I teach Queer Theory and Sexuality Studies courses at WWU. I am currently reworking my syllabus to give primacy to climate change issues with action being a central focus to course assignments. As I began networking to find resources for the Queer Theory and Sexuality Studies course a number of folks questioned the connection.
I was seeking sources on the connection between exploitation of land and the exploitation and regulation of bodies and sources that celebrate the strengths of queer, particularly queer Indigenous people and people of color, as key to fighting and surviving climate change. I have found these elements in the documentary Fire and Flood: Queer Resilience in the Era of Climate Change developed by the Queer Ecojustice Project.
The Queer Ecojustice Project has recently been featured in an article with Yes! magazine, “To Survive Climate Catastrophe, Look to Queer and Disabled Folks.” All too often climate change and this particular intersection of social locations is framed solely in terms of “risk” factor and my survival feels increasingly tenuous. As a queer and disabled person, I was moved to tears by this first mention I’ve seen that lifts up the communities that have sustained me as part of how I will continue to be sustained and how I will help to sustain others.
Whether or not you personally are queer, their approach has some powerful implications that will help the work for a livable future. They are truth tellers who name the very real dangers we are in but they do not stop there. They are doing the community building necessary to have local food, medicine, and energy sources that will help ensure that vulnerable populations will cease to be left behind. They centre the land, they centre decolonizing, and they are bringing people together. This has been one of the most hope inducing projects I have encountered.
Here are two clear ways you can get involved:
You can contact them about organizing or joining a “node” group in the area.
You can make a donation, however small or large, to support the documentary and project.
I recently made a donation and was delighted to find that they give gifts of a beautiful and powerful ‘zine (to be added to my course reading list) and posters with truly revolutionary artwork. So think of it as donating or think of it as purchasing great work, this is a project worth supporting!
PS If you are in Bellingham, WA on the rightful land of Lummi and Nooksack nation, let’s build a “node” together!
Mauna Kea is 14,000 mountain peak of an active volcano and sacred site of Indigenous Hawai’ians. There are plans to build a 30 meter telescope on the land, endangering the fragile eco-systems and further occupying culturally significant Hawai’ian sites without the consent of Indigenous nations. Indigenous communities are protesting the implementation of the telescope around the clock and larger communities need to join!
The Association for Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA)
is pushing for the telescope and a number of Canadian universities are complicit in what amounts to an invasive colonial project. An excellent activist friend of mine, Danielle Gauld wrote this letter and I am sharing it here to encourage folks to copy and send it to the university presidents whose emails I’ve provided below. Two universities that I’ve attended are on this list (UBC and York) so I am writing to those (as she did with UVic) as a concerned alumni. I particularly urge folks to write to universities they have attended but, of course, we can express concern and solidarity with Hawai’ians whether or not we have attended that or any other university. I’ve sent the letter to all 20 on the list. As always, if you’d like to use it as a template and make your own adaptations, feel free.
Dear [University] President,
I am writing to you as to express my concern about [university’s] role in the Association for Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA). As you likely know, ACURA is pushing for the development of a large telescope on a sacred site at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, despite active protest by the Indigenous peoples of that land and their supporters. [Alternate: As an alumni, I am deeply saddened that this support is taking place at a university that claims to be invested in equity and sustainability.]
Watching Indigenous elders being arrested and violence escalate in this standoff between land protectors and the police has been extremely disturbing and a stark reminder of similar things that have and continue to happen here in Canada. I urge you to ask ACURA to divest from this project immediately.
I look forward to hearing your response to this very important issue.
Complicit universities, their presidents, and contact emails are:
Athabasca University: Dr. Neil Fascinna (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This week I took a tour of the amazing Inspiration Farm in Bellingham (traditional and rightful Lummi and Nooksack territory). In two hours, the tour challenged how I think about possibilities of growing food and reversing climate change. The farmers have such nuanced use of permaculture principles that they are able to grow thriving food forests and annual vegetables without watering (how is this even possible?). They have studied ways to plow the earth that turns flood areas into food fields with moisture running deep, making an area less vulnerable to weather extremes. The family farm, run by Brian Kerkvliet and Alexandra King, has found ways to build up top soil!
Conventional agriculture is one of the great dangers to our climate. We are losing top soil at an alarming rate of 24 bn tonnes a year with 24% of the world’s productive soil already having been degraded. This threatens our food systems but also reduces the living eco systems of the soil that store carbon and helps to regulate the climate. While conventional practices claim that it takes 500 years to build an each of top soil, the Inspiration Farmers have been building multiple inches within three year periods. They use humanely and sparingly but as helpers in building top soil. This has concrete, hopeful possibilities for fighting climate change.
Inspiration Farm uses Principles of Permaculture (summary below) as part of their commitment to Regenerative Agriculture (RA). RA seeks to support soil, water, animal, and human systems through radically changing current agricultural practices to be grounded by respect and support for all. Increasingly, the techniques are proving to have the power to reverse climate change.
As university faculty, I am committed to helping empower students to address climate change. This fall I am teaching a course, “Food Security and Land Justice: Food Sovereignty in Changing Cultures and Climates.” Consistent with most subjects in my teaching area, I have much to teach and even more that can expand my own learning. As part of the course, we will tour Inspiration Farm and witness possibilities to engage in the food system in ways that will not only cease harm but have possibilities to accomplish great healing. Together, we will seek solutions and work to build both soil and social justice.
Principles of Permaculture:
1. It’s the connections between things that matter.
2. Each element performs multiple functions (at least three).
3. Each function is supported by many elements, many energy paths, job redundancy, and each is fail-safe.
4. Energy-efficient planning — Concentrate beneficial and scatter hostile energies.
5. Use biological resources to save energy, produce needed materials and perform work. The key is timed management.
6. Energy cycling and recycling. Catch, store, use and cycle energy before it degrades.
7. Appropriate technology — Make the choice of tools work for you. Design things that are life-enhancing, low-cost, durable, producing net energy, safe in production, use and disposal.
8. Design small-scale, intensive systems.
9. Stack and pack your system.
10. Create diversity and edge within the system. Increase the sum of the yield of a system and spread the yield over time.
11. Observe and replicate natural patterns.
12. Ethics and attitude matter.
13. Turn problems into solutions: everything is a positive resource.
14. Make the greatest change for the least effort: work where it counts.
15. We are only limited by a lack of information and imagination.
16. Work with, not against nature.
17. Everything gardens: everything has an effect on its environment.
18. Care for the earth, care for people and care for the community.
19. Distribute the surplus, limit consumption and population.
20. Every living thing has intrinsic worth.
Sometimes I see my overarching goals to “end the oil industry” (oh, I want to!) or to “overthrow capitalism” (a worthy goal if ever there was one) and am ready to defeatedly throw the towel in. Instead, I am choosing to do what I am able to do and am choosing to hope that others will do the same (but seriously, if you’ve got the key to overthrowing capitalism and bringing down big oil, hit me up).
Last week I posted by personal climate resistance check list with 10 items that I strive to contribute to every week. As the 7 day mark came to a close, I was pleased to review and find that I have been active in each of the arenas within my goal. I hope that if you are reading over this list, it can act as a springboard for your own climate justice work.
1. Go to and Facilitate Meetings: Friday I attending the Paddle to Lummi volunteer orientation meeting and was blown away by the level and scale of organization of the event. Incredible things are happening here! Please come visit, if you are local.
2. Get into Gardens: This week I taught two more people about organic aphid control,
paintbrush pollination, and some basics of companion planting. The efforts last week felt small but the aphids are way down and the squash that was rotting on the vine is now growing fast and furious, making food for the free produce Share Spot and fighting the Birchwood Food Desert. I am so grateful for the garden team for joining me in diligently working to help these plants thrive.
3. Make Donations: I received a $75.00 gift certificate for food from the Bellingham Community Food Coop and selected groceries from the Unist’ot’en Camp Needs List. I overspent by about $100.00 as a my own contribution so that I could add some excellent wild rice, chocolate chips, and other important items. My kids were a great help and it was wonderful to see their growing excitement over doing food and climate justice work.
4. Agitate Politicians: I researched, wrote, sent, and circulated a letter to the politicians in Canada’s Trudeau government to protest that Attawapiskat nation lacks clean water in their homes while the Canadian government makes a profit from draining the water sources on Attawapiskat land in partnership with Nestle without the Attawapiskat nation’s consent.
5. Ban Bee Killing Pesticides: I have set aside Tuesday, July 30 at 12:00pm to start a petition to ban Neoticotinoids and Glyphosites in Whatcom County. Feel free to join the Whatcom Bee Protectors if you would like to work together. I’ve got the following on action list for this time but welcome other contributions:
Contact organizations who successfully got Neoticotinoids and Glyphosites banned in their counties and see what resources they can share.
Draft a physical and online petition.
6. Support Indigenous Events: After the volunteer orientation, I signed up for shifts this Thursday and Saturday evenings to make food and support this culture and life sustaining event.
7. The Unist’ot’en Food Drive: I was able to find someone who could store the first round of food donations and will take them up to the camp. The Coop has now approved my request to set up a table with information, the Needs List, and some bins so that folks who are shopping can pick up items for the food drive and donate them as they are able.
8. Create Networks:
Last week I met with an intern with the WWU Office of Sustainability who is planning a food security week. He is interested in hosting a speaker from Birchwood Food Desert Fighters as part of the week long event and then bringing a group out to the garden for a work party. The BFDF are looking at the possibility of bringing in a speaker from a local, urban farm to do an orcharding workshop so that students coming to the work party gain skills in planting and maintaining fruit trees and building urban food forests.
I have been working to build connections with other local farms and one now has Birchwood Food Desert Fighters on their donations list. Part of my work to strengthen local food networks has been to connect BFDF volunteers with the farmer for weekly pick up for the Share spot.
9. Get to Know Plants and Trees:
One of my kids took a tumble on her scooter and skinned her shoulder and elbow. I was so proud of our other kid for running to get her comfrey and calendula to help heal the wounds. Seeing him outside carefully looking at and harvesting helper plants was still such a lovely change from his previous antagonistic relationship with nature. He has been exclaiming about how quickly her scrapes are healing and how amazing comfrey is. These moments are growing in frequency and sweetness.
At another point this week, I took them to a local park with a water fall. I never know when they are listening to me and when they aren’t, but when they were playing on their own, I heard them singing the chant “The earth is our mother, we will take care of her” and “the earth is our mother she will take care of us.” Apparently the supporting and supportive relationship with our natural world is coming through on some levels.
10. Utilize the power of Words While the blog project is a 30 day project, I’ve got to emphasize these two things: I am not able to write every day for 30 days in a row and I will by no means stop this work after 30 days. With chronic illnesses some days I manage to do some work for climate justice but can’t also write about it. I have an ongoing process of making peace with the rhythms of chronic illness and to not hold myself to a standard set by my former and far more abled capacity. This week I only managed to post 3 entries but a 30 day series over 40 or even 50 days is still a worthwhile venture!
These are, for the most part, projects that I have been involved with for some time. They didn’t start and won’t end with the series. In case it doesn’t go without saying, I am not proposing that folks work for climate justice for 30 days and then stop! I am proposing that we set some doable tasks that support our home planet and do them while sharing and celebrating this work rather than judging each other for having limitations. This project is a way I contribute to this goal.
Thank you for reading with me. Thank you for working to build communities in support of climate justice. So grateful for the work we share!
It is hard to be in a cultural moment where change is desperately needed and in so many places the government is taking us to worse places. So many of us want so badly to turn the tides of climate change and protect our eco-systems from collapse. I have a number of projects on the go and sometimes find it challenging to keep working without letting anxiety or cynicism take over. For example:
It is hard to keep working to ban bee killing chemicals when we here that the US administration has just approved using more.
It is hard to keep pushing against pipelines when the Canadian government approves them and refuses to meet with Indigenous nations.
It is hard because many of our bodies are already impacted by climate change in a way that reduces our capacities for resistance. Living in environments saturated in chemicals has given me MCS (Also known as environmental illness or injury), allergic asthma, chronic pain and fatigue make it harder for me to organize for changed due to reduced mobility and number of hours I can be active in a day.
It is hard because being discouraged is not easy and it can feel like the task at hand is too enormous and our efforts are fruitless.
You may feel this too and it may make you want to give up because the problems are so much bigger than any one of us. I get it, but I have also been trying to shift my thinking and offer this as an approach.
I get a lot of my power to “keep on keeping on” through music. The activist musician Nahko Bear has a powerful video for the Standing Rock protests titled “Love Letters to God” (it’s seriously amazing and so worth watching through the link provided). In it he sings, “we will not go gently into the darkest of days.” This one quote has circled my head for months and acting as a catalyst for me to change my approach to climate action. I will not comply with the system. I will not go “gently” along with destructive practices. This has helped me to reroute some discouraging thought patterns. E.G.:
“Dropping off a box of food to Unist’ot’en Camp won’t stop the pipeline” became “I will not go gently. I will use the energy I have today to solicit donations for those on the front lines.”
“Carbon use won’t be cut down enough by my switch to an electric car” became “I will not go gently. I will use the credit I have to drop out of participation in the oil industry.”
(PS electric cars aren’t all 35,000 anymore. Ours was 8,000 and is wonderful!)
“The corporations have more money than I do so I can’t compete” became “I won’t go gently. I will give whatever I can to support Indigenous court resistance.”
“The government is approving worse bee killing chemicals there is no point in organizing” became “I will not go gently, I will work to protect the eco systems that surround and sustain me where I live.
In short, it got me away from asking whether or not my actions would be enough and focused instead on whether or not I was doing what was within my power.
I am worried about the jokes I see online about how doomed we all are and how it is already too late, jokes that talk about what things “will” be like “when” climate collapse happens.
No! I will not go gently and accept climate collapse as inevitable. We have 10 years for turn around. I will use every once I energy and resources I can gather to resist and to build a stronger movement, not because I am guaranteed success but because my committment to life on this planet requires me to not “go gently into the darkest of days.”
We are writing to add our voices to the many who are urging you to take fast action regarding the lack of fresh water with the Six Nations, particularly Attawapiskat. There are multiple ways the crisis Attawapiskat is enduring is of timely concern that requires fast action. These ways pertain to: treaty rights and reconciliation, the declaration of a climate emergency, and not further marginalizing Attawapiskat through the plastic ban.
1. Attawapiskat nation is not allowed to access the clean water that is rightfully theirs as it is being stolen by Canada without their consent. According to the Neffan Treaty the Erin Well belongs to Attawapiskat. However, Canada continues to allow Nestle to extract millions of liters everyday without compensation to Attawpiskat despite 91% of homes on reserves not having fresh water. Those who cannot carry 40lb jugs often have to go without (yes, this is a disability rights and elder issue, too). The nation has not consented to this. This government has stated that it is concerned with reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous nations. There cannot be reconciliation when Canada still does not honor treaty rights and leave communities without the most basic of life necessities, water. We demand that you cancel the arrangement with Nestle and restore rightful stewardship of this water to Attawapiskat–without this claims of reconciliation are hypocritical.
2. Canada has recently declared a Climate State of Emergency. This acknowledges that we must do things differently if we are to preserve life on earth as we know it. Part of acting on this declaration includes divesting from corporate interest that values profit over the preservation of the land and its ecosystems. Indigenous nations do the vast majority of work to protect the planet. Divesting Nestle from the Erin Well is consistent with the declaration of climate emergency. Returned to its rightful protectors, Attawapiskat nation will care for this water as a valued and integral part of the community rather than exploiting it to depletion. We know that in order to avoid climate catastrophe, 50% of the earth must be left in a natural state. This necessity mandates the repatriation of Indigenous lands and resources. We demand the repatriation of water stewardship to Attawapiskat nation– without this repatriation the claim to be responsive to the climate emergency remain hollow.
3. Canada intends to ban single-use plastic by 2021. This move has been criticized as being a PR campaign rather than a meaningful gesture, but that doesn’t have to be true. The ban can be reflective of substantive change and commitment to further equity. Nestle packages the water it extracts in single use plastic. To ban single use plastic “at home” but allow water to be shipped away for this purpose aligns with accusations of hypocrisy. Moreover, Indigenous nations who are not allowed to use their own clean water are dependent on plastic bottled water for survival. To ban bottled water without addressing how Canada creates certain dependencies on it is a hollow gesture that will further marginalize communities that are already facing the bulk of Canada’s systemic barriers. We demand that Attawapiskat be able to access and control their own water at Erin Well– without this access the plastic ban is a band-aid gesture.
We demand that you restore the Erin Well stewardship rights to the Attapiskat nation. This is the only just course of action if environmental and human rights abuses are to cease on Attawapiskat nation’s land. Show us that your promises are not empty. Work with those who are rising to the need to change our global priorities to preserve life on earth.
Thank you for taking the time to read this message and to commit to the re-evaluation of the current modes of operation that have lead this plant to a state of crisis.
The systems of power that are destructive to this planet are powerful but these are not times when we can underestimate our own power. We are not powerless. I am a parent of high need children, I work full time, and live with multiple complex chronic illnesses. I am busy and burned and lack super powers, but this week I have taken daily actions for climate protection in a number of small but persistent ways.
This is my invitation to you, lovely human, to make your own climate change resistance check list and take small and diligent actions to sustain us. You may choose to use my checklist either whole or in part. Your list may be vastly different from mine. That’s wonderful! These are by no means comprehensive and are offered, not as an ideal, but simply as what I am able to do. What are you able to do? I encourage you to do that thing without judging your actions as inadequate.
Climate Change Resistance Checklist:
1. Go to and facilitate meetings: This sounds simple but facilitation is a skill I have and I can often go to meetings when I can’t take to the streets. This week I facilitated a meeting with the Birchwood Food Desert Fighters to plan how we can find more places to plant fruit trees as part of food security initiatives and strategize ways to increase neighborhood involvement in community food systems. Is there a meeting you could go to this week that would support an organization working for climate justice?
2. Get into gardens: To protect our eco-systems, we need to change our food systems. We need local, organic, community driven food networks that move away from large scale mono-crops, fuel use, soil erosion, and the destruction of pollinators (to name just a few issues). This week I supported my own and the BFDF community gardens including making natural solutions (1 tbs castille soap, 1 tbs vegetable oil, 1 cup of water) to pour over plants that have aphid issues. I worked to recruit and mentor new volunteers (just one this week, but that’s something!). Is there one thing you could do this week to support a local organic gardening practice and community food system?
3. Make Donations: I am low on funds but can spare $10 here and there to add to Indigenous run climate protection organizations. This week I donated to Wet’suwet’en Access and the Unist’ot’en Legal fund. Is there an Indigenous organization you could donate to this week to support climate justice?
4. Agitate politicians: We need to put public pressure on politicians. I have been focusing on pressuring the Canadian government about ceasing pipeline expansions. This week I did not write a new letter but have continued to share this letter and contact information as a reply whenever news of Canada’s poor climate actions come through my social media. I do this, in part, to counter the despair that can coincide with seeing disheartening news and the disempowering impact it can have in an era when we all need everyone claiming their full power to protect our home. What is a letter you could write or circulate to agitate politicians to take action for climate justice?
5. Ban Bee Killing Pesticides: Neonicotinoids and glyphosites are causing bee colony collapse and weakening bee and human health. We cannot survive without bees This week I wrote a post about beginning a movement to have them banned in the county where I live. What actions can you take to protect pollinators where you live?
6. Support Indigenous Events: For non-indigenous folks this is as simple as just knowing what nation’s land is being occupied where you live and supporting their events and initiatives. This year the Coast Salish Canoe Journey is culminating on Lummi Nation (the rightful stewards and nation of the land I live on, colonially Bellingham Washington). This week I submitted a volunteer application to make food for the events near my house. Friday I will attend an orientation. Is there an Indigenous event in your area that could use practical support?
7. Set up a Unist’ot’en Camp Food Drive: Wet’suwet’en people have a right to live on and protect their homelands. They are doing amazing work to care for the earth and water. The camp needs food so this week I have been soliciting donations based on the needs list. Can you support supplies and food going to front line water protectors?
8. Create Networks: Talk to like minded people and find out how we can support each other. This week I have met with people who run public school gardens, university food security programs, the county health authority, local farms, and the community food coop. We have talked about how we can support each other in building community food forests, donating food, and so much more. We need each other in the work for climate justice. Our skills and passions can compliment and fill gaps. Who can you talk to about bringing skillsets or projects together?
9. Get to Know Plants and Trees: We protect what we know. I spend time with my
kids teaching them the names of plants. We play Wildcraft! and then go for nature walks and see what plants we can identify from the game. They tune in. They notice trees they didn’t notice before. One kid said, “no wonder we don’t have as much screen time, it takes awhile to know the trees around us!” Can you get to know the needs and gifts of what surrounds you? Is there local nature you can know by name?
10. Utilize the Power of Words: We need to talk about climate change everyday. We need conversation as to the very real threats and very doable resistance to be commonplace. I have been blogging to keep these conversations going on a wider scale and to focus my attention from a place of power and action. Can you follow this blog on the site of on the FB group and circulate the project on social media? Is there a way you can invite, encourage, nurture, or sustain others in their climate justice work?
It is my goal and intention to be active in these 10 arenas each week. At the end of the week (Thursday or Friday) I will review the check list to help keep myself accountable toward these aims. What are your climate action intentions? Would it help you to post your goals in the comments and check in for accountability? I will offer my support and celebration.