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Learning from the Global South

Updated Wednesday, 8 May 2024

Voices from the Global South is a series of six short films made to stimulate thinking about and reflection on the difference that geography makes to understanding the climate crisis and its impact.

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Many contexts, one journey: a virtual fieldtrip across the Global South

Click on the icons within the interactive feature below to watch the six short films. The map of the world is upside down to show the perspective from the Global South.

Transcripts for the videos


Please note: After viewing the videos, you need to close the video at the end of the film to return to the map.

The six short films that make up Voices from the Global South explore: 

  • why it is valuable to think about the climate crisis – its roots, consequences and how it is experienced – from outside of the Global North 
  • why it is important to recognise contexts across the Global South when thinking about the causes and consequences of the climate crisis
  • what the Global North can learn from listening to the many voices from the Global South about their experiences of the climate crisis.

Taken together, the films offer an international virtual field trip designed to stimulate thinking about and reflection on the difference that geography makes to understanding the climate crisis and its impact.

Voices from the Global South aims to encourage ways of responding to the points given above and related questions, but from very particular standpoints and contexts. The films are the outcome of a collaboration between The Open University, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) with Institute of British Geographers (IBG), and the International Geographical Union (IGU). 

The logos of the RGS, IGU and The Open University.

Attend the Voices from the Global South event

You might like to attend this event held, on 24 June from 14:30 to 16:30 BST, at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, London. Register to attend in-person or online by clicking here.

An international virtual field trip

The international virtual field trip weaves together many different contexts. The field trip begins in Glasgow at COP (Conference of the Parties) 26, held in 2021 (film 1). Though clearly located in the Global North, this opening film is very much in the spirit of the whole field trip: an invocation to see things differently, to understand the impact of the climate crisis from the standpoint of the populations across the Global South, and a call to listen to voices not often heard on the global stage, not even at venues such as COP. The second film speaks about the importance of standpoint, that is of context, in this case Cape Town, South Africa (film 2). The simple message – that ‘geography matters’ to understanding the climate crisis more fully, how its impact is woven into issues of inequality and the lingering legacies of European colonialism – is then also taken up and explored in the third film. 

In this film, the contributors speak of their experiences in Bangladesh and Uganda when facing the issues and difficulties of getting heard and voicing alternatives in a policy world dominated by the countries of the Global North (film 3). 

The remaining three films ask very direct questions, such as whose knowledge needs to be listened to, to find truly global, equitable and just solutions?

In film 4, these questions and concerns are voiced from the perspectives of Aboriginal Australia and Chile (film 4). What the contributors to this film introduce is a recognition of the need to change the narrative dominating how human induced climate change is understood. 

The contributors from Fiji and Aotearoa/New Zealand then take up this baton (film 5) to make clear that the dominant climate narrative is scripted largely by the powerful countries of the Global North, in venues such COP26 in Glasgow. Nevertheless, that narrative can be changed, as the contributors suggest. Much like power itself, dominant narratives are always open to challenge. 

A flavour of this possibility is conveyed in the last film (film 6). This film offers examples from Nepal and Bangladesh of what the Global North can learn from the Global South about how to adapt successfully to human induced climate change. The film ends with all contributors offering their thoughts on what geographers, and others, might learn from listening to multiple voices, experiences, and knowledges from across the many contexts travelled through during this international virtual field trip. 

Talking directly

The six films which make up this field trip have been carefully produced to ensure that the contributors you hear and see speak directly to the issues of the climate crisis; their views, in other words, are not mediated by a narrator. Such directness not only adds an urgency to the debate around the climate crisis, but also offers a much-needed opportunity to see, hear and understand the climate crisis from a range of perspectives all too often marginalised, and often only heard when mediated by others, particularly those based in the Global North. 

The films contribute to a much-needed conversation across a global divide. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable conversation, and you might not immediately agree with everything that is said. There’s no harm in that. But listening is crucial to working out why you might initially disagree, and then deciding what the right questions to ask are. 

Why does listening matter?

Elizabeth Wathuti speaking at the World Leaders Summit Opening ceremony, COP 26, Glasgow, 2021.

Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti, (pictured above) speaking at the World Leaders Summit Opening ceremony, COP 26, Glasgow, 2021 said:

My truth will only land if you have the grace to fully listen.

And listening is crucial to the skill of figuring out what the right questions are to ask about the climate crisis, how its impacts are felt and experienced differently across the Global South, what can be learned and what can be done. The act of listening, especially listening to voices from the Global South, raises key questions for geography, which, as a discipline, has been dominated by the Global North for too long. 

The range of voices you hear across the films speak to the varying impact of the climate crisis on diverse parts of the Global South. The overall message is that listening to, and acting on, such a range of experiences and knowledges (drawn from academic, policy and Indigenous advocacy groups across the Global South) is crucial to responding to the climate crisis. 

What the films foreground is the breadth of questions and the range of voices, knowledges, and viewpoints from outside of the Global North that are needed to understand and respond to the climate crisis.

Geography for the twenty-first century?

The virtual fieldtrip is designed to encourage you to think about the difference that geography makes, and could make, to understanding the climate crisis, and to help establish what it means to become a geographer fit for the twenty-first century. 

So why not join in and progress the conversation, learning from listening to the rich range of voices from the across the Global South that the films offer?

Further information

Find out more about D113 Global Challenges: social sciences in action, and the qualifications Geography and Environmental Studies offers.

The films were produced by Common Story.

Please feel free to download and use the films on this page within your teaching if you're an academic.



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