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Emi­ly Eaton and Bron­wen Tuck­er are two of the six co-authors of The End of This World: Cli­mate Jus­tice in So-Called Cana­da (Between the Lines, 2023), which out­lines a frame­work for work­ing towards not only a just tran­si­tion away from fos­sil fuels but an explic­it­ly decolo­nial just tran­si­tion. Scott Neigh inter­views them about the inter­twined char­ac­ter of the cli­mate cri­sis and col­o­niza­tion, about the book, and about the strug­gle for a decolo­nial just transition.

You’ve prob­a­bly heard the argu­ment before – rather than focus­ing on a nar­row vision of decar­boniza­tion, the cli­mate move­ment must rec­og­nize the roots of the cli­mate cri­sis in col­o­niza­tion, cap­i­tal­ism, white suprema­cy, patri­archy, and so on, and must there­fore under­stand its strug­gle expan­sive­ly as an effort to chal­lenge and trans­form all of those things. As Eaton put it, we face over­lap­ping crises, includ­ing envi­ron­men­tal crises. But also this long­stand­ing cri­sis, ever since col­o­niza­tion, of the denial of Indige­nous sov­er­eign­ty and rights, and real­ly theft of land and Indige­nous life” com­bined with deep­en­ing inequal­i­ties” along many dif­fer­ent axes. We are see­ing all of these com­pound­ed, and the solu­tions that are being pro­posed by many of the peo­ple with posi­tions of pow­er, we don’t think are adequate.”

Eaton con­tin­ued, If we con­cen­trate on just decar­boniz­ing soci­ety … with­out focus­ing on the oth­er issues that are at stake, what we’re real­ly going to end up with is a soci­ety that has greened theft. We know that so-called Cana­da is based on the theft of Indige­nous lands and life and we see a just tran­si­tion as a poten­tial entry point into reex­am­in­ing and remak­ing those rela­tion­ships that allow us to live in a good way on these lands.”

There are still plen­ty of peo­ple in envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions and the cli­mate move­ment who just flat-out reject an expan­sive, inter­sec­tion­al vision of cli­mate jus­tice, but there are also plen­ty, per­haps more, who rec­og­nize that there is some­thing to it. The chal­lenge, though, is mov­ing from the lev­el of accept­ing at the lev­el of inten­tion and rhetoric the need for such a just tran­si­tion and for the broad move­ment of move­ments it will take to get there, to actu­al­ly fig­ur­ing out what we need to be doing, col­lec­tive­ly, to make it happen.

The End of This World thinks through these issues in ground­ed, prac­ti­cal ways. It lays out both the case for and a ten­ta­tive frame­work to begin work­ing towards an explic­it­ly decolo­nial just tran­si­tion. The team of authors – the oth­er four are Angele Alook, David Gray-Don­ald, Joël Lafor­est, and Crys­tal Lame­man – was brought togeth­er with an eye to assem­bling the nec­es­sary skills and expe­ri­ences to do that. The six col­lec­tive­ly bring togeth­er many years of expe­ri­ence in Indige­nous activism, the labour move­ment, youth and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty-based cli­mate orga­niz­ing, inter­na­tion­al cli­mate work, var­i­ous oth­er social jus­tice move­ments, rad­i­cal schol­ar­ship, and grass­roots jour­nal­ism. Tuck­er has been involved in a range of cli­mate orga­niz­ing in Mon­tréal and Edmon­ton, and her cur­rent day job is relat­ed to the inter­na­tion­al side of cli­mate jus­tice work. Eaton is a pro­fes­sor in geog­ra­phy and envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na, and her aca­d­e­m­ic and activist work has touched on a range of social jus­tice strug­gles, includ­ing cli­mate and Indige­nous solidarity.

The process of writ­ing was a col­lec­tive one. Eaton said, We decid­ed, in order to do this well, that we had to be co-authors, not just sort of co-edi­tors where each per­son would write one chap­ter and each chap­ter would have a par­tic­u­lar per­spec­tive, but that we need­ed to real­ly inte­grate all of these themes in each chap­ter. So that was both a very reward­ing process and also time con­sum­ing. Like, we met for years on end in meet­ings, flesh­ing through the ideas and the prin­ci­ples and every­thing that would be at the cen­tre of each chap­ter, and real­ly sup­port­ing one anoth­er, I think, in the writ­ing and the revis­ing. And in the craft of it.”

Tuck­er explained, Win­ning a kind of cli­mate jus­tice future means work­ing real­ly deeply across move­ments and issues, and not hav­ing things in silos. And so I do think the col­lec­tive nature of how we wrote it and our dif­fer­ent kinds of back­grounds is real­ly a nice mir­ror of that future that we want to see.”

The book’s title is meant to accom­plish a few dif­fer­ent things. In part, the authors hope that it con­veys the mag­ni­tude of what we face – that we need real­ly dra­mat­ic and bold change and not just tin­ker­ing,” Tuck­er said. It is also pok­ing a bit of fun” at the cul­ture of nihilism” that has risen dur­ing pan­dem­ic and that has been weaponized in a way to try to make peo­ple dis­en­gage,” with the hope that they can play on that a lit­tle bit and maybe encour­age some more folks to engage or re-engage.” And final­ly, it is a recog­ni­tion of the impact of cen­turies of colo­nial­ism, slav­ery, and geno­cide on many peo­ples around the world, includ­ing many Indige­nous peo­ples, and that for lots of com­mu­ni­ties, this is not the first apocalypse.”

The book begins by stark­ly lay­ing out the crises we face, par­tic­u­lar­ly the cli­mate cri­sis and col­o­niza­tion and how they are bound togeth­er, and also the cur­rent trou­bling ori­en­ta­tion of the Cana­di­an state in that con­text. Then it explores the kinds of things that we need to be work­ing towards as part of a decolo­nial just tran­si­tion. And the final chap­ters are about what we need to be doing to make it happen.

The book’s decolo­nial empha­sis is both thor­ough­go­ing and prac­ti­cal. It began, Eaton said, from Indige­nous under­stand­ings of the treaties. Then, the authors asked, What would Cana­da look like if we took those orig­i­nal frame­works that allow for set­tler exis­tence in these lands as frame­works for think­ing about how to live well togeth­er?” And it applies those frame­works through­out. That includes to ques­tions where the rel­e­vance is obvi­ous, like the impor­tance of sup­port­ing Indige­nous-led land defence strug­gles and Land­Back. But it also includes apply­ing it in lots of oth­er key areas that most set­tler writ­ers and set­tler-major­i­ty move­ments com­plete­ly detach from any con­sid­er­a­tions of col­o­niza­tion and decol­o­niza­tion – things like how green infra­struc­ture pro­grams should work, what we should be doing to defend and expand pub­lic health care, the impor­tance of work­ers’ strug­gles, and lots of oth­er things.

Tuck­er said, “‘We can’t have cli­mate jus­tice with­out Indige­nous rights’ is maybe a bit of a slo­gan that’s, I think, pret­ty well under­stood or used at this point. But I think some of those more con­crete, like, how we actu­al­ly enact that is less understood.”

As well, the book has a staunch move­ment-build­ing ori­en­ta­tion. The final two chap­ters in par­tic­u­lar take that up, using an approach that will like­ly be acces­si­ble for peo­ple who have not real­ly thought about move­ments before but that still gets past plat­i­tudes and into the prac­ti­cal, sub­stan­tive ques­tions of doing grass­roots polit­i­cal work.

In the face of the cli­mate cri­sis and the ongo­ing cri­sis of col­o­niza­tion, Tuck­er said, One thing that real­ly gives me hope is … a mind­set shift that has been real­ly help­ful for me, of read­ing and under­stand­ing a bit more about social move­ment his­to­ry. And know­ing that even though our chal­lenges are maybe dif­fer­ent today than what they have been in the past, that there’s this lega­cy of com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple band­ing togeth­er against pret­ty harsh odds and often win­ning real­ly cool things out of that. And, you know, still per­sist­ing today, even if we didn’t win all of those things.”

As well, she also derives hope from the fact that a lot of the solu­tions we talk about [in the book] are real­ly polit­i­cal­ly pop­u­lar. Tax­ing the wealthy and cor­po­ra­tions is real­ly pop­u­lar. Defund­ing the police actu­al­ly polls pret­ty well. 72% of peo­ple sup­port accel­er­at­ed action to imple­ment the calls of the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion. And we even saw pret­ty pop­u­lar sup­port for, like, Wet’suwet’en block­ades in Feb­ru­ary 2020.” She con­tin­ued, We cer­tain­ly don’t have the move­ment infra­struc­ture to win those quite yet, but almost every­one stands to ben­e­fit from a just tran­si­tion and a decolo­nial future. And so there’s that gap of a lot of the work to get there, but … the odds, in a lot of ways, do still feel on our side.”

For Eaton, work­ing on The End of This World was itself a source of hope. Many of the ideas it con­tains are things she has thought and writ­ten about for years, but hav­ing that vision laid out in one place and think­ing about what kind of pow­er we need to build, what kind of [social move­ment] infra­struc­ture we need to build, what kind of offen­sives we need to take in order to bring this into being, was a real­ly hope­ful process. And we’re hope­ful that our read­ers also enjoy being part of that and also be able to reflect for them­selves on how they might fit in, and also what they might change or refine in the vision, or how to do it local­ly, what’s appro­pri­ate to their com­mu­ni­ties. All of that, I think, can be a real­ly empow­er­ing and hope­ful process.”

Tuck­er said that among oth­er things, with the book they are hop­ing to get to peo­ple who maybe are already involved in some social move­ment work or are have been maybe think­ing about it, and hope­ful­ly giv­ing peo­ple some tools or like a start­ing point to adapt from, for maybe how to get involved themselves.”

We tried to write a book, I think, that would allow many dif­fer­ent move­ments and many dif­fer­ent strug­gles to see them­selves in the book,” Eaton said. So, for instance, there are lots of peo­ple very con­cerned at the moment with defend­ing pub­lic ser­vices of var­i­ous kinds. So the book tries to ask things like, How can we do that in a way that also then merges with these issues around Indige­nous sov­er­eign­ty and rights? Or that also pro­motes decar­boniza­tion, but in a way that is fair and just? And so sort of artic­u­lat­ing or bring­ing togeth­er a bunch of issues that we know are pop­u­lar, that move­ments have a long his­to­ry of strug­gling for, and hop­ing to see that we can sort of hold each oth­er up in this work and cre­ate this project together.”