Climate Activist Vanessa Nakate speaking at an event

5 Visionaries Making Strides in Climate Activism and Social Justice: Global Vision Awards 2022

These five Global Vision Awards honorees represent leading voices in the fields of environmentalism, social justice, and Indigenous rights.

The Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards aim to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations, and organizations taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world. What's more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.

Behind every great idea or groundbreaking endeavor is a person with bold ideas, creative problem-solving skills, and the passion to rally others behind their cause. These five Global Vision Awards honorees demonstrate how those key qualities, when paired with action and ingenuity, can broaden the scope of what's possible. Though their attention may be focused on a particular issue — be it the environment, social justice, or Indigenous representation — these brilliant minds understand just how interconnected those concerns are and how interconnected we are as humans. They know that unlocking a solution to one problem or in one place can help serve as a model for success on a bigger, more universal level. Below, meet a pioneering marine conservationist, a chef turned farmer, a drag-queen environmentalist, an Indigenous model, and climate-change activist who all serve as powerful voices within their communities and to the world. — T+L Editors

Portrait of Fabien Cousteau
Credit: Carrie Vonderhaar/Courtesy of Fabein Cousteau

Fabien Cousteau

While many modern explorers are preoccupied with the race to space, Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of the great marine conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is busy probing the deepest fathoms of our own planet. After all, says the record-holding diver, "the oceans are indispensable to solving earth's biggest problems." Working with designer Yves Béhar, Cousteau has drawn up plans for Proteus, a state-of-the-art research center that, upon completion, will be capable of housing up to 12 aquanauts for weeks at a time. Designed to reside at 60 feet below sea level, off the coast of biodiverse Curaçao, the 4,000-square-foot facility will allow experts to discover new species, develop emergent theories, and gain an unprecedented knowledge about the effects humans have on these habitats. Cousteau predicts that Proteus's research will benefit all of earth's creatures. "The knowledge that we uncover underwater will forever change the way generations of humans live up above," he says. —  Heidi Mitchell

Portrait of chef Jonny Rhodes
Credit: Trevor Paulhus

Jonny Rhodes

What do you do when, only months after opening, your first restaurant becomes one of the world's most sought-after reservations? If you're Jonny Rhodes, you announce you're closing. The Houston chef gained fame with the launch of Indigo, where he combined innovative neo-soul food with social justice straight talk in the Trinity Gardens neighborhood. But for Rhodes, the recognition was merely a way to draw attention to what was happening just beyond his restaurant's doors: poverty, hunger, and neglect. "Indigo was always a stepping stone," he says. "My ultimate goal is to help to solve the Rubik's Cube we call world hunger." That's why, last year, Indigo was replaced by Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries, Rhodes's market selling affordable fruit, vegetables, and prepared dishes. Most of the produce comes from his Food Fight Farms, a six-acre agricultural project that has brought what the chef calls "the ultimate satisfaction." He adds, "The first turnip we pulled out felt like winning the Super Bowl." The Trinity Gardens market has so far served thousands. It has also paved the way for a second outpost in another of the city's food deserts: Rhodes's own childhood neighborhood of East River. — Gisela Williams

Outdoor enthusiast Pattie Gonia
Credit: Karen K. Wang Photography/Courtesy of Pattie Gonia

Pattie Gonia

In 2018, photographer Wyn Wiley spontaneously decided to pack a pair of platform heels for a hiking trip in Colorado. The next day, on the summit of a mountain, he pulled on the patent-leather knee-highs and filmed a video of himself strutting over boulders, sashaying along dirt paths, and posing between peaks. And so Pattie Gonia was born. The "environmentalist, drag queen, and professional homosexual" went viral and, since then, has used social media to inspire diverse communities to get out in nature and raise awareness about climate change. "If you can hold onto your trash boyfriend for two whole years," Pattie says in one Tik Tok video while picking up garbage wearing a ball gown and a Marie Antoinette–style wig made from recycled plastic, "then you can hold on to this piece of trash for five more minutes." While the videos are entertaining, they also deliver serious messages. Pattie has raised funds for LGBTQ youth programs like Camp Brave Trails, partnered with REI on a documentary about Hawaii's plastic problem, and this year launched a nonprofit, The Oath, which empowers marginalized people to come together in the great outdoors. Because in nature, Pattie says, "binaries don't exist. There is never just an either/or." —  G.W.

Model Quannah Chasinghorse is seen outside the Gabriela Hearst show during New York Fashion Week
Credit: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

Quannah Chasinghorse

With her high cheekbones and facial tattoos, Quannah Chasinghorse is undeniably striking, but it was the model's advocacy work that clinched her first big job. In Calvin Klein's 2020 CK One campaign spotlighting young voters, she was featured (in a pair of the label's jeans) for her stance on Indigenous sovereignty and the climate crisis, saying, "I see myself as a protector." Two years later, Chasinghorse, who is both Hän Gwich'in and Oglala Lakota, has walked the runway for Chloé and Gabriela Hearst and is the first Indigenous woman to appear in a Chanel campaign. Now 19, she is using her fame and social media presence to advocate for a range of Indigenous issues, from equal representation in the media to oil drilling in her home state of Alaska. Over the past year she has been traveling across the U.S. with her mother, activist Jody Potts, calling for legislation to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a sacred Hän Gwich'in land and a habitat for gray wolves, caribou, and polar bears. Her next mission is to open summer camps for Indigenous youth to celebrate their heritage, much of which has been erased. "I want future generations to practice our culture and traditional ways," she says. "We can't just sit back and watch what happens. We need to take action." — G.W.

Vanessa Nakate, a climate activist from Uganda, at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow
Credit: Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images

Vanessa Nakate

Soon after cyclones Idai and Kenneth hit southeast Africa in the spring of 2019, Vanessa Nakate, fresh from university, started striking against climate change, alone, at the gates of the Parliament of Uganda. Not long after, she founded Rise Up Movement to create a platform for climate activists in Africa to share their stories. She rose to prominence in 2020, after she was cropped out of a photo of activists attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. She confronted the Associated Press, asking why the photo the organization had sent out showed only four white Europeans. Her impassioned 10-minute video, posted on Twitter, made the point that while African nations are profoundly affected by global warming, the voices of African activists are rarely heard. Her powerful message went viral and helped turn her into a recognized voice for change and diversity in the battle against the climate crisis, and she has since spoken at multiple global conferences. At this past fall's COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, she declared, "Pledges will not stop the planet from warming. Only immediate and drastic action will pull us back from the abyss." — G.W.