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Talking Radical Radio

Areej Riaz is one of the key orga­niz­ers behind Our Cli­mate, Our Sto­ries, a new book that col­lects essays, sto­ries, and poems relat­ed to the cli­mate cri­sis writ­ten by Black, Indige­nous, and racial­ized youth from across Cana­da. Faith Edem and LJ Praba­ha­ran are both con­trib­u­tors to the vol­ume. Scott Neigh inter­views them about the cli­mate cri­sis, about the impor­tance of cre­at­ing spaces for BIPOC youth voic­es in this con­text, and about the book.

At the moment, it is hard to feel opti­mistic when it comes to the cli­mate cri­sis. The assess­ments of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Pan­el on Cli­mate Change are increas­ing­ly grim. From faster-than-expect­ed loss of ice in the arc­tic to the heat waves, droughts, and wild­fires plagu­ing North Amer­i­ca, the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of the cri­sis are increas­ing­ly pal­pa­ble. And gov­ern­ment respons­es range from out­right denial to talk­ing a good game while still doing things like buy­ing and build­ing a tar sands pipeline, exten­sive­ly sub­si­diz­ing fos­sil fuel indus­tries, and con­sis­tent­ly vio­lat­ing Indige­nous sov­er­eign­ty. In the face of all of this, it is no won­der that many peo­ple are drawn towards action that is direct, overt­ly polit­i­cal, and confrontational.

As impor­tant as that kind of action is, how­ev­er, it is far from the only kind of work that needs to be done. In the face of the enor­mi­ty of the harm that has already begun and that will only get worse, var­i­ous kinds of rela­tion­al work are essen­tial, to strength­en our com­mu­ni­ties. Giv­en the over­whelm­ing grief that so many of us feel in the face of it all, we need to find col­lec­tive ways to deal with those feel­ings. And in the con­text of the broad­er forms of jus­tice work that are nec­es­sary to make any pos­si­ble response to the cli­mate cri­sis ade­quate to the prob­lem, we need to put ener­gy into sup­port­ing voic­es that have been exclud­ed and mar­gin­al­ized – par­tic­u­lar­ly in the con­text of many gov­ern­ment, insti­tu­tion­al, and move­ment spaces work­ing on cli­mate – so that they might exert more influ­ence in shap­ing pub­lic dis­course, pol­i­cy, and politics.

Our Cli­mate, Our Sto­ries aims to do just that. Along with cen­ter­ing the nar­ra­tives of Black, Indige­nous, and racial­ized youth, the book includes illus­tra­tions from a group called Cli­mate Illus­trat­ed, and mes­sages from big names like Nature Cana­da, the David Suzu­ki Foun­da­tion, Cli­mate Strike Cana­da, and more. The book is a space in which youth whose com­mu­ni­ties face dis­pro­por­tion­ate impacts from the cli­mate cri­sis can share their expe­ri­ences, their feel­ings, and their nar­ra­tives, which are often mar­gin­al­ized even with­in youth-led cli­mate activism, let alone in broad­er con­ver­sa­tions about the crisis.

The book is a project of the Peo­ple Plan­et Pages Book Club, which brings peo­ple togeth­er to read and dis­cuss mate­r­i­al relat­ed to envi­ron­men­tal and social sus­tain­abil­i­ty. The book club is a part­ner­ship involv­ing three orga­ni­za­tions. Envi­ro­Mus­lims is a com­mu­ni­ty group work­ing with­in the Cana­di­an Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty around ques­tions of envi­ron­ment and sus­tain­abil­i­ty. The Books-Art-Music (or BAM) Col­lec­tive is a youth-led col­lec­tive based in both Ontario and New York that empow­ers equi­ty-seek­ing youth through art and com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment. And the Com­mu­ni­ty Cli­mate Coun­cil is a youth-found­ed not-for-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion in Ontario’s Peel Region engaged in advo­ca­cy and edu­ca­tion work relat­ed to the climate.

Riaz is a cli­mate change con­sul­tant who is involved in all three of the part­ner­ing orga­ni­za­tions. Edem is a pol­i­cy ana­lyst with Envi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Cana­da. And Praba­ha­ran is active with the Com­mu­ni­ty Cli­mate Coun­cil and works for a con­ser­va­tion authority.

Praba­ha­ran argued that projects such as this are cru­cial because it’s just impor­tant to have a var­ied set of voic­es, espe­cial­ly when we’re fac­ing such an over­whelm­ing prob­lem.” He encour­aged racial­ized youth to be more involved” and make your voic­es heard” when it comes to the cli­mate crisis.

Edem is par­tic­u­lar­ly keen to see more mar­gin­al­ized voic­es giv­en space in polit­i­cal and pol­i­cy process­es relat­ed to cli­mate change. She said, At the end of the day, for me, it’s impor­tant that we have every­one at the table. And it’s impor­tant to real­ize we don’t actu­al­ly pro­vide invi­ta­tions to every­one to be at the table. So we have to do extra work and addi­tion­al action to ensure everyone’s at the table.”

She con­tin­ued that if cre­at­ing that inclu­sion means pro­vid­ing more spaces for Black, Indige­nous, and peo­ple of colour youth Cana­di­ans, then that’s what we have to do – and until every­one is includ­ed in our tran­si­tion to a more sus­tain­able future.”

The Peo­ple Plan­et Pages Book Club will be using the book in the com­ing months as part of cli­mate-focused con­ver­sa­tions with Black, Indige­nous, and racial­ized youth audi­ences. And the part­ner­ing orga­ni­za­tions intend to con­tin­ue doing sim­i­lar work in the future.