Coming off the excitement and passion of the September 27 Global Climate Strike, there is clearly not only a call, but a push, for action. With the St. Catharines event pulling in hundreds of people for one of its largest political rallies in decades, it is essential that people of all ages, families, businesses, and organizations engage in the necessary steps for systemic change.
This is a list of ten ways that highlight tangible ways to self-educate and engage in further political activism.
- Besides Greta Thunberg, learn the names and struggles of people, communities, and organizations who have been calling for climate activism both right now and throughout history.
Indigenous youth like Autumn Peltier, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (his first name is pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’), and Artemisa Xakriaba to the groups of people in Japan fighting creation of the new military base in Okinawa to the indigenous elders in Hawaii challenging the creation of the TMT telescope on Mauna Kea volcano, there are countless individuals and groups fighting the global destruction of our planet – many of who are criminalized or killed for doing so. Greta Thunberg has captivated many but is by far from the only person worth the world’s attention. Whether you task yourself with learning one new person a week, or deep dive into reading about a specific cause or person, we have to move beyond who is viral online for motivation for political action.
- Understand that climate change does not affect all people equally, and that climate change has different consequences for different people and communities, depending on your social location.
When we are thinking of climate change, we must think about the reality that we are not all impacted in the same way by the climate. For example, those with precarious housing are going to be more severely impacted by the severe weather changes. We have to think about these interconnected elements when talking about climate change and reflect upon whose stories we are prioritizing both in our community events as well as our one-on-one conversations.
- Support Indigenous peoples, communities, and struggles.
Globally, Indigenous people and communities have not only been dis-proportionally impacted by climate change, but have been the leaders in the political activism directly combating the destruction of the Earth. In is through meaningful support and solidarity with Indigenous communities in Niagara and across Canada, and the world that we can be best informed in how to challenge climate change. The Nurturing Our Roots Traditional Pow Wow in Montebello Park on October 5 is one medium of showing up and supporting the work of local Indigenous communities. Other groups, such as the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition and the One Dish, One Mic Podcast are other examples of local groups calling political solidarity with Indigenous communities.
- Support migrant workers, communities, and struggles.
Less than two months since the Pioneer Flower Farm Fire and the death of Zenaida, a Mexican migrant worker and mother killed in a hit-and-run in August it is explicitly clear that the migrant justice organizing happening in Niagara the region is leading the way in terms of political change and support for communities most impacted. By supporting the work of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change Niagara chapter, you are politically committing to the necessary ongoing political engagement for those increasingly impacted by climate change in our region and across the world.
- Reflect and understand where your food comes from, and where possible get your food from local farmers, markets, makers, and businesses.
In an area as resource rich as Niagara, there are many local farmers producing locally grown food, across all food groups. While not accessible for everyone, where you possible getting your food from the sources you know through, using strategies like CSA boxes (Community Supported Agriculture) from local farmers like Rhizome Farms or supporting organizations like Small Scale Farms and Shared Harvest (Dunnville) working to develop local food alternatives tangibly compliment reflecting on how we are sourcing our food.
- Question when products and companies are actually “green”.
In an era where political awareness is increasing, companies are often using buzzwords like “eco friendly” as a form of green-washing, a practice that targets people passionate about the environment to make more money, rather than protecting the Earth or supporting activism. In this form of self-education, look into local businesses and local artisans who not only are focused on reducing packaging, but are fostering upcycling and do-it-yourself (DIY) culture as ways of pulling away from those using calls for activism as profit. In addition to all the independent vendor markets happening regularly, through OPIRG Brock, St. Catharines also hosts a Free Store as one approach to creating an alternative of consumption that aims to cause minimal additional negative impact to the world around us.
- Learn about how government leaders federal, provincial, municipal, and local leaders are actively supporting the destruction of the Earth.
In the last year alone in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invaded the Wet’suwet’en nation in order to support the creation of a destructive fossil fuel pipeline. In the Grassy Narrows First Nation, north of Thunder Bay, despite continual dumping of mercury poisoning the resources and communities, Ontario has done very little to meet calls for support related to healing and care. In Niagara, for years, community activists have been fighting the destruction of the Thundering Waters Forest from developments backed by many Niagara Falls and regional politicians. In reflecting on who to support at all levels of government, it is integral that leadership be held accountable to ways in which they too are some of the most active in harming the environment.
- Understand that not all lifestyle changes are as easily accessible to everyone.
While minimizing plastic products like water bottles and straws have garnered a lot of attention as causing significant change, this is not always going to work for everyone’s physical needs or social locations. Systemic change is moving beyond judging people for their individual needs and choices like straws and disposable water bottles to focusing on big companies and governments investing in the fundamental elements causing environmental destruction.
- Create opportunities for multi-generational discussions and organizing related to climate change.
With young people in the forefront of popularized climate justice activism, it is essential that we use this energy to create learning opportunities for all generations to engage in political reflection and action. Severe climate destruction is caused and challenged by people of all ages, and is far from one generations’ responsibility. This strategy can be as easy as making sure we talk about climate change and needed activism at family dinners. Too often the mentality of “no politics at the dinner table” keep generations away from one another in having these discussions. While this approach can be difficult and stressful, it allows for us to bring political responsibility of everyone to the forefront.
- Get involved with local community lead organizing.
The St. Catharines based Climate Strike was organized with environmental based groups including Fridays For Future Niagara and Extinction Rebellion Niagara, as well as many supporters and activists from organizers in the community, including the Green New Deal, OPIRG Brock. To get involved with any of these organizations, please email Kaho Nishibu at Fridays For Future Niagara (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kostyn Petrunick at Extinction Rebellion Niagara (email@example.com).