Young Leaders Award recipient Von Wong's work lies at the intersection of fantasy and photography and combines everyday objects with shocking statistics. It has attracted the attention of corporations, like Starbucks, Dell, and Nike, and has generated over 100 million views for causes like ocean plastics, electronic waste, and fashion pollution. His work has been narrated by Ryan Reynolds, he holds a Guinness World Record for the largest installation made from plastic straws, and he created the centerpiece at the United Nations in Nairobi when the Global Plastics Resolution was successfully signed.
Von Wong's Project: Transforming the Eco-Anxious to the Eco-Engaged
By studying how the world’s best creative activists design projects to support movements, The Activism Studio is going to research, design, and prototype an educational collection of tools focused on transforming the eco-anxious into the eco-engaged.
We recently checked in with Von Wong to learn more about his background and plans for the conservation and regeneration of the planet.
Walking Softer: What brought you to your work in climate and environmental justice?
Von Wong: I suppose I fell into it. I started off as a hard rock mining-engineer-turned-commercial photographer and realized pretty quickly that just making money and having followers wasn't giving me enough purpose. After watching a couple of documentaries and "opting in to see the challenges, our planet was facing" - I stopped being able to turn away and ignore the inconvenient truths that were staring me in the face. I suppose, in some way, I am a reluctant environmentalist that is doing this out of privilege and duty rather than the classic "oh, I just love nature!" bucket.
Walking Softer: What do you do for self-care and fun?
Von Wong: It took me a long time to find a new hobby, but I have a brand new love for contact dancing. There have been so many lessons in movement on how to be present, open to others, and accepting of the present. Contact Improv has helped me dive deeper inwards to better answer the questions: What do I really want? What is enough? What is belonging?
Walking Softer: Who or what inspires you?
Von Wong: I am inspired by people who courageously pursue and/or create a life for themselves that allows them to serve all people and the planet to the best of their ability. Those who aren't scared to walk off the beaten path to build a better tomorrow, even when the odds are against them.
Walking Softer: Any people or organizations that you would like to thank?
Von Wong: Pooja Tilvawala for nominating for the Young Leaders Award, Laura Francois for being on this journey with me, and my family.
As we look ahead, we wish to express our gratitude for accompanying us on this journey. Your participation has played a pivotal role in fostering a healthier future for our planet.
In the third episode of Walking With, Rollie Williams, a comedian and video editor from Brooklyn holding a Climate Science & Policy degree from Columbia University along with student debt, shares insights into the making of his entertaining YouTube series, Climate Town.