Diwi Valiente, 2022 Tide Turner
Diwigdi “Diwi” Valiente is an indigenous climate activist and government official working to improve sustainability and tackle plastic pollution in his home country of Panama and beyond.
Hailing from a small island in the comarca indígena of Guna Yala off the coast of Panama, Diwi was instilled with a deep love and respect for nature from the moment he was born: his great-grandmother would fish, prepare food, and bathe him in herbs, and taught him that a connection to the land and sea is spiritual as well as physical. Now, Diwi is determined to help free his indigenous community from the tons of plastic waste washing up on their shores.
Gifted with a capacity for connecting with others on a genuine level, Diwi is able to break down cultural barriers and advocate for bold change in a world that has continually ignored the effects of a broken climate on indigenous, marginalized, and coastal communities.
Diwi went to university in Switzerland to study sustainable tourism and indigenous tourism policy, and from the beginning, he hoped to bring back everything he learned and use it to help the Guna people thrive. He went on to become the first indigenous government official to hold a leadership position in the Ministry of Tourism in Panama, a role he still fulfills today and approaches with passion and commitment. And as one of only a few climate activists with experience of working in government, Diwi is uniquely positioned to move the needle where it matters most.
Diwi is born in 1989 and grows up between Panama City and in the Guna Yala comarca, where his father is from. During his trips to the islands, Diwi falls in love with nature and realizes the importance of protecting the environment.
Diwi is startled and saddened to discover that his people, the Guna, are predicted to become some of the first climate refugees in the world due to sea level rise submerging their islands.
Diwi founds Burwigan (meaning “children” in the local language), a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising ecological awareness and inspiring people to take action on climate change and plastic pollution across Panama and in indigenous communities.
Diwi increases his focus on fighting to end plastic pollution as he sees how little is being done overall in Panama. His efforts include collecting plastic trash from the Guna Yala comarca indígena to take back to the mainland, and engaging citizens to reduce single-use plastic on a national level.
Diwi steps into the role of Head of Sustainability at the Ministry of Tourism in Panama, making history by becoming the first indigenous person to hold a leadership position in this department.
Diwi speaks at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom, about the role of business in realizing a nature-positive economy, how to effectively preserve and safeguard the natural world through planetary conservation, and ending the war on the natural world through climate resolutions.
Diwi becomes a Tide Turner.