IGF 2021 Lightning Talk #43 Creative strategies to tackle the intersection between digital technologies and the climate emergency

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (17:10 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (17:30 UTC)
Conference Room 7

Danae Tapia, lecturer at Willem de Kooning Academy, founder of The Digital Witchcraft Institute, co-founder of the Gato.Earth project Paz Peña, secretary of AlSur, co-founder of the Gato.Earth project


Danae Tapia, lecturer at Willem de Kooning Academy, founder of The Digital Witchcraft Institute, co-founder of the Gato.Earth project Paz Peña, secretary of AlSur, co-founder of the Gato.Earth project

Onsite Moderator
Danae Tapia

Paz Peña



Duration (minutes)



Gato.Earth is an independent activist project that since 2019 seeks to document and reflect on how digital technologies have contributed to the current climate emergency with a feminist anti-colonial approach. In the context of an unprecedented ecological crisis due to the extractivist model of capitalism, Gato.Earth is a unique space for researchers and activists to find critical approaches, produce artistic projects and find inspiration to work on how digital technologies (in material and epistemological aspects) are contributing to the climate and environmental crisis in our local communities.

We adopt multi-lateral strategies to achieve our mission: our core product is Gato.Earth, a monthly newsletter (in English and Spanish) which has become a crucial repository of information regarding the deployment of technologies in this environmental crisis and an innovative methodology, based in writing creative non-fiction letters to get the attention of audiences feeling the same distress around this planetary challenge.

We are digital justice specialists, with years of experience in organization in Latin America, the US, and Europe, and we consider that the recent technological developments have significantly contributed to the awful environmental crisis we’re facing right now. In our project we explore this intersection but at the same time we want to promote an approach that favours non-conforming perspectives on tech that will contribute to climate justice.

In this talk we want to share our advocacy strategies, and also discuss the results of our research activities in relation to topics such as surveillance against land defenders, and the environmental impact of data centers.

This session links to the issue area: Environmental sustainability and climate change.

While we agree to have a hybrid session, we want to lead the activity on-site in order to connect afterwards with fellow members of civil society, donors, and policymakers. A key product of the Gato.Earth project is our newsletter which is read by a broad base of subscribers, so participants will be invited to sign up for our dispatches and we will provide clear instructions to access our reports.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The environmental justice movement has better understood the environmental effects of digital technologies than the digital rights movement itself.

Based on the experience of the environmental justice movement, we need to question the role of the climate and ecological crisis of human rights in the digital context agenda.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

To complement different agendas working on the environmental effects of ITCs is necessary to look for creative and critical strategies that can push human rights further in a narrowing window of opportunities to climate action to avoid the planet-warming above 1,5 °C.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Research and activism regarding the material effects of digital technologies -particularly towards the environment and the climate crisis- had indeed been part of the environmental justice activists' agenda. Examples are multiples, as activists denouncing the intensive use of fresh water in drought-affected zones by data centers, or the social, cultural, and environmental consequences of extractivism of lithium and rare earth minerals in different places in the world.

If we add the crucial factor of the hurry humanity has to avoid the planet-warming beyond 1,5°C, it is vital to question what is then the role about the climate and ecological crisis of the digital rights agenda.

Exponents propose to examine the lessons learned by the environmental justice movement that, on one side, has exhausted the institutional resources to protect the environment and the communities at the local, national, regional, and international spaces. So the question for the human rights agenda in the digital world should rather be how, through creative strategies, we learn and engage with a global movement and help push for a digitization that limits the climate and ecological disasters we are experiencing.

Three creative strategies were discussed in this lightning talk:
- To document human rights violations against communities because of the environmental effects of the use of ICTs beyond the idea of formal reports, as already many social justice groups are working on that strategy. It is also essential to overcome the concept of human supremacy and address other epistemologies such as posthumanism.
- To build a new agenda, beyond the one working on ICTs, that brings together the movements from different traditions that already work on the environmental effects of technologies in various aspects, and let their experience develop their own methodologies, actions, agendas, and reflections, better suited to the climate emergency. 
- To encourage a cross-cutting movement of reform and imagination within the UN mechanisms. Of reform, in the sense of convening multi-stakeholders including business, governments, technical sector, academia, and civil society that want to accelerate their human rights commitments in both digital and environmental rights. And a movement of imagination, because in the face of the most significant governance crisis we have ever faced, with both the environmental and digital rights movements, we must think about how international institutions that already exist could respond to the enormous challenges of a present and a future copping with climate disaster.