Welcome to another article from Curious Earth’s ‘Stories on the Frontline’ series, our special features dedicated to giving voice to the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) of climate change.

Extractivism, ecocide and the effects of the climate and ecological crisis do not affect the global population equally. As the climate crisis escalates, it is essential we pass the mic, and offer solidarity, strength and solutions to the earth defenders on the frontline around the world. 

Today, the series continues with an interview with Yudi Iskandar, a 20 year-old climate activist from Makassar, Indonesia. Yudi became a climate activist after realising that the reason his house was submerged by floods in the rainy season was linked to the climate crisis – and that the consequences and causes of the crisis were not divided equally. Yudi is now the coordinator of Extinction Rebellion (XR) Indonesia and writes, speaks and acts to mobilise people to take action for the climate, alongside studying marine science in Makassar. 

Enjoy our interview with this incredible activist campaigning from one of the countries where the climate crisis isn’t a risk in the distant future, it’s happening now.

Hi Yudi! It’s great to meet you, we’d love to know how you first got involved with climate activism?

“During the rainy season in Indonesia my house was submerged, and the people closest to me had to evacuate, and greatly suffered from the flood disaster. Then, in 2018 I was speechless when I read the IPCC report, which said that we only have 12 years to prevent damage to the earth due to the climate crisis. It was at that time that I linked the floods that we were experiencing here to the impacts of the wider, global climate crisis.

“I will not stand by and let  world leaders and companies ruin our future”

Since then, I founded XR in Makassar, and invited everyone to join together with XR to fight the climate crisis caused by the countries in the G20, and challenge the failures of the COP conferences organised by the UNFCCC. I became a climate activist because I realised that the climate crisis is the greatest threat to mankind and its impacts will only get worse. My country is a part of the MAPA (most affected places and areas), which are suffering the most from this crisis, and I will not stand by and let  world leaders and companies ruin our future.”

Yudi Iskandar speaking in Glasgow at COP26

How is the climate crisis already affecting your country of Indonesia?

“In 2020, the National Disaster Management Agency stated that there were 4,650 total natural disasters, and 99.2% were disasters associated with climate and weather factors.

Throughout 2021, as many as 8 million Indonesians had to be evacuated and suffered from hydrometeorological disasters triggered by the climate crisis.

Save the Children’s global report “Born into the Climate Crisis” released in September 2021 explains that the climate crisis in Indonesia has a real impact on children today. Children in Indonesia born in 2020 are at risk of facing three times more flood threats from overflowing rivers, two times more droughts and three times more crop failures. Worse still, the impact of the climate crisis has left millions of children and families in long-term poverty in Indonesia.

“Children in Indonesia born in 2020 are at risk of facing three times more flood threats from overflowing rivers, two times more droughts and three times more crop failures”

In West Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), the number of refugees due to drought increased six times from 21,688 people in 2018 to nearly 140,000s in 2019.

In South Sulawesi, the total population exposed to high waves and coastal erosion is over a quarter of a million with around a sixth being  these vulnerable groups, including children. Sadly, children also living in the Selayar Islands, Takalar, Pangkajene Islands and Makassar areas are all exposed to high risks of erosion too.

In West Java, records for 2022 state that the total number of flood events reached 247 in 2021. From these incidents, 20 people died, 282 were injured and nearly 1.5 million  people were affected. The number of Kelurahan villages affected by flooding from all areas in West Java has increased significantly from 2019 to 2021.”

G7 action by XR Makassar

What do you do in your current role as coordinator of XR Indonesia?

“I connect people in several cities in Indonesia to establish XR groups in their locations and fight together. I always educate people, especially young people about the climate crisis and I build solidarity with activists around the world to work together to fight the climate crisis.”

What are some of the successful actions you have coordinated or taken part in?

“Until now I have been fighting  to stop new fossil fuel companies in Indonesia and demand that governments and corporations in Indonesia stop funding fossil fuels. 

In the last year, I have coordinated and organised solidarity actions to demand that the G7 stop killing people in the global south, and am currently focusing on organising solidarity actions for the G20 to stop funding the extinction of the global south

I am also one of the coordinators of the new Debt for Climate group, created in solidarity with XR MAPA groups. Our aim is to get the concept of debt cancellation on the global agenda at the G7 through coordinated actions across the globe. Some are actions of mass mobilisation, others smaller solidarity actions, and in places where disruption is politically possible, there are actions of targeted disruption. All added together, this could create unprecedented global action connecting social justice with climate justice.”


What can activists from Global North countries do to support your campaigning?