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Youth in Action: Environmental activist raises climate issues one doodle at a time

SINGAPORE — At nine, environmental activist Woo Qiyun penned a three-page essay when Australian zookeeper and television personality Steve Irwin tragically died after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb in 2006.

Youth in Action: Environmental activist raises climate issues one doodle at a time

Ms Woo Qiyun is the creator of @theweirdandwild, an Instagram page on environmental issues that has amassed over 6,000 followers.

As part of a series to highlight youth activism, TODAY speaks to young people in Singapore who are not only passionate and vocal about social issues, but are driving positive change through their actions. In this instalment, environmental activist Woo Qiyun talks about how she tries to raise awareness about the climate crisis through art.

 

  • Ms Woo is the creator of @theweirdandwild, an Instagram page that has amassed over 6,000 followers
  • The page is filled with colourful hand-drawn graphics on a variety of environment-related topics
  • She said the effects of global warming can already be felt in Singapore, where the weather has gotten more unpredictable and erratic

 

 

SINGAPORE — At nine, environmental activist Woo Qiyun penned a three-page essay when Australian zookeeper and television personality Steve Irwin tragically died after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb in 2006.

She had wanted to be a zookeeper like the “crocodile hunter” and his death devastated her.

“It was something about his passion. You can see from the TV screens that he was not doing it for the money… It was all from the heart,” said Ms Woo. 

While her dream of caring for animals did not take shape, she developed a broader interest in caring for the earth.

This interest took root in her so deeply over the years that Ms Woo switched majors from political science to environmental studies in her second year at the National University of Singapore.

There, the 23-year-old, who has since graduated, started @theweirdandwild, an Instagram page on environmental issues that has amassed over 6,000 followers so far.

Ms Woo, who is charting a career in sustainability, said the page was created after a poster she made, about recycling welfare packs, when she was in university garnered a good response.

“I had also been posting environmental news and resources on Facebook and a friend complained, saying that my page was very messy and that she wanted a consolidated page that can be easily accessed,” said Ms Woo.

So she filled the Instagram page she started with a plethora of vibrant doodles and hand-drawn infographics on environment-related topics.

Ms Woo said she tries to keep every post topically relevant. Each post takes her at least a week as it requires extensive research.

“To be honest, there's so much to say and I haven’t had the bandwidth to write and draw about everything because I’m a one-person team,” she added.

Most recently, she highlighted how the effects of global warming can already be felt in Singapore, where the weather has gotten more unpredictable and erratic.

“I feel that people should get involved in environmentalism because it affects many parts of our daily lives, like the weather, our food, our air, the way that we consume and live,” said Ms Woo. “It’s so integrated and what I hope to do is to raise awareness that climate change is very much real.”

Last year, Ms Woo spearheaded a campaign called the White Monday movement with her friend, Ms Sammie Ng, to tackle mindless consumerism by urging people to purchase only what they need.

The movement was originally started in Sweden in 2018 to counter the shopping frenzy during Black Friday sales.

Ms Woo said the campaign, which followed a commentary on hyper-consumerism that they published on TODAY, included reaching out to firms to opt out of the Black Friday sale for environmental reasons.

Ms Woo said now that she has amassed a following, she is more mindful about looking at issues through the right lens and addressing them correctly. She also worries if she has done enough research on the topics she raises on her page.

But having a formal education in environmental science has helped her understand the cause better. It also helps that she has a network of activists she can tap for support, as the work can get mentally draining at times.

“It’s very disheartening to hear people say we’re serving our own interests or have an agenda because we’re fighting for a cause that might hurt people in the future, and is already hurting people now,” she said.

Ms Woo hopes to make an impact on environmental education especially among youths — the generation of people who will ultimately live with the consequences of climate change.

She is working with a team to create a website called Climate Commons to explore complex environmental topics through graphics and other interactive forms, and has recently launched the page on Instagram.

Asked what young people can do to get involved in this cause, Ms Woo said she does not believe they should necessarily do what she does.

Instead, she hopes that people can recognise that tackling the climate crisis requires a collective effort and they can influence others by raising awareness on social media or changing their daily habits to be more sustainable.

“Hopefully through their engagement with people around them and the things that they do, they are slowly changing mindsets and shifting society towards a culture that is more sustainable... and one that is more compassionate to the earth and the people in it,” added Ms Woo. 

Related topics

activism environment climate art youth in action

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