AI – It’s not just about ‘deep fakes’ and technology taking over our jobs

Stella Odhiambo

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What I got from our chat with climate activist Ed Gillespie on AI's potential impact on climate action in the Global South, his key concerns, and other fascinating things.

Having been at the forefront of advocating for environmental protection and sustainable practices, it’s no wonder Ed Gillespie finds himself speaking on AI and climate change in one of our Live Conversations. He starts off the bat by validating our topmost fear concerning this rapidly evolving technology (which has been around for a surprisingly long time):

“Yes, AI is going to make some jobs redundant – but not everyone will be put out of work”.

He puts a slightly positive spin on it by adding, “there will likely be an emergence of different kinds of jobs though”, and like many inventions before it, perhaps that’s where the innovation and hope lie.

Harnessing AI for global transformation

But what does all this have to do with climate change mitigation? According to Gillespie, the transformative potential is enormous.

Some strides have already been made when it comes to using AI and machine learning to address climate change action.

He gives the example of how AI and machine learning have been used to map the entire UK solar grid and align it with weather forecasting and satellite imagery to accurately predict the energy generation from solar panels in real time. This helps integrate renewables into the electricity grid more effectively and allows for better management of energy supply.

And it’s not just with energy. Our infrastructure, farming methods, transportation, how our industrial processes work, and how we maximise our efficiency, all stand to benefit.

For economies heavily reliant on agriculture, Gillespie explores AI’s potential for precision monitoring and sustainable land management. AI insights can help identify carbon sources and sinks, rewarding farmers for adopting more sustainable agricultural practices.

More potential uses of AI in climate change efforts mentioned include:

  • Assisting in energy systems and filling data gaps in environments where limited data is available (like in the Global South).
  • Developing climate strategies for governments and businesses.
  • Using of advanced data analysis for improved climate modelling and localised responses to climate challenges.
  • Harnessing sustainable practices that benefit both the environment and the agricultural sector.

While acknowledging some scepticism due to past unfulfilled promises, Gillespie emphasises the importance of using AI responsibly and in the best interests of people.

Inclusivity and accessibility for the Global South

A significant portion of our conversation centres on the Global South and its unique challenges in climate action.

We in the Global South face infrastructure limitations, digital skills gaps, and limited access to advanced technologies. I’m interested in Ed’s thoughts on how AI can be harnessed in a way that is inclusive and accessible to support climate action efforts in a country such as Kenya whose economy heavily relies on agriculture (and like many African countries, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change).

He suggests that a great opportunity for the Global South would be the potential for utilising AI and machine learning to fill data gaps in low-resource environments.

A recurring theme in Gillespie’s insights is the significance of human wisdom complementing AI intelligence. He believes that local communities in the Global South can leverage the advantages of AI while filtering them through their own lived experiences and cultural knowledge, leading to better decision-making and practices.

“The more inclusive and accessible AI solutions are to support climate action in these regions, the more effectively they will work."

Concerns and overcoming Cultural Biases

Recent advancements, and AI’s rapidly changing nature, give Gillespie pause as much as they give him hope. Add to that the limitations and biases of AI language models.

There is also the question of energy. The energy used to train AI models would have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, essentially doing more harm than good.

Countering the potential negative impacts will require posing the right questions to the right people and as always, employing ethical use of the technology.

“AI should be interacted with thoughtfully, acknowledging both its potential benefits and risks.”

Gillespie also raises concerns about cultural biases unintentionally embedded in AI models, sourced from data gathered from the internet.

To deploy AI responsibly, he emphasises the importance of resisting these biases and ensuring that AI applications respect the values and perspectives of diverse communities such as those in the Global South.


There seems to be no doubt that AI holds vast potential for current and future climate action efforts around the world. Gillespie’s valuable perspective on how this transformative technology can be harnessed responsibly in the Global South, will ring true all over the world.

By combining AI’s capabilities with a strong ethical foundation, we can ensure that AI technologies positively contribute to addressing climate challenges in the Global South and beyond.

Ed Gillespie, a prominent speaker, writer, poet, podcaster, and futurist, has been a climate activist since before we all knew quite how terrified we should be. He also founded Futera, one of the world’s first sustainability communications agencies.

His podcast, ‘Jon Richardson & The Futurenauts‘ is regularly one of the most popular (and funniest) science podcasts.

If you’re curious or concerned about the negative impacts of AI, Ed recommends watching “The AI Dilemma“.

Stay informed and cautious!

Read more of our blogs on Climate here: Wasafiri Climate & Nature blogs.

Join our community of system change leaders.

To learn more about Systemcraft, our approach to complex change, and how to use it in your work – sign up for our online course.


She is Nature, not natural capital

How might Western culture give Nature the reverence it deserves?

“Orcas have inherent rights.” So proclaimed two US cities bordering the Salesh Sea where the last 73 southern-resident Orcas reside under threat from declining salmon and warming oceans.

This assertion includes the Orcas’ “right to life, autonomy, culture, free and safe passage, adequate food supply from naturally occurring sources, and freedom from conditions causing physical, emotional, or mental harm.”

This is the latest victory for advocates of the ‘Rights of Nature’. This concept argues that all living things have inalienable rights, just like humans (or indeed corporations), and these rights should be defended in law when threatened.

Last year, Wasafiri supported the Blue Climate Summit, held in Tahiti with the aim of accelerating ocean-based solutions to climate change. Whilst delegates came from all over the world, many were Polynesian and part of a profound Oceanic culture that spans from the Maori to the Hawaiians.

Polynesians revere the Ocean as an ancestor, and, like many indigenous cultures, attribute a spiritual status to all living things. Humans are to treat Nature with the same sense of honour and care that one would afford one’s Grandma. Why wouldn’t you? It is Nature that bestows us with water, food, oxygen, shelter, beauty, and joy.

In contrast, Western culture sees humans as having dominion over Nature, with the Oceans, Forests, and Soils as God-given riches for people to exploit. In almost every sentence, I embarrassed myself in front of Polynesians. I spoke of “natural capital”, “marine governance”, and “fish stocks”. These well-meaning terms only make sense if you are discussing Nature as yours to own or control. Even “sustainability” felt awkward, as if our only goal was to ensure living things were maintained at a minimum level to continue their usefulness to humans.

No wonder we are witnessing interlocking crises for the climate, biodiversity, soils, water, and oceans. We have forgotten our place.

In the words of Deen Sanders, Worimi man and co-author of an excellent new World Economic Forum report on indigenous knowledge and conservation, “My culture reminds us that the earth, the air, the water is not ours for the hoarding. Nature belongs to none of us. We belong to it.”

When tackling complex social or environmental issues, Systemcraft asks us what hidden assumptions or mindsets perpetuate the damaging dynamics. What are the informal incentives that mean we collectively continue to act in unhelpful ways?

We are often blind to these because they are the cultural norms and values in which we swim. It is only when we move beyond our usual circles, when we listen deeply to those with different lived experiences, that our own assumptions are revealed.

A third of the Earth’s territory is stewarded by indigenous people or held as common land, and 91% of these lands are in good or fair ecological condition – a statistic that embodies the kind of positive anomaly that systems leaders must look for when seeking a way out of a crisis.

Indigenous cultures have much to teach us about living within planetary boundaries; and repairing Western culture’s relationship with nature.

Adopting the “Rights of Nature” might work to embed indigenous wisdom within Western legal constructs. If the Orcas have a right to food, then the salmon need protecting, and for the salmon we need the rivers and forests protected, and so on. This might be one of many cultural changes that shifts our collective behaviours and choices.

Indigenous languages attribute personhood to Nature by using pronouns or capitalising all living things. How will you give Nature her due rights? She has a capital N after all. Like your Grandma, with a capital G.

What next?


Wasafiri to launch the Climate & Nature Sprint course

Systemcraft is an applied framework to help leaders and organisations tackle complex problems. Wasafiri developed the approach by combining our real-world experience with a broad body of research and theory on complexity, systems, power, adaptive management, leadership, and social movements.

There are no problems more complex than the interlocking crises relating to climate, biodiversity, water, and other natural systems.

Designed to help you scale your impact, from 2 May 2023, The Climate & Nature Sprint is available for peer leaders around the world to come together to learn about a practical approach to tackling complex issues and put new insights, skills, and tools into action.

This 8-week course helps you answer, “What do I do next?” when you need to unlock system change. It will convene a cohort of up to 16 climate and nature leaders and includes four live interactive sessions and four modules of self-paced learning. Certification is available upon submission of a final assignment.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash


Wading into new waters to accelerate ocean-related solutions to climate change at the Blue Climate Summit

As 70% of the planet, the oceans remain vastly underappreciated in the world’s response to climate change.

The inaugural high-profile Summit taking place on May 14 – 20 2022, is convening leaders, experts, and activists to accelerate twenty projects that offer ocean-related solutions to climate issues.

Together, these projects promise a transformative impact on people, the ocean, and the planet. Many are mutually dependent on each other.

We cannot scale mangrove restoration without functioning carbon markets. The monitoring of deep-sea mining is empty without legal protections for the high seas. Island tourism will struggle to be net-zero without transitioning energy, food, and transport systems.

The Challenges

In recognition of these co-dependencies, the Summit will gather participants around three collective challenges. Each challenge asks how projects might together drive much larger transitions in favour of people, the planet, and the ocean.

  • Marine Governance for Healthier Oceans and Communities: How to better monitor and regulate against the unjust exploitation and pollution that damages both ocean health and human health?
  • Equitable Blue Carbon Finance: How to accelerate flows of capital into ocean-related mitigation and sequestration while accounting for co-benefits and trade-offs?
  • Blue Pathways to Net Zero Islands: How can islands pioneer the transition to net-zero economies?

A Wasafiri first; helping spearhead action on ocean and climate issues

Wasafiri’s own Ian Randall will be providing strategic support as Strategy Lead for the Blue Climate Initiative. Helping to ensure the collaboration across all the projects and partners delivers a greater impact than any could alone.

We are excited to be aboard for this bold journey into a healthier relationship between people, the planet, and the ocean.

Polynesia is a novel context for Wasafiri. Polynesian culture has a profound relationship with the Ocean, relating to it as a relative or ancestor, with all the reverence and respect that this implies. It is a striking contrast to Western culture’s relationship with nature as a resource for exploitation.

Donella Meadows, the matriarch of systems thinking, pushes us to ask deep questions about the mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises.

Listening to Polynesians it is clear we need to go beyond technical solutions to the damage that humans are doing to climate, land, and oceans; and seek a cultural renaissance that reconnects us to our interdependence with natural systems and their fundamental right to exist.

Tahiti may seem a long way to go for a climate conference, but we have so much to learn by being here.

Blue Climate Summit

The Summit is a program of the Blue Climate Initiative and is an endorsed action of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

Images courtesy of Tetiaroa Society/Blue Climate Initiative


Wasafiri leads in nature-positive discourse to tackle climate change; WEF “Bold Actions for Food” event

According to the Davos agenda, sustainably nourishing 9.7 billion people by 2050 requires a transformation in food systems. Unprecedented, concerted action from diverse cross-sector actors is required to evolve production, value chains, market systems, technology, and consumer demand from the local to the global level.

As part of their commitment to a transformation in food systems, the World Economic Forum, the Food Action Alliance, and partners will hold the “Bold Actions for Food” Event on March 15 – 16.

Recognising the need for concerted action from diverse cross-sector actions, this event will bring together leaders from public, private, civil society sectors, and experts who are driving action on innovative examples of systems change initiatives.

As part of this convening, Wasafiri’s Good Food Hub initiative, as well as Clim-Eat, will convene a dialogue with the Nature-Positive Innovation Coalition on March 16. Our very own SME platform that has brought together food actors who are making food more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and more resilient.

In part, the event is looking at how to raise ambitions and scale leadership action this year towards bringing Food into the centre of COP27, as well as holding discussions on how to accelerate the small businesses that are bringing nature-positive innovations to millions of farmers.

Wasafiri is giving voice to these food-preneurs and small food business owners who know the importance of making our food systems nature-positive. We want to increase the recognition of small businesses that are innovating solutions that are enhancing natural capital such as water, soil health, and biodiversity.

A wonderful example of this is Good Food Hub member Claire Baker who is the Co-founder and Director of The Toothpick project (Claire is currently a finalist in the Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech).

Bringing businesses to the forefront of the conversation doesn’t just support them, it inspires us to do more too!

Join this dialogue and discuss how businesses are bringing innovations to farmers and explore how the Nature-Positive Innovation Coalition can support access to the investment, regulatory reform, technology, and commercial partnerships that will take solutions to scale.

Sign up today

This dialogue is sponsored by EIT Food.

Read some of our Climate and Nature related blogs

Photo by Monstera from Pexels


Scoring a hat trick for the environment – Wasafiri’s own efforts to tackle the climate crisis

How can we go the extra mile as a business to do our part in the climate emergency?

In 2019, Wasafiri acknowledged the climate emergency and committed to reducing our carbon footprint. Every year we will calculate and offset our CO2; we do this with our carbon-balancing partner C-Level.

As an active participant working to create systemic change for Climate & Nature, we had to go further than offsetting. Luckily, C-Level being a pioneer in ‘net-zero by nature’, had the answer we were searching for; a chance to double and triple down on our contributions, or what I call, “The Hat Trick”.

Goal #1 – Carbon balancing rather than the limited ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘offsetting’

Carbon Balanced is a term C-Level coined and a certification they provide that offsets through natural climate solutions and is based on 3 core values:

  • Action on carbon
  • Action on forests
  • Working with communities

“As a term and a process, Carbon Balanced is larger than offsetting. Offsetting is a limited term that only addresses carbon emissions. While we work with verified carbon offsets, we always work with nature and people as well. So, Carbon Balanced is also about connecting people in business to the power of nature and local communities”, says C-Level.

Since a lot of our work is in East Africa, we chose the Hadza Hunter Gatherers, Tanzania for our 2020 carbon balancing project. Supporting livelihoods and strengthening land rights is one of the most effective and underused solutions to reducing deforestation. Working with the Hadza (one of Africa’s last tribes of hunter-gatherers), our partners Carbon Tanzania are reducing deforestation over some 32,000 hectares of forest in the Yaeda Valley.

This project is designed with the full involvement of the Hadza community, and they receive payments and livelihood benefits as money flows to them from the sale of holistic carbon credits. Capturing carbon through ecosystems which works for carbon balanced certification and for Net Zero emerging best practice.

C-Level Carbon Balanced projects are all verified under the global Plan Vivo Standard.

Goal #2 – Double down by compensating for 200% of your carbon footprint

Simply put, we need to contribute twice as much as we produce. We are happy to say that this will result in 216 trees planted through the Hadza community.

Goal #3 – Triple down with a contribution to C Level’s Wild Aligned program

“To change culture, not climate, we need to re-wild our people and our business systems.” Their Wild Aligned program gives the chance for communities and businesses to get involved in early-stage ecological and cultural regen and rewilding projects that have a metric of trees grown rather than verified carbon.

Deeper engagement and experience are key to this program that aims to have clients and communities participate in the projects and take part in experiential events. Wasafiri mirrored our 2020 carbon balancing budget for this initiative in three European locations resulting in 66 trees to be planted.

Carbon Balanced by C-Level
Wild Aligned

Thanks to C Level for their innovation and dedication to the climate and nature movement for over 20 years. They truly live Wasafiri’s motto, “Together, we can tackle humanity’s toughest problems”.


Call for farmers to be in the kitchen at COP27

As negotiators endeavour to recover from the caffeine hangovers and civil servants the world over work out how to operationalise promises made, many groups are already turning their attention to COP27. One of these is farmers and producers.

World Food Organisation President Theo De Jager both recognised the progress made, and that Farmers had much more to bring to global climate action when he closed the UN Food Systems Summit saying, “let us not just be called to the table, let us be called into the kitchen for the recipes and solutions on climate”.

Progress has been made. With COP26 came a series of major announcements formally launching pledges and initiatives for food and agriculture featuring many key actors. Notably, the $4bn investment directed at climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation was supported not just by 45 National Governments, but also a range of philanthropic funds, corporations, academic departments and non-governmental organisations; the Policy Action Agenda for a Just Transition to Sustainable Food and Agriculture, was led by the COP26 presidency, the World Bank, and Just Rural Transition. and informed by civil society organisations.

This is great… and farmers are ready to do more. Wasafiri worked with Race to Zero on the Producers’ Showcase of Action which was delivered as part of the Action Track panel on Natureday at #COP26. Through this work, we saw how worldwide, farmers and producers are already implementing solutions to both adapt to and mitigate climate change and making them known. For example:

  • In Britain, the new Agriculture & Land Use Alliance, supported by the National Farmers’ Union, hosted the first-ever Countryside COP to showcase and inspire net-zero activity in rural communities and agri-food supply chains.
  • The Carbon Action platform led by the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG), is piloting accelerated soil carbon storage on 100 farms across Europe.
  • In the US more than 150 of the leading companies, organizations, individuals and governments from the food and agriculture sector have signed onto the Decade of Ag, the first sector-wide movement to align around a shared vision and outcomes for the sustainable food and agriculture systems of the future.
  • And globally, the Climakers Initiative brings together farmers of the world to promote their lead role and the best practices that farmers are already implementing to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


In the spirit of needing to not just be at the table at COP26 but also in the kitchen generating recipes and solutions, at the close of the panel farmers marched to the kitchens.

Elizabeth Nsimadala, President of Eastern Africa Farmers Federation and Director of the Women Affairs PanAfrican Farmers Organization, Anne Meis and Erin Fitzgerald of the US Farmers and Ranchers in Action, and Mateusz Ciasnocha, Farmer and CEO of the European Carbon Farmers and Race to Zero Regenerative Youth Fellow (High-Level Champion Youth Fellow), thanked the chefs and those who served the meals across the week while honouring those who are taking action harvesting right now.

This spirit of involvement links to another announcement at COP26 that’s worth watching. Regen10 is a decade-long collective action plan targeting at scale regenerative food production systems worldwide. In the next six months, Regen10 is aiming to mobilise the global farmer community and engage stakeholders across the food system to design the first wave of interventions that will be delivered by COP27.

Look out for Regen10 and show your support for farmers and producers being in the COP27 kitchen. To scale up regenerative farming practices and shift to truly sustainable farming we need their energy, experience, and passion in the centre of collective action. Get in touch if we can help you with that.

Photo by Ali Yılmaz on Unsplash


Nikki Feltham joins the Wasafiri team!

For several years, Wasafiri has been working on a range of climate and nature-related complex problems, ranging from climate finance for African nations, soil carbon sequestration and net-zero transition. But, like many organisations, we have been asking how do we do more and do it better?

So, last year we launched a focused Climate & Nature portfolio.

Wasafiri’s Director, Kate Simpson, interviews Nikki Feltham, Wasafiri’s new dedicated portfolio lead

Nikki – it’s great to have you joining our team at Wasafiri. Tell us a bit about what brought you here.

Like the rest of the team here, I want to make a difference – and for that difference to stick.

I am really drawn to both Wasafiri’s practical approach to systems change – Systemcraft – and the positivity of everyone here in working to make change happen! I was also keen to return to my consulting roots and work with lots of organisations seeking to make changes – but with the (hard-won) experience of working within non-profit organisations.

We were super excited about the diversity of experience you bring to the team – from eight years with Accenture and eight years at Save the Children (including as their UK Strategy director). What are you excited to help Wasafiri achieve over the coming years?

Wasafiri has such a powerful combination of tools to dig in on the really complex challenges we face – consulting support, networks, and learning and capability building.

What I’m excited about is figuring out how we best bring them together to serve organisations and individuals who are driven by a purpose to unlock their full potential for impact.

There are so many amazing organisations, innovators, and ideas out there, and we need all of them to be able to work brilliantly – together – to address our collective challenges. Being able to bring my own experience and ideas into this is what’s lighting me up right now.

What is your new role at Wasafiri?

As an ex-consultant with a consultant’s attention span, I’m lucky to have three aspects to my role!

I get to build up our Climate and Nature Portfolio, steward our work and partnerships with the World Economic Forum and design how we will build knowledge and share our systems-based approach. Sounds great, doesn’t it!

Amongst all that choice (!) what are you looking forward to the most?

As well as the opportunity to contribute directly through the Climate and Nature portfolio, I’m hugely excited about being involved in Wasafiri’s own journey.

The team has had such great successes helping to address complex problems across intractable areas – it’s great to be involved in how we innovate and grow to deliver even more impact. What next is the big question!

Connect with Nikki

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash


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