Thank you to everyone who attended or participated in the first webcast in our March/April training series - Bringing People Together!
The five speakers for the evening helped us explore some conversational context for the KTCCs we are planning to hold. They shared insights about why it is important to talk about and act on climate justice as well as what they've experienced and learned.
To start off the webcast, two youth speakers from Fridays for Future Toronto shared their perspectives. See bios, excerpts from their speeches and the event media card below. The recording of all the speakers is here!
Sophie Krouse (she/her) - Bio
Sophie Krouse is a 17 year old youth climate activist with Fridays for Future Toronto. She does research projects, and writes for social media, newsletter, and informative content. She also frequently takes part in online actions. Since early childhood, Sophie has been passionate about protecting biodiversity and bringing awareness to social inequities that discriminate against marginalized communities. She hopes to dedicate her life to Environmental justice.
In her speech, Sophie explained the challenges faced by young activists, saying that "when young, diverse activists challenge the current political models, we're seen as a threat. As a result, they judge us by the one thing they feel they can - our age. In political conversation, young means naive, uneducated and much more, which adds more pressure, especially for youth and BIPOC activists to be able to have meaningful dialogue."
She shares her tips for talking about the climate, saying that we need a clear purpose "[s]parking effective dialogue with someone begins with a purpose. Why am I conversing with this person? What do I want them to take away from our conversation? How do I listen to and address their concerns while still pushing the urgency for change?....I find it's important that you balance the use of emotion and fact, according to your audience and your setting...."
Proof is also important, and Sophie shares the thought that "doing research about what a just, green recovery means, what it would look like in Canada, how fossil fuel workers would be accommodated, how our economy and environment would be impacted....is what will catalyze that need to change on a legislative level...."
However, there is one other key piece, emotion, and Sophie councils that "[b]eing able to convey emotion to others can have a drastic impact on the way one may view a topic. Voice your anger and show the people how the crisis will affect the future of all youth. Show empathy and concern for others, especially BIPOC communities who are disproportionately exposed to ecological impacts of the climate change movement. Show your solidarity for Indigenous nations who dedicate their lives to protecting the land, which has been stolen from them."
....enter the conversation with the intent to understand what your audience cares about and show them how they will be affected as individuals. Because.... not one person is excluded from climate chaos.
"Many people, especially in North America, don't believe in climate change because they can't see it. If they cannot watch the water come above their knees or the forest get clean cut, or their house turned to Ash, then it doesn't exist in their reality. Show them their future, but most importantly, show them hope. The era of renewables is upon us. And there are more incredible technologies than ever before that are cleaning our water, capturing our carbon and reinvigorating our ecosystems. Each day that goes by the climate justice movement grows."
I refuse to believe that my generation will fail to limit climate change. And I refuse to believe that we, as humans, will put profit over each other.
Sigfried Hemming (he/they) - Bio
Sigfried is a member of Fridays for Future Toronto, which is part of the global climate strike movement. FFFTO is youth-led, grassroots and mobilizes through strikes, rallies and marches to demand climate justice. FFFTO's intersectional demands express the recognition that the "climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis but a social justice crisis too." (see fridaysforfutureto.org)
Sigfried begins by reminding us that "normal is not good enough and that change is required at a systemic and personal level because we live in a system that capitalizes off of destruction and vice." Yet, "Each individual holds immense amounts of power. The system we live in is designed to teach us to stay in our place, do as we're told and, and keep our heads down. But this is not the only way, especially if we topple the triangle upside down."
Talking about intersectionality, Sigfried shares, "[s]omething I've heard a lot of, as somebody fighting the climate crisis is - 'well, what about the child labourers in Malaysia? Or what about my problems?' - as if the climate justice movement and the social justice movement are mutually exclusive. Which they are not. The whole thing is intersectional. And if it weren't, we would just be reproducing the toxic environments that is creating these problems in the first place. Fighting for one cause does not bring the other down....The climate movement and many social movements are intertwined."
Sigfried went on to share, "I will use myself as an example. I'm a fairly privileged individual. I have a supportive and financially stable household. I am a white European. I have access to education and for the most part appear outwardly normal. However I do have invisible disabilities....I'm transgender. I'm autistic and I'm mentally ill. 20% of trans people in Ontario are subject to physical abuse in their lifetime. We're also more likely to be killed, fired, denied service and ostracized just for being trans....50% of trans people in Ontario live off of less than $15,000 a year. And...people with disabilities, such as autism, [are] more than three times as likely to be victims of serious crimes, such as rape, robbery, aggravated assault, then people without disabilities. When put in the context of the climate crisis, we know that I would therefore be more likely to be much harder hit....Now think about BIPOC peoples who are also autistic or transgender or struggle with mental illnesses."
When talking about the climate, Sigfried advises us to ask questions like, "[w]hy do you think fighting the climate crisis is less important than fighting ableism? Why do you think those two things are separate? Has someone said something to make you feel excluded from this movement? These are the kinds of questions that could prompt genuine answers without making the person feel shamed or inferior."
This mass idea that everything is in separate boxes needs to be addressed. It is all connected. Trans rights are human rights. Being anti-racist is being anti-ableist and fighting the climate crisis is fighting the opioid crisis. I cannot stress enough the importance of emphasizing how addressing climate change does not mean not addressing any other issue.
Sigfried ends with, "oftentimes people lash out as a fear response. If they are angry at the climate movement, it is probably because they feel personally threatened by it. Let them know that they're not. Rather than blaming or increasing the heat with frustration - sympathize, relate, and educate.
I truly believe that as soon as someone realizes the climate crisis threatens them and that fighting it aids them, they will begin to open up. Yes, we each have our specialties, but we are all fighting for the happiness and the safety of our fellow people."
In the next blog, we'll share insights from Steve Shallhorn of the Labour Education Centre and Sarah Kamau of Africa Climate Action Initiative.