The Emerson Collective (U.S.A) has just announced its new Climate Cohort of 14 visionary individuals pivoting into climate work with bold new projects. Among them is Millicent Barty of the Solomon Islands with her ‘Kastom Keepers’ initiative – a bold project elevating the traditional voices of the Solomon Islands and Melanesia in the fight against climate change while addressing loss of culture through technological solutions.
The Emerson Collective Fellowship encourages individuals of exceptional talent and creativity to advance bold new projects in education, immigration, the environment, social justice, media, and health. It is a by-invitation only program where individuals are nominated by a member of the Emerson Collective network and were selected through a rigorous application process.
In the official announcement statement, Emerson Collective states, “Many of us might be familiar with the smart Earthjustice slogan: “Because the earth needs a good lawyer.” And it certainly does. But a challenge as complex as the climate crisis calls for so much more. We need journalists, artists, landscape architects, educators, oral historians, entrepreneurs, chefs, and poets too. At Emerson Collective, we believe that all of us must lend our talents to the work of protecting the earth, and making sure that all of us who share it can flourish. That is why we are so excited to announce our new cohort of Emerson Collective Fellows, whom we call the Climate Pivoters – a group of extraordinary individuals from a wide range of backgrounds who are each in the process of taking on a new climate-centered body of work. In doing so, we think they can continue to expand the coalition of communities working to shape our planet’s green future and deliver the major breakthroughs that only come when new perspectives are applied to our toughest problems.”
As an Emerson Collective Fellow, Barty will expand Kastom Keepers, creating a catalog of Indigenous wisdom about the environment. Kastom Keepers aims to support communities in the Melanesia subregion of the Pacific Islands to preserve and protect their traditional knowledge which are under threat of damage and loss. This project ensures that Melanesian perspectives will have a central role in global conversations about climate action.
As part of the Kastom Keepers undertaking, Barty will build a network to host gatherings to connect kastom stories, as well as other insights of Indigenous elders and grassroots practitioners, to development and policy making. Her main goal will be to establish a digital oral-history platform that will allow for communities to bridge intergenerational gaps and work together to preserve and protect kastom stories, and increase accessibility.
“I’m excited to join the Climate Cohort of Emerson Collective Fellows. Along with other leaders from across disciplines in the U.S and the world, we are each pivoting to an environment-focused body of work that illuminates our collective pathway to a healthier planet”, expressed Ms. Barty following the announcement.
Since 2015, Barty has been leveraging oral history practices (kastom storytelling) with innovative infographic design to counteract high illiteracy among adults in Solomon Islands. Her work in bridging knowledge gaps in the development sector has contributed to advancing national development projects and being an award-recipient from the late, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Queen’s Young Leaders Award 2018) and more recently, an Obama Scholar at Columbia University in New York (2021-2022). Barty states that her ‘Kastom Keepers’ initiative had been a long-standing desire and that her experience as an Obama Scholar helped to shape the concept into reality. In May 2021, Barty was 1 of 2 selected in her cohort of 12 to present ‘Kastom Keepers’ to the former U.S President Barack Obama.
“Throughout my communications design work over the past 9 years, I have grown a deeper appreciation and understanding for our traditional [Melanesian] school of thought. It’s incredibly unique! And it’s important that we recognize this, reclaim our narratives and ensure they are safe-kept and preserved so that our future generation(s) don’t miss out. If iumi no duim, who nao bae duim fo iumi?”, Ms Barty states.
Barty is excited to be focusing on Kastom Keepers this year and thanks her nominee and the Emerson Collective for supporting her work. She looks forward to incubating/piloting Kastom Keepers’ activities and connecting with key stakeholders to align and collaborate for this important initiative.
More about the Emerson Collective Fellowship and the Climate Pivoters cohort can be found at: emcollec.tv/climatecohort or https://www.emersoncollective.com/programs/fellowships/ec-fellowship