Earth Calling #2: What Modern Slavery, Water Crisis & Mixed Martial Arts have in Common

Produced by Camille Duran / Published by Linnéa Hultén / Senior Editors Eleen Murphy & Camille Duran / Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

Planet Earth comes back for another shot of hope and inspiration. And we’ve got just the story to cheer her up: Justin Wren, “The Big Pygmy” and his fight for a noble cause.

Joe Rogan Experience #937 – Interview with Justin Wren
Fight For The Forgotten

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Transcript from the Episode

Eleen Murphy (EM): Camille, we’ve got the Earth calling again! She’s on line one.

Camille Duran (CD): Aah, I knew she would call back for more, I take it, thank you.

[Telephone Rings]

CD: Hello good morning. Yes how are you?

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: I am glad you’re calling us again. How can I help?

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: More stories? Sure, we thought of a good one for you last week actually, let me get the folder one sec.

CD [Whisper to Eleen]: Yeah she wants more. I think our stories have an effect. Can you please pass me the green folder? Yeah, thanks

CD [To Planet Earth]: Alright are you there? So today we have a story touching on both the water crisis and modern slavery. So, I don’t need to tell you about the water crisis part I suppose, you probably feel dry in some parts of your surface, you know what’s going on there. And in some other places there is water but it’s not clean for drinking and the population is so poor that they cannot afford the technology to clean it up or to access ground water.

So I am taking you to the Ituri rainforest in Congo. They have that problem. No drinkable water. In this remote part of the world, there are two communities: the Pygmies and the Mokpala. That’s their name. And the Pygmies are the Mokpala’s slaves.

Yes, slaves, modern slavery…

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: Yes me tooI know, I thought we were done with slavery…

The Pygmies are working from morning to night under supervision of slave masters, there is some beating going on, it’s really terrible.

[Audio Clip]

“They just need to be given a few fish, a few bananas…something small so that they can come back and work the next day. So that they’re hungry enough that they have to come back and work the next day.

CD: One of the main reason for their slavery is that those Pygmy people don’t actually own land. The land that they were always living on was basically stolen from them by the Mokpala people. And if they are to stay there to live, they have to work for the Mokpala people and provide them with whatever they need. That’s how they got stuck in the cycle of slavery.

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: Yeah I know it’s very sad for now, but wait until our Human of change takes this on.

[Audio Clip]

CD: Let me introduce you to Justin Wren – He is an MMA fighter. Oh yeah…What’s an MMA fighter? Well, human beings came up with this sport. MMA means Mixed Martial Arts. You know what fighting is right? So mixed martial arts – or MMA – is a combat sport where techniques from all martial arts can be used to win over one opponent. Most people see it as two crazy fighters in a cage trying to kill each other for the entertainment of others. But it’s more than that.

Any way, back to Justin Wren, big-size human being, with a big blond beard, angry enough to become an Ultimate Fighting & MMA champion, and compassionate enough to become a humanitarian hero. Justin came to Congo to discover the culture and get some work done.

[Audio Clip]

Justin Wren: Fighting in a cage under a tonne of lights and getting my hand raised – that was cool…it was cool, but it wasn’t great. I was fighting against people, but really I was just supposed to be fighting for people.

CD: That’s when he decided to take on this challenge of solving this water & slavery problem for the Pygmies.

[Audio Clip]

Justin Wren: It would be foolish of us to come to the slave masters and say, “Hey, we want to set your people free”. So you have to go at it in a respectful way to both parties. You can’t love one side and hate the other, because if you do that it’s only going to cause more problems for the people you’re trying to love. We came in saying, “Hey, how can we partner with both of you?”

CD: The key was to create a team that could lobby the slave masters to give back land to Pygmies. If they could have land of their own they could be freed.

[Audio Clip]

Justin Wren: The land purchases were huge for giving them some land of their own that they could be free on. But water is what really soften the hearts of their oppressors – soften the hearts of their masters. Because their children are so sick and dying of dirty water.

CD: So here is what he did:

  • He teamed up with an NGO called water4 – link on the episode page.
  • They started drilling wells to access clean ground water.
  • They said, we’ll make all this water available to you if you release these Pygmies.
  • And it worked! After a few years they have drilled 62 wells and and have given back the Pygmies more than 1000 hectares of land. That’s a lot.
  • And they are taking the next steps: As an example, his team of 18 people teaches the Pygmies farming practices so they can be self sufficient.

Now here is the thing: Justin spent five years in Congo, stopped professional fighting for all this time to get all that setup. But recently he got back into fighting in the Bellator league in the US.

[Audio Clip of fight]

CD: And he is carrying the cause with him. His fighting name became “The Big Pygmy” and he is using his exposure as a fighter to give exposure to the issue, to raise money, to empower more people to join the cause.

[Audio Clip]

Justin Wren: We’re on track to get these teams to where they are one hundred percent self sufficient, so we just come in with the training and the techniques and tools, but they don’t need us to fund it anymore. So that way we can go off to other places and do it again and replicated it.

[Audio Clip of fight]

CD: What a story huh?

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: Yeah, I told you there is some serious positive change happening out there!

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: Yes. I know. Like last time, we’ll post pictures on our Instagram profile, GreenXEurope, and a selection of links on our episode page. There are video documentaries and podcasts about Justin, and his story and you should check his fundraiser campaigns as well. It’s a very important project.

Hey, how did the Earth Day go, by the way?

[Planet Earth speaks]

CD: I know, it should be every day, yes. Yes we’ll prepare another story for next time. Alright, thank you…by for now.


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