Designing a better built and natural environment
Gabriela Rogers Marciaga is an architecture student from Panama who will be part of her country's negotiating delegation to COP28, with support from the Global Environment Facility and Climate Reality Project America Latina. In an interview, she talked about how she has blended her technical studies with knowledge of the natural world to design and develop projects that can adapt to a changing climate.
How does architecture relate to the environment?
Studying architecture has deepened my interest in both the built and the natural environment. This interest led me to learn how the climate is changing and how the built environment has to adapt to these changes.
I currently volunteer in projects in my community related to public space and design. Both architecture and my knowledge of climate change are helping me co-design projects that will adapt to a changing climate.
I am glad to be both an architecture student and an environmental activist. To face the climate reality we need the support of people from all professional and educational backgrounds.
When did you become interested in environmental issues?
I consider myself to be very sensitive to change. My generation has been so incredibly exposed to a changing environment that it was almost impossible for me not to perceive it.
I remember that for me it started by noticing the amount of plastics that were showing up in the rivers around me, but I didn’t know what to do about it. This changed when I started working at the Biomuseo, a museum that highlights Panama's biodiversity. I became a guide and an assistant for the museum's public program, and I had to find ways to teach people of all ages about the importance of Panama's diverse species, and about how our actions were causing the loss of this valuable nature.
For me, teaching was also a way of learning. After five years of working at the Biomuseo, I still perceive how this reality affects not only biodiversity but also the people of my city and my community. Our daily commutes are no longer walking or riding bicycles because of how drastically the temperature has risen. Floods are a constant threat, and we are constantly losing infrastructure and homes that are not designed for any of these risks.
What message do you have for today's political and business leaders?
Climate change is not something that will happen in the next 50 or 100 years – it is a reality, and we need to act now. Acting now is not something that will make our future lives better or easier, it is what will make us survive and have a future.
More specifically, my message to world leaders is to approach this COP with the urgency and seriousness that it requires, since it is in their hands to prevent us from arriving at a point of no return and to secure a livable future.
Why is it important to you to be in the negotiating room at COP28?
For me, it's important because it means that my community will be heard, that my country will be heard, and more importantly that the youth will be heard. Representation matters and to me, it is both an honor and a responsibility to occupy a seat at the table and to be able to participate in this space.
What is your main area of focus in the climate negotiations?
I am mainly focused on the implementation of the Paris Agreement through the Global Stocktake. If we don’t get to measure where countries stand on climate action, we won’t be able to know if we are doing enough. The Global Stocktake will guarantee that countries are held accountable for their emissions.
I want my country, Panama, to continue being one of the three carbon-negative countries in the world and I also want more countries to join this club. This matters to me because I am aware that getting countries to cut their emissions is crucial to prevent global climate risks from worsening, and I do care about my survival and the survival of my community.
How do you spend your free time?
I dedicate a considerable amount of my time to trying to make things look as beautiful as they can. This applies to the documents I write, the emails I send, the posts I upload to my social media, everything. It genuinely makes me happy to create aesthetically pleasing things.