A Book to Help Save the World

Activist Nergiz De Baere ’18 provides a daily guide to living greener

By Marie DeNoia Aronsohn

Nergiz De Baere ’18 is a believer in the power of hope no matter how daunting the odds. Her book, 365 Ways to Save the Planet, published last fall, is a testament to her conviction that positive change is possible. It is also a straightforward guide to understanding our changing Earth. Central to the book are themes of climate change as an existential crisis and the agency of every individual to contribute to the solution. In the book, De Baere provides definitions of the terminology around climate change, from sea level rise and coral bleaching to geoengineering.

Nergiz De Baere ’18
Nergiz De Baere ’18

“I explain it in very simple terms,” says De Baere. The book is meant to empower readers to learn more and to get involved in solutions.

De Baere, who was born in Kenya and raised in London, Norway, and Azerbaijan, sees the world through the prism of a varied cultural context, one that she says grew richer during her time as an economics major at Barnard. De Baere says it was at Barnard that she came to understand feminism as a locus for empowerment, which helped inspire her to launch her Chicks for Climate Instagram page, where she posts educational content about feminism and environmentalism. It has currently garnered 360,000 followers.

Among her other postgraduate occupations, De Baere, now based in Los Angeles and the U.K., started a sustainable hemp clothing line called Magi; sings, writes, and records what she calls soul/alternative R&B music; and — about a year ago — gave birth to her first child.

She spoke to us about her evolution as an activist/author, her book, and the hope and vision that drive her. 

Why are environmental issues so central to your life and career?

The climate crisis is the pinnacle of all human crises. It’s the outcome of economic crises and social crises, and if those problems didn’t exist — if our connection to nature was more intimate — then the climate crisis wouldn’t exist. Those problems culminate in the climate crisis. So I think my education at Barnard did a great job of making me aware of these other sub-crises.

What was your intention in writing this book?

I wanted something accessible and easy to understand and grasp, because I think the climate crisis can be so nebulous, which makes it difficult to understand how to help. I don’t think people know what to do. So the book is an introduction. The idea is everyone has a part to play, no matter who you are. And I think the core of the book, the thread that connects everything, is hope. Hope is so important. We really can’t make a change without it. If I think about the powers that be, the fossil fuel industry, corporations, even politicians and governments, they bank on the public resigning themselves to “Well, this is just the way the world is.” And the idea of the book is “No, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can live in a better society.”

What was your journey to publishing like?

The publisher actually came to me. They said they were doing a series of “365 Ways…” books, and they needed someone to write one for the planet. I knew I had to fight for it to be a bit more radical. I didn’t want it to be just “recycle your clothes.” It had to go into some of the systemic issues, which took a bit of persuasion.

365 Ways to Save the Planet

What led you to study at Barnard?

I got accepted to Barnard when I was visiting St. Andrews in Scotland. I thought, “Scotland or New York City?” It was a very easy choice. Azerbaijan is a very chauvinistic and patriarchal society. I was acutely aware of how differently I, as a female, was treated and how different my life would’ve been if I had been a different gender. I wanted to be in an environment that was created for and by women. I’d never been in that kind of environment before. I’d always had to punch uphill. At Barnard, it felt like, okay, I can breathe.

How did your time at Barnard shape the trajectory of your career? 

I started Chicks for Climate, my feminist environmentalist page, and I never would have done that if I hadn’t gone to Barnard. The atmosphere was both challenging and comforting. You were allowed to explore ideas. Unlike other universities, there was more of that there. We were talking about nonbinary and trans issues back in 2014, much earlier than most people. So it just felt like a challenging place to explore your ideas. It allowed me to forge enduring relationships with people too. 

What gives you the most hope these days?

I’ve always been a big believer in the basic goodness of humanity. I think you have to make a concerted effort to override your brain’s natural tendencies to see the negative. I try to practice that every day. And people, I think, are generally kind. That basic fact is what I keep in mind, and that gives me hope every day.  



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