#SeatizenSunday: Desiree Llanos Dee, Greenpeace Philippines

Today is the Rainbow Warrior’s last day in Manila before it sails to Guimaras, Tacloban, and other countries in Southeast Asia. The Rainbow Warrior, designed and built for Greenpeace’s campaigns, is on a journey to amplify the voices of communities affected by the climate crisis.

One of the leading hearts and minds behind the “Climate Change and People Power” tour is Greenpeace Philippines’s Climate Justice Campaigner, Desiree Llanos Dee. When Des was in 4th year college, taking up a pre-med course and spending her free time climbing mountains, her professor asked the class for their thesis topics, but framed the question differently: “What’s your passion? It’s due next Thursday.” The forced introspection made Des realize that the environment was hers.

“Ever since I said that out loud, owned it, and pursued it, one thing led to another,” Des shared. “Pursuit changes everything – it captivates your heart, inhabits your soul, and reignites your imagination. That’s when the odds don’t count anymore.”

Des may not be healing people the way a doctor would, but her work aims to heal the earth, one story at a time.

Tell us about what led you to do your work.

[Growing up], I had no exposure to development work. Every decision in this journey was surrounded by questions and a great fear of the unknown. It took a lot of stepping out of my comfort zone, challenging my limits, being ready to fail forward, and living the questions.

When I was in 4th year college, I was a youth delegate to the UN Climate Negotiations, where I witnessed the inspiring leadership of the Philippine delegation. From there, I met my first boss, Yeb Saño, and started working in the Climate Change Commission. I had so many hesitations about working for government, but being taken under the wing of good mentors relinquished those doubts. For three years, it was a great balance of learning about the international climate negotiations, npolicymaking, and grassroots work in island communities.

After that, I pursued a scholarship to take my Masters on Climate Policy in Berlin. Up to that point, my life was strongly focused on public policy, and then I went on a life changing walk from Rome to Paris.

For two months, I walked 1,500-km through Italy, Switzerland, and France, sharing the stories of how climate change affects Filipinos, and how lives and livelihoods are at stake for most of us. The People’s Pilgrimage was about bringing the interfaith message of climate change as a moral crisis to the Paris climate talks. At the heart of it was sharing stories and the human connection of empathizing with each other. With every day of walking, with every story shared, I realized the power of stories and how it can change people’s lives in a way that a technical document cannot.

After the walk, I went into campaigns and communications, and that led me to my work in Greenpeace.

Des was part of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change for several years

Tell us about your current work.

Greenpeace is working on connecting climate litigation cases around the world to highlight the growing global movement on climate justice. In 2015, Filipino petitioners filed an investigation against 45 big oil and gas companies on their potential human rights violations resulting from climate change. Since then, New York City and California sued big oil companies for their contributions to climate-related impacts; American youth sued the Trump administration; and Norwegian youth sued their government for new licenses of Arctic oil drilling.

Everywhere in the world, people