went smoke,” he said. “I couldn’t tell my customers, I couldn’t lie to the Marshall Islands that we were going to fix this.” Ms. Yamin took a year off, spending most of her time in nature therapy classes and camping in the wilderness for weeks.

During her time off, Ms. Yamin began reading about other social movements that used social mobilization and nonviolent resistance to further her causes, such as the anti-apartheid campaign and the suffragist movement. “I felt that the climate movement was almost unique and fragile, relying mostly on insider tactics, not movement generation,” she said. “He didn’t trust full team sets.”

It was this idea that rekindled Ms. Yamin’s passion for climate and helped her get back to work. Instead of returning to climate diplomacy, Ms. Yamin joined the emerging extinction rebellion Movement, a decentralized group that used nonviolent action and civil disobedience in 2018.

Initially, Ms. Yamin became the leader of Extinction Rebellion’s political team, using her knowledge in the diplomatic field to help the movement be more strategic in its activism and get more funding. Still, even in her new activist role, Ms. Yamin felt she was relying too much on her intellectual skills rather than showing off her body. When Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in October 2018Ms. Yamin was reading the report as activists filled Parliament Square in London. “I want to be with them,” she thought when she saw photos of teenagers refusing to act and awaiting arrest.

Ms. Yamin spent the next two years working with Extinction Rebellion, organizing and protesting with other activists. She resigned from her position in the group in 2020 due to disagreements with other leaders. Yamin said he believes the movement does not focus enough on climate justice.


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