Carbon Pricing Supporters: 5 questions to Ilaria Venturini Fendi

Welcome to the second episode of the series "Carbon Pricing Supporters". Last week we heard from Mogens Lykketoft, former President of the UN General Assembly during the Paris Agreement This week we hear from Ilaria Fendi, Italian fashion designer and entrepreneur, who has been a long-term climate activist and supporter of the campaign.

Ilaria Venturini Fendi is a fashion entrepreneur, a designer and an organic farmer.  She left her family brand in 2003 to become an  organic farme. Merging her past know-how  with sustainability and social commitment she returned to fashion in 2006 with her ecoluxury brand Carmina Campus, to design accessories and furniture with reused materials and the craftsmanship of Italian artisans.  A speaker at Rio+20, she worked in Africa in collaboration with the UN-WTO agency International Trade Centre (ITC) and designed a handbag line produced in Italian prisons.  For her career as a designer of sustainable fashion she was awarded  various prizes  among which the Social Laureate Award   by Milan Camera della Moda and the ADI Social Design award 2017.

1) When did you first become aware of climate change as an issue?

I have always been fond of nature and outdoor life, something I inherited from my father who, when I was little, used to bring me along on his walks in the countryside.   My love for nature and the awareness about climate and the environment has been growing over time, and  in 2003 I decided to change my life. I left my job as  designer at my family firm, bought a farm in the outskirts of Rome to become an organic farmer. Nothing like dealing with agriculture makes you understand how serious and deep the impact of climate change is on nature. This brought me to read and study about global warming. I realized that things needed to change fast, which with great frustration I didn't see happening over these past years. I believe that this struggle  must be fought with more determination than ever for all of us, in spite of the shortsightedness of some.

2) How do you foresee the state of the planet in 50 years time, if climate change is left unchecked?

I can't even imagine it. The danger is not in such a distant future but rather now! Unfortunately reality is far worse than what we perceive, it goes beyond our understanding, and we  behave irrationally, we become passive, thinking we can cope with it in a hypothetical future.  Instead it is a gradual but relentless  process already almost at its final stage.  Science and technology cannot help if we all don't first stop this process before it reaches its tipping point. If we don't do that I doubt we are going to have a real future in 50 years. 

3) How important do you think individuals can be in generating the change we need to deal with this issue?

It's very important! Bottom up actions are, in the end,  what makes politics move. But this process requires time and the consequences of climate change outpace our response. When in 2006, I resumed my old job as a designer creating a brand of sustainable fashion and design, I was still confident in the power of fashion as a means of cultural change to benefit all. I thought that it could have had a major impact on people's behavior, being always a step ahead of global trends, but it was soon clear to me that this was not the case, fashion trends became increasingly disconnected from the real problems of the planet. We have wasted so much time before young people's movements could finally spread awareness and spur the economy and politics towards actions of structural change, like the possible introduction of carbon pricing. Participatory democracy tools, like the European Citizens Initiative should be publicized more, especially by the institutions that they target,  and used through international collaborations to make people's voices heard. 

4) What, in your opinion, makes carbon pricing such a potentially important policy in the fight against climate change?

The conversion of a whole system requires a comprehensive change of paradigm and tools like fiscal policies to convince polluters that their business strategies are outdated and no longer profitable. Polluters must pay, and compensation should no longer be  acceptable as the only way out, because they do not restore things that have been disrupted forever. I think that the problem has to do with social injustice and a necessary redistribution of resources, that's why I supported the proposal launched by that connects environmental and labor issues.

5) If you wanted to convince an ordinary European citizen to support and sign our European Citizens’ Initiative campaign, what benefits to their lives and to society as a whole would you highlight?

Every European citizen should be aware of how lucky we are compared to others with our long lasting culture and our standards of living. The quality of life in Europe includes cultural development, health and social systems, free and stable political institutions, socio-economic growth and the capacity to somewhat deal with large phenomena like big migrations from developing countries. Who else should therefore be at the forefront of the global fight against climate change? Who has more to lose if we fail?

A signature takes one minute and one million signatures can make a difference. If we love ourselves, our families, our life, we must also care for the present and future of the earth.