Sustainable Fashion Fashion Lookbook

This Hong Kong NGO is transforming the fashion world for the better

Conversations around the climate crisis have finally reached the mainstream, especially as the current generation takes a firm stand and implores leaders worldwide to do better. Even as the climate movement gains momentum across the globe, there is still a severe lack of action in mitigating steps that are harming the environment. The fashion industry is one of the major contributors to climate change and one of the most polluting industries in the world. Research from McKinsey claims that greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the fashion industry are equivalent to “the entire economies of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined.” It’s imperative to revolutionize the fashion industry to become more environmentally friendly, and that is precisely what one NGO in Hong Kong has set out to do.

Redress was founded in 2007 by Christina Dean, an award-winning journalist and now a pioneer of sustainable fashion. Not only had she set out to create an NGO that would focus on the environmental impacts of the fashion industry at a time when few were talking about it, but Redress was also the first of its kind in Asia.

Dr. Christina Dean standing in a clothing factory.
[Image description: Dr. Christina Dean standing in a clothing factory.] Via Redress
When asked why she started Redress, Christina stated, “At this stage, the effects of globalization and offshoring of fashion production to Asia were just taking off, and fast fashion was becoming a mainstay of the fashion industry. As such, there was a huge acceleration in consumption and waste. Today, Asia truly pays the environmental price, which accounts for around 60% of global fashion production. I started Redress, and later The R Collective, because the wasteful fashion industry needs to be addressed and resolved.”

A Redress collection box for unused clothing placed in a store.
[Image description: A Redress collection box for unused clothing placed in a store.] Via Redress
Today, Redress has many different programs tackling the problems in the fashion industry from various angles. The circular fashion department focuses on tackling the waste problem within the fashion industry. A report by the Ellen McArthur Foundation found that “every second, a garbage truck’s worth of clothing and textiles gets incinerated or tossed in a landfill.” Redress ensures that more clothes are given a second life through reusing or recycling to address this issue. The NGO has collection boxes in stores and offices throughout Hong Kong for people to discard their used clothing. After being sorted carefully in a warehouse, these clothes are either resold at the Redress store to support the organization’s functions or donated to 20 plus charities across the city. Every year, some of the best pieces make their way to a pop-up store organized by Redress.

The 2018 Redress Design Award Winner on the runway with models wearing her designs.
[Image description: The 2018 Redress Design Award Winner on the runway with models wearing her designs.] Via Redress
While clothing reuse and recycling are essential for solving fashion’s environmental problems, Redress is looking to support solutions throughout the supply chain and not just on the consumer end. The NGO regularly collaborates with industry stakeholders for initiatives such as an upcycling workshop with Tommy Hilfiger or panel discussions on relevant topics. Their website also provides various educational materials for both designers and educators to make sustainable fashion design more accessible.

However, their most notable achievement is perhaps the Redress Design Award, the largest sustainable design competition in the world. The competition aims to further educate young designers on the negative impacts of fashion and help them improve their sustainable design techniques while they compete for career-changing prizes. Since its inaugural cycle in 2011, the competition has expanded its alumni network to over 130 designers from 20 plus countries, demonstrating how young people are making waves in the sustainable fashion world.

A group photo of Redress Design award alumni at the 2019 alumni booth.
[Image description: A group photo of Redress Design award alumni at the 2019 alumni booth.] Via Redress
Redress has certainly dared to dream big as the company continues to tackle problems throughout the fashion supply chain, but that is exactly what we need as the climate crisis gets worse. Not only do we need organizations capable of working hard towards sustainability, but ones capable of thinking outside the box, which Redress has done recently via their first digital fashion exhibition.

The future can often seem bleak as both governments and industry leaders continue to fall short in mitigating the climate crisis. Many fear that the COP26 summit in Glasgow right now, our last chance to agree on climate policies, is full of empty promises. Despite such inaction, organizations like Redress continue to serve as an inspiration and hope for a better tomorrow. We can only hope that such efforts will lead to a long-lasting impact and fashion will one day truly be sustainable.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

The Environment Politics The World Policy

Joe Manchin’s decision to block Biden’s climate bill is shortsighted and dangerous

Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, has made headlines over the past week for objecting to a key part of President Biden’s climate bill. According to NPR, the portion of the bill Manchin opposes would “financially reward utilities that transition to renewable energy and penalize those which do not.” This is a key aspect of the bill that would apparently cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the planet and warm it. 

Manchin, on the surface, is looking out for his constituents and saving the country money — in 2019, nearly 20,000 West Virginians were employed by the coal industry, and the state was surpassed only by Wyoming in coal production. In addition, Manchin has reportedly indicated he is trying to keep the country from spending money unnecessarily. The Guardian reported that “Manchin has called the bill’s spending ‘reckless’ and said it ‘makes no sense’ to pay utilities to increase their share of renewable energy when they are doing so already.”

But his decision to stand in the way of climate change reduction efforts, and the gradual retirement of coal production, is ultimately shortsighted as the detrimental impact of coal on the environment far outweighs any potential benefits in the short-term. Biden’s bill originally intended to slowly retire the coal industry, which impacts the environment in two major ways. In some states, including W.Va, mining involves detonating the tops of mountains, changing the landscape and often sending pollutants into streams and other waterways. In addition, burning coal results in emissions of harmful gases, including carbon dioxide. Some of the effects of these emissions include acid rain, a warming globe, and neurological or developmental damage brought about by the release of mercury and similar heavy metals.

Manchin’s refusal to get on board with the climate plan means that Biden doesn’t have all 50 Democratic senators on his side. The Senate is currently split evenly down the middle, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats or Independents who vote (caucus) with the Democratic agenda. The tie will then broken by Vice President Kamala Harris. If just one member of the Democratic caucus breaks ranks, the Democratic agenda is without sufficient votes, because it’s highly unlikely that in today’s Trump-driven Republican atmosphere any member of the GOP would vote with Democrats.

Manchin’s steadfast refusal to bend has far-reaching consequences, meaning that the bill’s climate agenda will need to be significantly altered or even watered down. The thing is, every decision we make (or don’t make) today impacts the world of the future. I’m not a scientist, and I can’t bend my imagination to understand just what the world will look like if we don’t make any changes. But others have used their science and imagination to figure this out for me, and the picture they paint isn’t just ugly, it’s downright terrifying. Scientists are warning that much of what the world experienced this summer — from raging wildfires and droughts to floods and hurricanes — could continue and even get worse if we don’t change the way we treat the world.

While Manchin’s spokespeople have said they are trying to save the U.S. government money, indicating many companies are already moving in the direction the bill intends and thus do not need to be incentivized, nearly every article on the subject points out W.Va’s reliance on the coal industry as well as Manchin’s own ties to it. The truth of the matter is, whether Manchin’s reasons are the ones stated (a desire to not spend money on companies allegedly already taking their own steps) or whether the rationale is more nefarious (the senator has made millions from a coal company and raised astronomical amounts of funds from members of the fossil fuel industry), it is ultimately foolish.

The research has all been done to prove that we need to change our actions in order to keep the planet from warming even more than it already has. Manchin’s refusal to think innovatively and problem-solve is in no one’s best interests but his own, and only for a short period. If the planet continues in its current direction, with climate disaster upon disaster, all the saved money and jobs in the world will be worth very little during a climate apocalypse. 


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Book Reviews Fashion Books

Aja Barber’s debut book “Consumed” challenges you to change the fast fashion system as we know it

I used to love the thrill of shopping and the warm, fuzzy feeling when I impulsively purchased a new dress from the high street. I loved to walk out of the shop smugly praising myself that I bought the dress for a bargain price. But that feeling came crashing down when I felt the urge to buy more clothes and experience that hit again. I wasn’t content with what I just bought or by the reams of clothing that were spilling out of my wardrobe. It was never enough. It’s only now I realized that I was a fast fashion addict.

It wasn’t until summer 2020 that I reassessed my shopping habits. I heard about the #PayUp campaign, led by Remake, that pressured brands to pay for canceled orders during the pandemic. I learned how the fast fashion system exploits garment workers and contributes to the environmental crisis because of our insatiable consumption habits in the Global North. Clever marketing tricks from brands have easily convinced us that we can enjoy endless happiness and satisfaction when we buy, buy, buy.

One of the first sustainable fashion advocates I followed on social media was Aja Barber – sustainable fashion activist, consultant, and now debut author. Since following Aja on social media, I’ve subscribed to her Patreon, been inspired by the #IQuitFastFashion hashtag she started, watched her talks on Slow Factory, and now read her debut book CONSUMED: On Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism and the need for Collective Change.

The book is divided into two parts; the first part explores everything you need to know about fast fashion and how the system inextricably links to worker exploitation and climate change. The second part addresses how you, as a consumer, can change your consumption habits and use your voice to encourage others to rethink their habits. The book provides a thorough, critical assessment of fast fashion’s treatment of people and the planet. Here of some of the issues Aja raised that have galvanized me to make changes and take action.


Are the days of colonization over? Absolutely not. The fashion industry is just one example of how colonialism is still lining the pockets of CEOs today. Aja spoke to Cleopatra Tatabele, cultural educator and co-founder of the Abuela Taught Me collective, who said this about colonialism in the fashion industry: “They literally are taking resources from our lands, selling it back to us and burying garbage next to us; its colonialism at its finest.”

The fashion system works against citizens in the Global South by extracting their resources, exploiting the people who work in their supply chain, and then destroying their land by depositing masses of unwanted clothing. The colonization chapter is an eye-opener. Aja provides a broader context on how colonizers enforce their ideologies to make people more governable in the Global South and goes into details on how colonialism plays a fundamental part in the fast fashion system.


I imagine most of us cleared out our used clothing and dropped them off at a charity shop during the pandemic as we felt it was the ideal time to put our wardrobes in order. When you donate your clothes to a charity shop, do you reckon your donated items get sold and are taken home by a shopper? Here’s a statistic I want you to consider: only 10 to 20% of donated clothing gets sold at charity shops. The excess that does not get sold are turned into bale and are shipped to countries in the Global South, largely to Ghanian capital Accra, home to Kantamanto Market, the world’s largest secondhand market, which receives 15 million garments a week. Let that sink in, 15 million garments a week.

It’s a gamble on what clothing traders receive when they buy bales “because the traders are dealing in highly depreciating assets,” Aja says, “for all the sellers, however, it’s a risk they’re willing to take, because the options outside of the market are currently few.” The growth in fast fashion means growth in low-quality clothing infiltrating not just our wardrobes, but the traders searching for good quality goods to sell.

When clothing still doesn’t get sold in Kantamanto, which is around 40%, that clothing becomes “waste and are taken to landfill, informal dumping grounds, or burn piles, or are put into the sea.”

So think carefully before donating, and whether you need that fast fashion item in the first place, only to give it away later. As Aja states, “The things that we think we’re giving away and being ‘do gooders’ by doing so are simply becoming someone else’s problem.” Throwaway culture, constant trend cycles, and mass production of fast fashion need to end; that is the only way Ghana can stop suffering from the disposal of other countries.

The Race to the Bottom

We know that fast fashion production is problematic, but learning the extent to which fast fashion brands are willing to exploit factories and garment workers further is disturbing. “The race to the bottom forces factories to compete against one another, quoting lower and lower prices (racing to the bottom), in order to win the much-needed contract,” Aja explains. As a result, factories accept high production targets for cheap labor costs at a rapid turnaround or risk not winning the sought-after contract.

“Ever wonder how stores manage to get new garments into the store every single day?” Aja asks, “It’s the race to the bottom!” Brand pressure and consumer demand for new styles at low costs mean that factories and garment workers in the Global South are paying the price for our consumption habits. The race to the bottom is a practice rooted in the rich abusing their power.

In the second part of her book, Aja covers how we, as individuals, can use our voices to make a change. For example, I now feel empowered to write to my local representative and make them aware of the fast-fashion crisis happening right in front of us (Aja provides a brilliant letter template that’ll help you begin). Social media is another powerful platform; if I can encourage a few of my followers to think twice before buying fast fashion, I’ll be proud of that; it will only push me to do more. And more importantly, don’t buy as much clothing!

I have learned so much more, but you’ll have to read the CONSUMED for yourself to see how Aja educates, inspires you, and makes you realize this system doesn’t benefit you and the people who make our clothes.

I’ll leave you with this quote Aja highlighted, by Anannya Bhattacharjee, a garment worker part of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Garment and Allied Workers Union in North India: “The power of the consumer is huge. The brands really fear reputational risk, so they do not like it when it becomes public that their purchasing practices are causing so much exploitation and misery”.

Our actions, our voices, and our commitment have the power to make a difference.

CONSUMED: On Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism and the need for Collective Change comes out October 5th. Support local bookstores and pre-order on Bookshop

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

LGBTQIA+ History Gender Inequality

The history of non-binary genders is longer than you know

When Joan of Arc dressed for church, they wore men’s clothing.

When they took the sacraments, they had their hair short and wore pants.

When they fought for their God, they wore armor.

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it. The newness of a label is often used to allude to the idea that it is an invention – something that is not true, but rather made up. This is the criticism that many people are applying to non-binary genders.

However, something that has been around since the 15th century cannot be rejected by society’s supposed perception of its “newness.”

As people assigned female or male at birth celebrate their androgyny, the patriarchy is fighting back, declaring gender identity a new construct that is fabricated by those who strive for a difference. It’s important to acknowledge that the newness of the term “non-binary” is not an indictment on its existence, but rather a celebration of its acknowledgment. 

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it.

History is no stranger to the tales of people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) who dress in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

For many people, the Disney adaptation of the myth of Hua Mulan might be the first time they consider nonbinary identities. While the term “non-binary” is never used in the family-friendly flick, in the title song, “Reflection,” Mulan proclaims, “I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter…That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”

[adsanity_group num_ads=”1″ align=”alignnone” num_columns=”1″ group_ids=”135795″/]

A 20-year-old movie certainly doesn’t indicate the newness of betraying gender roles, nor does the 1700-year-old source material.

Even earlier, in 1400 B.C.E., Hatshepsut ruled as Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. Often regarded as one of the few female pharaohs to take the throne, the statues that survive her celebrate the strength of her rule.

She is depicted in a few different ways, from a woman wearing men’s clothing to a feminine face upon a man’s body. Hatshepsut defied the strict gender roles of ancient Egypt, and the statues that still stand are evidence of their defiance.

These examples are anecdotal, and often follow a common theme, of a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) defying the gender roles assigned to their sex to achieve something greater. However, even these examples hardly hold a candle to the rich history outlining people of a third gender.

History is no stranger to tales of people who are assigned female at birth dressing in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

This third gender, sometimes defined as neither a man nor a woman, is present in several ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, the progenitor of written history.

During that time, people of the third gender, or Hijra, were in service to the gods they celebrated. In various cultures throughout history, from Hijra priests to eunuchs and virgins in the temple of Artemis, holiness has transcended gender.

It’s easy for detractors to rebut this by pretending that nothing of the sort took place in our current understanding of Western society. The notion of a third gender or “Mahu” is part of Polynesian culture. It can mean a gender between male and female, or gender fluid. In Hawaii and Tahiti, the Mahu people were highly respected in the indigenous culture as keepers of oral traditions and historical knowledge.

[adsanity_group num_ads=”1″ align=”alignnone” num_columns=”1″ group_ids=”135795″/]

Mahu people exist not only in the past but are an important part of queer culture in Hawaii today. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. The Navajo people have a gender category called Nadleeh, which can refer to transgender people who have transitioned in one direction along the gender binary (having been assigned male at birth, and now identifying as female, or assigned female at birth and now identifying as male), gender-fluid people, and, of course, those whose gender presentation falls “outside” of the gender identity norms imposed by society at a large. The Nadleehi have a spiritual function and are inherently respected as tribal members within the Navajo culture. 

This stark difference in acceptance and perception was noted by Anglo-Saxon American anthropologists as early as the 1920s. In fact, Author William Willard Hill was surprised that Navajo society considered a transgender person “very fortunate,” unlike his understanding of Western culture, for which gender fluidity caused anxiety in mainstream society.

Gender has been used as an oppressive instrument for centuries.

It’s been used to highlight the difference between people, rather than highlight the inherent strength in us all. Strength of character is not something that is defined by maleness or femaleness. Strength is an attribute of the human condition to thrive when tested and fight for what we believe in.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself.

That human condition is what drives people to discover what gender means to them. They are able to transcend the baggage of strict gender roles to achieve greatness.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself, which leads one to question why people are so threatened by the nonbinary identification overall.

Why is it that the rich history of gender fluidity needs to be constantly torn down by censors and patriarchs of today’s “binary” culture, and rejected because of its newly-found public acceptance?

Perhaps, Joan of Arc and Hatshepsut knew something that everyone else did not.

Perhaps it’s important for us all to remember the wisdom they passed on through their life stories:

That to transcend gender is to harness the power of the gods themselves.


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Book Reviews Books

Kira Jane Buxton returns with ‘Feral Creatures,’ another foul-mouthed apocalyptic tale

There isn’t much that surprises me anymore, living in the 21st century and all. Memes can now be purchased for millions of dollars, we very much live in a world with robots, and headlines like this are far too commonplace. But Kira Jane Buxton’s first novel, Hollow Kingdom, genuinely surprised me, and her second novel Feral Creatures is just as wild of a ride.

Everyone’s favorite crowtagonist is back for another death-defying romp around the Pacific Northwest (emphasis on the north). When we last saw S.T., he had just concluded his quest to save domestic pets from screen-loving zombies, Buxton’s take on the next evolutionary cycle for humankind. Along the way, we said a tearful goodbye to Dennis (I’m still teary just thinking about it); discovered that while you can take the crow out of the wild, you can’t take the wild out of the crow; and fought nail-biting battles of epic proportions.

In this next installment, S.T. once again comes beak-to-beak with the kind of hard truths you can only find on a bonafide hero’s journey. Now, with Dee, the last human (a.k.a. MoFo) on Earth, in tow, S.T. is tasked with protecting the last of a dying species from new mutant threats. Will he successfully save humankind from extinction? No spoilers here!

At this point, zombies are overrated. The end of the world has been fictionalized too many times to count. And everyday real-life already feels so apocalyptic, what’s the point of diving deeper into doomsday with new imaginative retellings? Or so I  wrongfully thought. With Feral Creatures, Buxton once again has done the impossible, penning yet another novel so refreshing, so hilarious, yet so unnecessarily heartbreaking.

While I wasn’t sure if I would ever pick up another novel after enjoying Hollow Kingdom’s chapters written in the third poodle or told in the meditations of a polar bear (I still cry) or voiced in the Scottish brogue of a Highland cow — side note: I could have read a whole novel from Angus’ POV; don’t get me wrong, I love Shite Turd (see what I did there?), but no one has ever captured my wee heart quite like Angus — Buxton has made sure that this is not the case. She has returned with all the prosaic goods she first introduced readers to in Hollow Kingdom, only somehow with impossibly higher stakes. Again, no spoilers—but there is a hilarious poem overheard and transcribed by a spotted ratfish, Genghis Cat is back baby, and my favorite character (see above) is exposed as an unreliable narrator.

With a new cast of furry friends and some cameos from old foes, Feral Creatures transplants readers into the most thrilling episode of Our Planet yet. As you journey through the wilds of Alaska, swim across the Bering Sea and arrive back at Seattle, S.T. will make you laugh, cry, and want to give unsolicited parenting advice as he bumbles through this next chapter of his life.

In this second installment, S.T. annoyingly asserts humanity is worth saving — even though, as a species, we’re literally the worst ever. If you need to be reminded of your greatness, look no further than S.T., whose pick-me-ups we all need when we succumb to the existential dread of The Black Tide.

With Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures, Buxton has created a series that sparkles with the possibilities that await readers if they simply add a little imagination to a couple of classic tropes, including zombies, the apocalypse, and climate change. This horror-meets-comedy series is so unique that I’m starting one of those blind book date Etsy shops, but the only books I send out are Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures.

Feral Creatures is the kind of book that grabs the hand of the unlucky soul who just so happens to be standing next to it when disaster strikes only to then take them on one hell of a journey they most certainly did not sign up for. And that’s the best part about it.

Trust me, you won’t eat crow with this series. So, hold out your hand (or your wing!) and get ready for the read of your life.

Support local bookstores and get Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures on Bookshop.

Want more book content? Follow our Bookstagram for international giveaways, exclusive excerpts, and author interviews!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Tech Science Now + Beyond

Science and technology is not the escape from Earth you think it is

The day the SpaceX mission launched, I opened my social media to find various posts from friends and family members all saying the same thing: “They chose the right time to go,” “I wish I could go to space now,” “Now is the perfect time to leave Earth!” I understood what people were saying. It was a tough week, fraught with reports of coronavirus infections, murder hornets, and brutal police killings of Black Americans. The rest of the year continued to face more and more concerns. Nonetheless, all these posts seemed somewhat off to me for a reason I couldn’t pinpoint.

Now, I recognize what that feeling was. Looking over the posts again, I realized that almost every single one was made by a white person, and none were written by a single Black person. It made me wonder: why do we think we have the right to escape this? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that escapism is a natural human desire, and it’s hard to blame people for wanting to escape from a global pandemic and a racist government. But at the same time, what good does escape do?

These posts also reveal another strange phenomenon: how we view science as separate from the “real world.” Space, technology, and science are often considered exempt from our human world’s biases, wholly infallible and detached from racism, corruption, and inequality. But this isn’t true. Technology informs government policies, provides tools to corrupt police forces, and sows seeds of classism and inequality. Science informs health and medicine, two very unequal sectors of our society–as this pandemic has shown with difficulties in distributing vaccines to the most in need. Even the United States Space Program was pushed forward out of Cold-War era political tensions, driven by political motive and power. This isn’t to say that science is inherently evil or corrupt, but that it has an incredible capacity for political and social change.

Human problems don’t end when we go to space. They just change location.

Science is and has always been a human endeavor. As long as humans are involved, it will take on the biases of the people who create and study it. For example, NASA is not free from human prejudice and politics. NASA’s workforce is still about 72% white, and only a third of the employees are women. SpaceX founder Elon Musk certainly isn’t free from prejudice as well. Musk has expressed some progressive views, but he’s also courted controversy by speaking out against coronavirus lockdownsspouting red pill rumors, and fighting union organizing. That doesn’t mean that SpaceX is necessarily racist or evil; it just means that the world of aerospace engineering is still capable of human biases.

These statements also show the wrong way we view science as totally disparate from our society. In reality, science and technology inform almost every aspect of our daily lives, from the information we receive daily to the medicine and hygiene we all need. Science is not separate from human endeavors but entirely integral to it. The world of science is not a detached fantasy world where one can ignore human problems. It is woven into every fiber of the world we inhabit now. We can use science and technology to create positive solutions, or we can ignore this opportunity and allow them to continue to enforce the status quo. Either way, we cannot ignore the impact of either of these sectors.

As attractive as it sounds, going to space will never be a true escape. People in space are still people, with all the biases, prejudices, fears, and traumas of people on Earth. Human problems don’t end when we go to space. They just change location. Science is an intrinsic part of every problem or solution that we have on Earth; it is not a distraction from our society but a fundamental aspect of it.

Most of us cannot go to space at this moment. It would be logically improbably and ethically wrong. Right now, the best thing we can do is stand our ground and stay on Earth. Hard as is it, we need you here, and now is not the time to run — or fly — away.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Book Reviews Books Pop Culture

How The Nature of Witches pulled at my heartstrings in the best way

When I first started reading The Nature of Witches I made sure to avoid any summaries or blurbs. I wanted to fall in eyes wide open, and fall in love with its magical world. I have to admit, Rachel Griffin did not disappoint. If you are looking for a modern tale of witches and climate change, that makes you laugh out loud and cry along with the protagonist, then this is the right book for you.

Clara Densmore is an Everwitch. She is the first Everwitch in over a hundred years to be born. While most witches have their powers tied to one specific season, Everwitches change along with them, maintaining their powers throughout the year. In other words, Clara does not have to wait for the sun to shine on her during her season. But changing along with the seasons has an effect on Clara and her depth of feeling as well. When a new professor with his apprentice, Sang, moves to her Eastern magic school, Clara will have to face her deepest fears and her magic in a desperate attempt to fight against unnatural weather phenomena.

The Nature of Witches deals with climate change in a way that is very straightforward. The Shaders, or people born without magic, know that there is a balance with the earth that they should respect. However, even with the Witches all around the world cautioning against challenging the limits of what nature can do, Shaders keep on building. Everything has a limit. And in this world, as well as in ours, that limit has been reached. Very similar to what happens on our planet, strange heatwaves appear in the middle of winter in The Nature of Witches. Sudden spring tornadoes occur in the fall.

To say that this reminded me of the abnormal heatwave in late October last year is not a stretch. Even after a year of restrictions on traveling and movement of people, pollution levels remain high. The balance that is understood by witches in The Nature of Witches finds its broken echoes in the reality checks our planet keeps giving us. How many of us wish we could have a magical solution to climate change and melting polar caps. And certainly, this is one of the main themes in Griffin’s book, and the heartbreaking description of how nature is just out of balance rings true beyond the written pages.

The Nature of Witches tugs at your heartstrings in another, more personal way as well. Clara, as an Everwitch, is very powerful. But as Spider-Man would say, “with great powers come great responsibilities.” This is certainly true for the young protagonist of the book. Clara’s personal story is about facing herself and her deepest fears, learning from the past to look towards her future.

Clara changes with her seasons. Her powers shift something in her, and as she accesses a new type of seasonal magic, her feelings too, follow her change. As the novel begins in summer, we see Clara describe it as the season where she feels the most, in the most passionate way. She knows what is coming with the beginning of the fall season, and even as she wants to cling to the summer version of herself, time does not excuse her. Time waits for no one, and so Clara has to go on.

This coming-of-age part of the novel I think speaks directly to all of us who are afraid of change. And yet, life teaches us that change is inescapable. You cannot delay the passage of seasons, and what change they bring with them. Growing up, moving out of your parents’ house, going to college in another town. All of these experiences and more make you into a different version of yourself. When I first moved abroad for work, I thought I too wouldn’t change as much. Maybe I would learn to save some money or try new life hacks. Instead, as the warmth of summer transformed into the chill of autumn first, and the poignant stabbing of winter second, I knew I was wrong. Change is scary at times, but it is something we should all learn to embrace.

The author’s website describes the book as “about heartbreaking power, the terror of our collapsing atmosphere, and the ways we unknowingly change our fate.” I loved The Nature of Witches because it pulls and tugs at your heartstrings in just the right way.

The worrying about climate change and the future mixes well with Clara’s personal story, into a perfect cocktail of heartbreak and self-realization. A magical insight into the idea of change, and what it brings us, in the good and in the bad. That’s The Nature of Witches in a nutshell. And to anyone who has been struggling with changing, or seeing themselves as different from yesterday’s you, I cannot recommend this book more.

Support local bookstores and get The Nature of Witches on Bookshop.

Want more book content? Follow our Bookstagram for international giveaways, exclusive excerpts, and author interviews!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

Looking for more content like this? Follow our brand new Instagram account!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

The Environment Science Now + Beyond

Climate change is a feminist issue, and here’s why

In the past year, we’ve seen wildfires devastate Australia and parts of the United States. We’re seeing cities and islands disappear under rising sea levels, torrential rains flood large parts of Europe, and entire regions drowning in smog. With temperatures soaring to new levels, increasing numbers of natural disasters ripping communities apart, and rising sea levels displacing populations, it is unthinkable to deny that climate change is threatening us all. Despite repeated warnings from scientists and experts, there are very few practical solutions being implemented to combat it and secure life on this planet for all. As governments continue to ignore or water down climate justice treaties and enact policies that cause environmental destruction, few stop to think about how climate change and gender interact with each other.

Climate change impacts those who are the most marginalized–and in most communities, they’re women. Women are more likely than men to be impoverished and they face high risk during climate change-related disasters. In fact, women constitute 80% of those displaced by climate change. Women and children are actually 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster. With migration expected to increase due to climate change (increased sea levels, inhospitable temperatures, and a loss of arable land), women are be the most vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and other harm. This is already noticeable in current migration patterns, where 50% of migrants are women and girls, facing gender-based violence.

LGBTQIA+ individuals, who already face disproportionate violence and disenfranchisement, are also at risk due to climate change, particularly with shelter and health. Even without climate concerns, many are forced to leave their homes and communities from fear or insecurity about their safety. But in climate emergencies, when housing is destroyed or limited, the need for support increases manifold. LGBTQIA+ individuals who would be displaced in the process of extreme weather conditions would find their marginalization increasing, as might violence toward them and a lack of advisory services.

Climate change has also been a result of extractivist, colonial activities by many global North countries. The drive for increased profits has long been at the expense of communities who find themselves in an unequal power dynamic with corporations and governments. In those communities, where gender dynamics are already skewed and where resource exploitation drives down the quality of life, women face additional or exaggerated burdens. Women, commonly positioned as primary caretakers, find themselves struggling to support their communities and families when the water goes bad, the crops don’t grow, and people fall ill. For this reason, many women human rights defenders are actively agitating for solutions to climate change that involve the dismantling of economic structures that prioritize extractive industries over environmental protection.

Despite all of this, women and LGBTQIA+ communities rarely find themselves afforded a space at the negotiating table to be a part of climate justice solutions. In the European Union, for example, only one-fifth of ministers who handle issues relating to the environment, transport, climate change, and energy are women. This is in line with historical trends, where women have not been included in key decision-making bodies. Many climate justice agreements do not address gender equality, women’s rights, or minority rights. The enhancement of present policies and the building of future ones to effectively reflect gendered realities is vital if marginalized communities are to be served well by climate justice solutions.

A feminist approach to climate justice can lead the way for concrete change. Here are some steps we can take for that:

  • Gendered perspectives must be included at every step of the decision-making process, including disaster mapping and mitigation solutions.
  • Feminist activists, women human rights defenders, LGBTQ+ activists, and other key leaders representing marginalized communities must be included in the research, review, and policy crafting processes. Their inputs can be based on lived and directly observed experiences, which in turn would increase the efficacy of policy solutions.
  •  Ensure that climate justice solutions do not pit one marginalized community against another. Intersectionality–the consideration of gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, and other factors–must be the foundation of any effective climate justice framework.

As we all struggle to survive in a world where the greed of corporations is hindering the quality of our lives and contributing to climate injustices, let us band together to turn back the clock!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Editor's Picks The World

When you need a break from the news, it’s okay

The NewsRun is a daily email newsletter that delivers smart, clear and digestible breakdowns of Pakistan’s top news straight to your inbox. Check out their website to learn more and subscribe – it’s free! 

Being informed is a virtue – there’s no question about that. But do you find yourself feeling stretched too thin while catching up on the constant onslaught of information from your social media feeds, phone notifications, news sites and TV channels? Add a global pandemic to the mix and you have a very exhausted mind trying to keep up with news snippets from everywhere in an attempt to make sense of the world.  

So what if less is more when it comes to consuming the news?

According to a survey by Digital Third Coast, 68% of Americans said the news has left them feeling anxious during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 65% and 67% of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the news respectively. 54% even said they were cutting back on their news consumption to escape these feelings. The trigger in anxiety is not just limited to news readers in the US or the pandemic.

Dutch researchers in 2017 conducted a study on how hard news that deals with shaping political perspectives affects well-being. It was discovered that on average, well-being falls 6.1 percent for every additional television hard news program watched a week. The researchers explained this by noting the dominance of negative stories on such programs, and the powerlessness viewers might experience as a result in the face of all that bad news. 

So how do I know if I am overdoing it?

First things first — check in with yourself. 

– How does reading the news make you feel? Does it trigger anxiety or stress about things that are completely beyond your control? 

– Do you find yourself repeatedly consuming “alarmist” content – think natural disasters, breaking political news, riots and protests etc instead of a more well-rounded news diet that adds value to your knowledge repository?

– Is your body sending you signals via a strained neck, frequent headaches, lack of sleep and/or bad posture indicating that you are spending too much time looking at screens?

If the answer to one or all of the above is yes, it is time to slow down.

Start by changing the little things

Just like all other habits, shaping our news diet should be a conscious process.

Here are some small changes in your routine that can help you stay informed while avoiding emotional and mental burnout.

– Take digital sabbaticals: Simply put, take a break from the news. Not on a specified day or time of the month, but everyday. Set aside hours in your day where you DON’T look at your social media feed or news sites. Similarly, define a time in the day, preferably 30 mins in the morning and once late in the evening when you catch up on the day’s events. Don’t do anything else in that time but focus mindfully on what you are reading, seeking out the relevant sources and finding the right background and contextual information. You will notice an uptick in the quality of your news diet without feeling bombarded with non-stop updates

– Skim less, read more: If you find yourself merely skimming through headlines multiple times a day without finding the time and bandwidth to delve into the stories in depth, you are doing it wrong. Nourish your brain with high-quality, research-backed content instead of overwhelming yourself with the same “breaking” news headlines packaged in different ways.

– Be protective of your time: If the past one year has taught us one thing, it’s that our time is limited and infinitely valuable. Hence, when choosing news sources, be picky about who you devote your time to. Prioritize publications that report responsibly, refrain from sensationalism and provide their readers with a healthy balance of content instead of holding their attention captive with triggering or shock-and-awe content

– Support good content: Show appreciation to those who are putting in the work and enriching your news diet. It can be something as simple as leaving a meaningful comment telling the outlet/journalist that you derive value from their work. Or show financial support to projects, news outlets that are trying to break the advertising-driven journalism mould with more cutting-edge holistic news coverage.

And lastly, don’t forget to tell us if these tips and tricks helped you in being more mindful with your news consumption patterns. Remember, unplugging from time-to-time from your screens does not equate to slacking – instead it is a sign of respect for our time, emotional and mental well-being and the most rewarding form of self-care.

This guest post is a part of The Tempest’s collaboration with The NewsRun. For the next month, we are working together to encourage mindful and smart news consumption. 

Latin America The World

Devastating fires in Chile go unnoticed

A wildfire that is believed to have been started deliberately turned Chile’s skies red and forced citizens to flee their homes.

The Valpraiso region was engulfed by flames for hours. According to authorities, the fires have blazed through 400 hectares of forest. At least ten houses have been caught by the flames, and some 25 000 residents and hundreds of firefighters were deployed to battle the flames.

According to various sources including a local government official, the fires are believed to have been started deliberately. Local rumors suggest that the fires were started deliberately by a construction company after being denied access to encroach land property.

[Image Description: Residents look up at the orange sky as the wildfires burn nearby (Picture: AP)] Via AP
[Image Description: Residents look up at the orange sky as the wildfires burn nearby (Picture: AP)] Via AP
A Chinook helicopter that was carrying tonnes of water was used to extinguish the fire from above. The destroyed property includes four houses, six cabins at a recreational center, and two warehouses. 

People who were evacuated were placed temporarily in a school building while a ‘safe zone’ was set up in the municipal stadium. Citizens that had been self-isolating after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus were instructed to go to local schools that were designated quarantine zones. 

This is not, however, the first time the area has been destructed by the wildfires. In January 2017, Chile witnessed one of the worst wildfires which caused major devastation throughout the country, killing at least 11 people. In 2019, 200 homes in the port city of Valparaiso were destroyed by wildfires on Christmas Day

Despite the devastation caused by the fires, they have received little to no coverage in international news and media. Citizens and Diaspora Chileans have expressed contempt over the blatant ignorance of the fires.

Instead of spreading the word about the fires and calling for aid, people on social media believed the pictures to be aesthetic and used them to promote songs. The insensitivity towards the matter speaks volumes.

Forest fires such as the one in Chile have both short-term as well as long-term impacts. Dozens of citizens been displaced from their houses as fires blaze through the inhabited parts of the country. Acres of forests have been destroyed and countless animals are caught in the flames.

Research has proven that the smoke from fires can choke nearby cities months after the fires. Fires can release more pollution into the air. Air quality is significantly poor and creates hazes in cities farther away. Reduced air quality can have longer-term health effects such as penetration of lung membranes and damaged respiratory system. Short-term effects include coughing, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of asthma attacks.

A bigger cause of concern is that the toxicity of these smoke particles appears to increase the further they get from the site of a fire. The particle undergoes chemical reactions as they are carried in the wind. This causes them to “age” in a process known as oxidation. It converts the particles into highly reactive compounds that have an even greater capacity to damage cells and tissue than when they were first produced.

The aforementioned effects are not even a quarter of the devastation that is caused by wildfires. The insensitive and rather ignorant response to the Chilean fires is worrying because the world is already struggling with wildfires that are causing catastrophic effects and aiding environmental damage. In addition to stealing hundreds of people’s livelihoods. It is necessary to draw attention to the fires in Chile so that the real culprits face the punishment. More importantly, though, governments need to be more pro-active to prevent such catastrophes from re-occurring.

Stay updated on our News and Social Justice coverage by following our brand new instagram account!

World News The World

Underneath the Arctic ice lies a political bloodbath

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Arctic is melting. After all, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006, terrifying us all with its dire predictions. Subsequent Earth-centered documentaries have repeatedly shown polar bears trapped on shrinking icebergs, or entire cliffs of ice falling into the ocean due to rising temperatures. Greta Thunberg has openly spoken about the environmental damages that humans are creating on their planet, and she is only one of many activists who have drawn attention to the serious issues we face.

And yet, here we are. Inching toward devastation without much, if any, progress in the years since. 

In 2020, our summer ranked as the fourth hottest summer and may beat out 2016 as the warmest year on record. Our environment continues to struggle. The Australian bushfires that began in 2019 continued well into March 2020, burning through 13 million acres and killing approximately 470 either directly or through smoke inhalation. More than four million acres of California were burned in wildfires, doubling the record in 2018 and resulting in red skies. Rising sea levels have led to flash floods and the destruction of coastal land. 

In the Arctic, this past year, 40 percent of the Milne Ice Shelf fell into the ocean, ending Canada’s last fully-intact ice shelf. In fact, it’s expected that the Arctic might become ice-free entirely in the next few decades if we continue on at this rate. The melting ice impacts both the rise in sea levels and the planet’s increasing temperature. Keeping in mind the ongoing pandemic, the melting ice also affects the likelihood of disease breaking out. Numerous diseases have been kept frozen underneath the permafrost near the Arctic Circle. As the ice melts, they are expected to surface.

You’d think, given the innocuous rally of saving the environment and the Arctic, people would be up in arms working toward that solution. But make no mistake, the Arctic isn’t just environmental—it’s political as well. 

There are eight nations with claim to the Arctic: the US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Together they form the Arctic Council, a loose intergovernmental organization that creates policy for the region and incorporates different indigenous groups who often struggled to get their voices heard. For some of these countries, the melting Arctic has opened up new opportunities.

Greenland, which is the property of Denmark, has had its vanishing ice sheet pass the point of no return. However, this has also opened up new reserves of uranium, zinc, gold, iron, and other rare elements.

Russia is also continuing to expand the development of the Northern Sea Route, which would open up more as the ice melts and allow for faster commercial shipping. China— although not a nation with a claim to the Arctic—has been investing in the Northern Sea Route, investing $9.5 billion through its Belt and Road Initiative. China has long shown interest in the Arctic, claiming it as “the inherited wealth of all humankind” and financing the development of mines and oil companies in Canada and Greenland.

In the US, President Donald Trump has continued to push for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a public space in Alaska that is also home to the native Gwich’in people. The land’s drilling rights are expected to be auctioned off on January 6, two weeks before the next presidential administration despite the majority of US voters saying they oppose this plan. 

Between the US and Canada, there has also been an ongoing dispute over the Northwest Passage. As the ice caps have been melting, it’s become a valuable space for commercial shipping. Additional disputes, such as Canada and Denmark’s competing claims over Hans Island have also become more important under the melting Arctic. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg around the politics of the shrinking Arctic. These issues will continue to be a growing power struggle for these countries, not despite but rather because of the melting region. Ultimately, if we go back to the question of why we haven’t worked harder to stop the destruction of the environment, the answer lies in the shipping routes, material resources, and the opportunity for profit that these countries see in the melting ice. 


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!