Climate Conversations on Creative Development with IFC

December 1, 2023

Special Episode

Across 3 seasons of the Creative Development with IFC podcast, host Makhtar Diop has held important conversations on climate issues. From marine plastic pollution to saving the Sahel from the encroaching Sahara Desert, here is a look back at some of those conversations and the insights our special guests shared. This retrospective includes the perspectives of Indian actress Dia Mirza, Malian singer Inna Modja, and UNEP Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh.


Makhtar Diop: Hello and welcome to Creative Development with IFC. My name is Makhtar Diop and I'm the Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation. In honour of World Environment Day. I have the pleasure of welcoming a very special guest to my podcast, British South African endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh. Lewis is a trailblazing ocean advocate, and UN Patron of the Oceans. It's a pleasure to meet you Lewis.

Another huge threat to animal life and to human life is plastic. When you swim in the ocean, where you see so much plastic in the bottom of the sea, what does it bring to you?

Lewis Pugh: Profound sadness, profound sadness. And I say that because I'm seeing it everywhere. In the oceans, I'm seeing it high up in the Arctic, down in Antarctica, I'm seeing it on the surface. I'm seeing it right at the bottom of the sea. I'm seeing it absolutely everywhere. It is ubiquitous. And it's so sad. And people say to me, you know, what can we what can we do about this. And, you know, we, we have got to turn this tide on plastic pollution. And we got to turn it very, very quickly. Because I've seen it on the beaches. I've seen it everywhere, as I say, but I'm also seeing the impacts on wildlife. I've been at autopsies where they've opened up birds caught far deep, deep in the North Atlantic, and you open up their stomachs. And inside, you see this plastic, green, yellow, red plastic, which have literally killed these animals. I've seen it with whales. And so it's not just unsightly, to walk along the beach and see pollution all the way along a beach, but it's also killing wildlife. And we have to turn this tide. And we have to do it really, really quickly.

Makhtar Diop: At IFC make it a priority, actually, we are a promoting the concept of a blue economy. And we are part of a coalition to support a blue economy alongside with UNEP and other organisations. One of the things that we are doing, for instance, is that we are issuing some bonds around the blue economy, to encourage companies, banks, financial Institutions, to support activities that will protect the sea including reducing the use of marine plastic. We are investing in some startups which are bringing some interesting solution in addressing marine plastic. But you are right it is not about words but about actions. What actions do you see that we can take together to convince the rest of the world of the crisis that we're facing around marine plastic.

Lewis Pugh: I'm saying to members of the public, please you’ve got to use your voices, now. You've got to urge, demand action from companies that they provide you with alternatives. And I think that the issues which every generation face are different, but the defining issue of our generation is going to be the health of our planet. And sorting out plastic pollution is going to be one of the major major issues which we as a generation now have to solve.

Makhtar Diop: Today I have the honour of welcoming Inna Modja to my podcast. Inna is a multi talented artists living in France, who is originally from Mali. She is a dedicated activist and great artists. She has made her mark not only in the world of music, but also as a powerful advocate for women's rights and climate change. So let's talk about the documentary ‘The Great Green Wall’. It so happens that in my professional career I was involved in the initial steps of the project. So I was very impressed to see how you were talking about it in the documentary. Just say a few words about it to people who are listening to us.

Inna Modja: It's such an ambitious project and coming from the Sahel, I wanted to do something not just for the region, but to tell the stories. I grew up in the Sahel and as a woman, I wanted to show what the Sahel is going through; the beauties and the challenges and also the hope and the resilience of the people that I met along the Great Green Wall. Meanwhile, I wanted to share their story. So I started travelling in 2017 in rural areas in different countries, and to spend time with the communities and understand, because me as an Ambassador, I don't want to only be a voice I want to be on the ground with people and really understand what they are living through and what the situation is. So we decided to do this documentary film and for me it was travelling along the Sahel, but it was an opportunity to give a platform to all these inspiring people and share their stories and for people to connect with them. Because without people, any project is just an agricultural or restoration project. But this is so ambitious. And so my mantra for when I started filming this was, ‘we must dare to invent the future’. And this is what the Great Green Wall is about. And we're inventing something that doesn't quite exist yet. And at a level, which is huge! It’s 8000 kilometers of green planted from Senegal to Djibouti, restoring 100 million hectares of land. And when you think about that, to me, the first thing is, where are the people? What do they have to say about this? How are they going to contribute because that's what will make or break the project. And so just travelling there, I fell in love again, with where I come from, and I'm still working on this project. And I think until it's done, I will still be attached to Great Green Wall.

Makhtar Diop: Today its a great pleasure to welcome Dia Mirza to my podcast. She is a renowned actor, producer and committed activist, and an environmentalist.

Dia, I am passionate about the blue economy because I come also from a country which is at the coast. Actually my family originally, my parents, come from the former capital of Senegal, which is St Louis  which is a UNESCO heritage, and has been very much eroded by the sea. I was born in Dakar, which is also the capital of Senegal, which is at the sea. And I see some parts of my city, which have disappeared because of coastal erosion. And I see also the impact of the misuse of plastic, intensive use of plastic and the consequences of that. For that reason at IFC here we are working on developing bonds for companies to be able to recycle this plastic and to make better use of it. But you have been talking about it for a very long time. And you've been one of the first of all is to talk about plastic and marine plastic. Tell me a little bit, how did you come to focus on that

Dia Mirza: I was actually on a programme called “Ganga, the Soul of India”, where I had to travel from the source of the river, all the way to sea. It was slow travel. So I was travelling by road through five states in India. And it was quite a life altering experience Makhtar, because the Ganga is a beautiful river. It's a river that is revered and worshipped in the country. It directly impacts the lives of almost 4 million people, and many, many more. It's a river that is has inspired culture and tradition and food and everything. And unfortunately, it's also the second most polluted river on the planet. And what hit me really hard when I was travelling along the river was seeing ravines of plastic entering the river, in the most pristine environments. So it was where human beings had, you know, reached there was plastic. And obviously, in these remote areas of the country, there is no system to manage the waste. Nobody's collecting it, nobody’s segregating it. Most of the time, in the smaller villages in the mountain areas, people were burning it, which is terrible. It's toxic for the soil, and the air and the water. And in a lot of places, it was just, you know, flowing into the river and obviously, entering the ocean. It's everywhere. Everything that we consume in everyday life is packaged in plastic, did nobody account for the quantum of waste that would create. And if no one accounted for the quantum of waste that it creates, how long is it going to take for the world to acknowledge that we've done something terribly wrong. So there's been some movement. Is it enough to solve the problem? Maybe not. But I really believe in the power of individual choice. So we need to alter or change our behavior, completely. Recognize the unnecessary plastics and bring the changes that we need to in our industry in our line of production and how we do business, how we gift people, how we celebrate festivals, and how we interact with single use plastics every day.