30 Days for Climate Justice Day 20: My Climate Weekly Climate Change Resistance Checklist Check-in

Planning trips in an electric vehicle to work for Salish Sea protection, watching a 9 year old lovingly pet a bee, gathering food for land protectors, and working to ban neonics. It has been quite a week! Here’s the third review. 

1. Go to and Facilitate Meetings: This week I attended the Steering Committee meeting for the Birchwood Food Desert Fighters and helped to solidify some long-range planning to broaden our work to grow and harvest more food in a wider area of the neighborhood.

2. Get into Gardens: I was only in my own this week. We’re doing late season planting of beets, greens, broccoli, and some medicinal herbs. It’s a lot of up and down with crops but everyday I see dozens and dozens of thriving bees and it’s such a tangible expression of positive impact our small actions can have in relationship with the ecosystems we live within.

3. Make Donations: In the wake of the horrible news of 3 more orca deaths, I made another donation to Sacred Seas: For a Living Salish Seas. If you are not familiar with their work or that of the Red Line Salish Sea (also linked above), they are doing amazing projects to keep seas habitable for orcas.

4. Agitate Politicians: I have definitely written to politicians whenever I have been sent links, including protesting mining in Northern BC and the critical salmon (and therefore orca) habitat of Bristol Bay but I didn’t many to spearhead a project of my own.

5. Ban Bee Killing Pesticides: Small steps! I emailed NRDC, Natural Food Certifiers, and Friends of the Earth who have all supported other counties in banning neonicotinoids. After requesting consultation and support, I have a meeting set up for this Monday morning with NFC and am really looking forward to what they recommend for the next steps. If you’d like to join me in this work, please join the Whatcom Bee Protectors.

6. Support Indigenous Events: I will be attending the Walk to Protect and Restore the Salish Sea Climate Emergency 2019. The event will run from 9am-6pm. It’s a few hours 67694384_2350637111869892_2916020045064699904_nfrom our house so we are booking a nearby campsite, taking a day off, and getting our electric car set up with quick charge memberships so it will be road trip ready. On September 27th I will attend A Gathering to Celebrate (and Protect Xw’ullemy (the Salish Sea). I am currently working to support carpool coordination from both Bellingham (Lummi Nation) and Vancouver, BC (Musqueum, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations).

7. The Unist’ot’en Food Drive: Our next shift gathering donations from the Unist’ot’en Camp’s Needs List will be at the Bellingham Community Food Coop from 1-3. Please come by and say hi to us if you are in the area!

8. Create Networks: I’ve been booking some talks this week and will be speaking about Birchwood Food Desert Fighters at Common Thread’s new Americorps employee orientation and also with the WWU Food Security Week.

9. Get to Know Plants and Trees: With the abundance of bees in our back yard, the kids Photo on 8-9-19 at 4.43 PMhave actively been confronting their fears. Within the culture of domination they were raised in, they had been told that bees can smell fear and will get you if you are scared. Talk about putting us in an adversarial relationship with the creatures that keep us alive! The kids would freeze around bees. We worked on alternate narratives: what if they are flying by because they appreciate what you’ve grown for them, what if they love making food and our lives on this earth possible? What might they be telling you if you listen when they fly by? (If you are interested in supporting children in developing a less hierarchical relationship with nature, I highly recommend April Charlo’s talk on Indigenous Language Revitalization.) It was really powerful when our 9 year old got up the nerve to gently pet a bee and was so moved by the experience that he had to run instide and draw a picture of the moment as fast as he could. He greets them lovingly now and is excited to see their increased presence in our yard.

10. Utilize the power of Words: Again, this is blog post number 4. I’ve focused on revising my syllabi and initial lesson plans for courses I’ll teach in the fall. This week was tricky. We were out of town visiting my wonderful in-laws in Ladysmith (on the rightful, ancestral land of the Stz’uminus nation). Cousins met, aunts and uncles were there, the kids are better woven into the fabric of the family. What a week!

 

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30 Days for Climate Justice Day 19: Concrete Actions to Help Orcas

The West coast orcas are facing extinction. Three more have died and only 73 remain. They are vital to these waters and their suffering also reflects the suffering of salmon populations. Despite this, the US just approved mining in a formerly protected public park in Alaska, home of one of the largest salmon runsThey are approving pipelines and military practices that make the water uninhabitable for, what Lummi Nation have named, our relatives under the water. We must act.

Here are some clear ways to support efforts to defend the Salish seas:

This is not a time to let give in to feelings of helplessness. This is time for action. No matter what, please do what you can. Even if it is small. #Togetherwearestrong.

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Art by Kohola Kai Creative

30 Days for Climate Justice Day 18: Teaching Sexuality Justice by Teaching Land and Climate Justice

Here is our current reality: Change is necessary in order to have a habitable planet where people can teach and learn in any field. For me this means that there is no room for me to say that I am teaching in a “different” arena than climate and eco-justice. I need to teach tools for climate change resistance no matter the topic of my course is. Some of these rewrites are very readily available but some are farther from the dominant cultural radar. This is an era that calls for creative re-imagining from the party line that claims there can be any subject separate from the earth. Following the lead of an excellent former student from one of my classes, I am beginning to hold the land as a central person in every subject and teach its history and significance as the starting place for any learning. 

My approach has four elements:

  1. Teaching climate change resistance, not just climate change.
  2. Including Community Engagement.
  3. Facilitating non-shaming dialogue.
  4. Acknowledging the land as a central figure in each subject.

An important element is that I am changing my syllabi to teach climate change resistance, not just climate change. Many of us have been saturated in how very bad everything is but lack skills for critically contributing to or building activist movements. Robin Wall Kimmerer has a powerful example of this in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants. She recounts asking students of an examples of a negative interaction between humans and the natural world and everyone can think of numerous interactions. However, when asked of a positive interaction the room went silent. The one without the other can be a dangerous combination resulting in despair driven apathy. Therefore, every issue I teach, be it the devastating effects of agribusiness to oil pipelines, has a corresponding lesson about a resistance movement or alternative and successes.

Each course will have a Community Engagement component so that learning about climate justice movements is accompanied by a doable action. The Community Engagement in rooted in the development of better Eco Justice Dialogue that I described in my previous post in which the term begins with learning how we can express climate change concerns and proposed courses of action that engender collaboration and critical thinking rather than shaming and finger-pointing. 

This fall I am teaching two Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies courses on Queer Theory and Sexuality Studies. While these courses typically cover the “Main Themes” and key players in the Western white cannon (e.g. Butler, Foucault) with maybe a nod to the two-spirit movement, I am coming back with a greater commitment to decolonizing the syllabus.

In 2013 I taught my first university course “Women, Gender, and Colonialism in Canada 1600-1920.” One assignment was to write about the work of one of the people studied in the course. An Indigenous student wrote her paper on “False Creek” as a central figure in the history of the land.

In Vancouver (Musquem, Squamish, and Tseil-Waututh nation’s land), white settlers intentionally shortened the run of the creek in order to starve local Indigenous nations off their land. She wrote about the creek itself as a person and the vital role they played in the community and its suffering at the hands of colonial violence. She ended the essay with the succinct statement that the land must be an historical person in any subject. 

Six years later, I am still working to integrating this into my course content: the land is where our learning begins. This means that instead of beginning the term with teaching the concept of gender performativity, I begin with how the idea that land and bodies are to be controlled and exploited for profit is recent and intertwined. We begin with examining how colonialism is a deeply capitalist project that intends to put different bodies to use in different ways. Over the term we will examining how settler colonial nation states (Canadian, the USA) uses patriarchal control of reproduction and homophobic sexual taboos to control family according to the desired production of capital gain.

Hetero-patriarchy was colonially instituted on the land the university occupies. It was taught in residential schools as a way to alienate Indigenous children from their cultures and disrupt their sense of belonging to a nation, a culture, and the land. The story of hetero-patriarchy, not just as culturally constructed but as capitalistically mandated, is the story of separating people from their land so that Indigenous nations would lose the literal ground from which they assert sovereignty and challenge the nation-state’s perceived right to exploration. 

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Over the course of the term, we will read testimonies of Indigenous LGBT people and the establishment of two-spirit movements that reclaim traditional, sacred roles of gender and sexual diversity. We will study these accounts in relationship to work done by such groups to fight for land and water rights. I highly recommend that everyone makes themselves familiar with projects such as:

The Queer Theory and Sexuality Studies courses I teach in the fall will include course material from Queer Indigenous Studies and from the Queer Eco-justice Project curriculum site. Together we will study groups working for change such as those listed above and find tangible ways to support their work or projects created during the term. The shift in focus is tricky but important. No matter what we are teaching we need to teach eco-justice and climate resistance if we are going to have a world where any course of study remains possible. 

30 Days for Climate Justice Day 17: No more Shaming and Finger Pointing, Building Better Ecojustice Dialogues

There is a dual approach needed to fight climate change: We need systemic change and we need personal change. However, frequently the need for dual tactics is keeping us stuck. So often I see energy that could be spent fighting the current system or building alternatives being spent one of two ways:

  1. Shaming people who are working for systemic change as having no right to challenge the powers that be unless they have taken care of every personal environmental practice they can (e.g. how can you fight pipelines if you ever drive a car?).
  2. Shaming people for taking personal action when we need systemic change (e.g. why are you vegan when the US military is causing the most damage?).

The result is finger pointing that does’t accomplish change in either direction. It keeps us playing into the hands of the status quo. We are busy shaming each other and don’t challenge the systems that are harming the planet. Here’s the thing–you can have a less than ideal lifestyle and want to change the system. You can work to have an environmentally gentle lifestyle and not undermine the need for systemic change. What if we were to make room for both as complimentary?  As Greta Thunberg stated in her Brilliant Minds speech, “I know we need a system change rather than individual change. But you can not have one without the other.” 

Let’s stop pitting issues against each other! Too often one important issue is used to dismiss another, rather than working in solidarity. We see memes that ask why we are focusing on plastic waste when cigarette butts cause significant water pollution. This can keep us stuck in a similar holding pattern of finger pointing and blaming others for having the wrong focus or the “real issue.” I’m ready to stop this. 

Let’s stop the finger pointing! Let’s and applaud folks who are eating less meat or who are taking less plane trips while also coming together to meaningfully change the agribusiness model for food and mainstream the use of sustainable energy systems. I am committed to working both personally and systemically for eco-justice and hold the importance of multiple causes at once. Let’s build communities that make this more doable for more people. 

A common thread in all of this is that we lack wide spread ways have having respectful and generative dialogue about climate change resistance. Shaming is a habit and a cultural norm at this point.

Today I am working on building class exercises to strengthen respectful and generative dialogue about climate change resistance. The initial discussion will take place at the beginning of the term as part of building rapport with the class as a whole.will include the following:

  1. Everyone writes down a concern they have about climate change and passes their paper to another student.
  2. The recipient writes down an action that addresses the concern they receive and passes the paper again.
  3. A third person will read the concerns and suggestions out loud.
  4. With the larger class, each issue and action will be discussed with  “yes and” statements (thank you theatre improv).

In addition to rapport, this provides a structure to build on rather than dismissing or shaming other people’s concerns and suggestions. This is a

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End of term summary brainstorm

necessary part of moving beyond all-or-nothing thinking. For example, “plastic straws should be banned,” or “that’s ableist, they aren’t a problem.” We must build anti-oppressive solutions that do not throw out an issue because it needs adaptation. Some people require plastic straws but what could a larger norm be that reduces harm to sea turtles?  What if we answered with “yes and” statements with this issue: e.g. “we need to reduce waste,” “yes and people who require plastic straws to live need to have accessible hydration,” “yes and so a total ban can cause harm.” Yes and, yes and, until we generate a non-oppressive solution. Then we begin to devise a plan.

Central to this is that we are not debating whether or not climate change is real. That has been proven (I’m also not dedicating class time to debate whether or not the earth is round). We are not questioning whether or not it is a problem (numerous populations are already suffering). As part of teaching social justice, we have to take climate change reality into account. 

For the second exercise, students take one of the topics and pick a doable course of action that will make a meaningful contribution. When identifying a course of action students will address how the issue is experienced across intersections: how do disability and gender, gender and race, disability and class, and so on shape how the issue is experienced across social locations? The action does not have to solve everything, it just has to add something. For example, the BFDF Community Garden does not solve the issues of corporate food control or racism, ableism, and colonialism of urban food deserts. It does make a positive contribution that responds to the problem at hand. Over the course of the term students will create and implement one project that addresses a concern in a practical way. 

This is a structure is transferrable across teaching areas. I teach in Women and Gender Studies and Honors programs. My course load includes teaching Gender and Popular Culture, Queer Theory, Theatre and Social Movements. Very few of my courses are specifically related to climate. But really, there is no subject that is divorced from having a livable eco system and home planet. Is there an area of your work or your life where you teach or mentor? How can you build models of having Ecojustice dialogues into your everyday? 

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30 Days for Climate Justice Day 16: My Weekly Climate Change Resistance Checklist Check in

It has been another week of consciously engaging in climate justice work every day. Two weeks ago I summarized these 10 areas where I am able to use my skills to make a contribution. They are personal, not prescriptive. I recount these activities in order to remind myself to do everything in my power and to remember that I am not powerless. I write to remind anyone who would like to read it that there are ways we can come together to care for the land, water, and each other even in hard and uncertain times. I’d love to hear from you! How are you doing what you are able to do? What does this look like in your life? 

1. Go to and Facilitate Meetings: This week I met with Terri Kempton who manages the wonderful Outback Farm at Western Washington University. We strategized ways that I could structure my course syllabus to build in hands on experience in caring for the land and growing food. This experience will then be linked to the issues of colonialism, racism, queer and transgender othering and how they make for increased vulnerabilities for food insecurity in the era of climate change. I’m really looking forward to being able to host her in my classes and provide relevant participation for students.

2. Get into Gardens: I went on a tour of Inspiration Farm and researched more about permaculture– how I could incorporate aspects of it into my own growing processes, ways I can help students gain a critical understanding of how we can build sustainable food sources and support regenerative agriculture.

As always, I spent collaborative time in the BFDF Community Garden. This week it was with one of our regular volunteers who is also a Master Gardener so instead of mentoring, I was learning quite a bit from her. The garden is really thriving! Such a concrete expression of hope.

3. Make Donations: After finding out about the Queer Ecojustice Project, I gave a donation to support the documentary “Fire and Ice: Queer Resilience in the Era of Climate Change.” I’ve also been discussing possibilities of showing a preview of the film in another one of my classes and finding ways to have student Community Engagement assignments offer the option of supporting QEP.

4. Agitate Politicians: I researched, wrote, sent, and circulated a letter to the presidents of the 20 Canadian universities who are backing the implementation of the 30 meter telescope on the sacred land and fragile eco system of Mauna Kea. It was surprisingly difficult to find the names and emails of the 20 people (come on, universities!). I really encourage folks to especially agitate the University of Toronto and UVic. They wrote back with the most colonial reply about how they will respect the environment and Indigenous people when they put in the telescope despite not having the consent of Indigenous people. The post gives me the capacity to make public my responses to these replies and to be able to access them when I need similar wording if and when it’s needed. 

5. Ban Bee Killing Pesticides: I didn’t make progress with this project. My energy crashed very badly Tuesday and I wasn’t able to take my designated time to draft letters and petitions. I’m dealing with yet another health issue and diagnosis and, as always, am having to keep learning to accept my limitations.

6. Support Indigenous Events: Thursday and Saturday evenings, I served dinner at downloadthe Paddle to Lummi crowds of 15,000+. It was an intense rush of people where we couldn’t keep fry bread and fruit salad platters coming fast enough.  The themes for the paddle this year were: “Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (#MMIW), Indian child welfare, overcoming the opioid crisis, and salmon recovery — all raising awareness of community health and safety, and protecting future generations” (Shared Responsibility). I crashed hard after both days but it’s so worth it. It was such an honor to offer the limited energy I have to support this community and life strengthening work. 

7. The Unist’ot’en Food Drive: My kid and I did our first shift at the Bellingham Food Coop. They set up a table and two chairs in a central part of the store and we gave out copies brochures on Unist’ot’en Camp’s work to stop pipelines and preserve traditional way of life with the land and water in tact. We also asked folks if they could pick up items from the Needs List along with their groceries and leave them in our bin to send up to Unist’ot’en. I was heartened that everyone was really supportive (or at least left us alone if they weren’t) and we could tell many were giving out of tighter budgets to be able to do what they could to contribute to the Needs List. It was lovely to see my kid grow in confidence telling new people about why he did the work and why it was import. 

8. Create Networks: I do ongoing work to network the Birchwood Food Desert Fighters weekly free produce share spot with potential gardeners who might have excess produce. This week gardeners from two nearby rural towns and I have spoken about potentially setting up a central location for gardeners from there area to drop off produce that could come to the share spot in one vehicle trip. 

9. Get to Know Plants and Trees: I have been really committed to dedicating some of my  to climate resistance everyday. This is vital work for me, regardless of the outcome, we need to support this earth that sustains us and reduce suffering. However, this isn’t in balance for me right now. I’m not spending enough time by the water, with trees. I want to be more deliberate about this over the next week. 

10. Utilize the power of Words: This week I have, again, been able to write 4 posts. At this rate it will take me another 3.5 weeks to complete the project with 30 blog posts. Oh well! The Fall quarter won’t have started yet and every comment from a reader that this project is helping to inspire them in their climate justice work keeps me writing. 

 

30 Days for Climate Justice Day 15: The Exciting Intersectional Work of the Queer Ecojustice Project

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.

41516702_2169243989960203_6328328350070734848_n (1)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. 

If you don’t know about the Queer Ecojustice Project, you need to! You can click on their link and also watch a clip from the upcoming documentary, Fire and Flood.

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:

  1. You can contact them about organizing or joining a “node” group in the area.
  2. 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!

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30 Days for Climate Justice Day 14: A Letter Urging Canadian Universities to Protect Mauna Kea (Please Send!)

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 67250761_10157542810048223_8733317990663061504_nuniversities 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.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Complicit universities, their presidents, and contact emails are:

  1. Athabasca University: Dr. Neil Fascinna (president@athabascau.ca)
  2. Bishop’s University: Mr. Michael Goldbloom (principal@ubishops.ca)
  3. Brandon University: Dr. David Docherty (president@brandonu.ca)
  4. McGill University: Dr. Suzanne Fortier (suzanne.fortier@mcgill.ca)
  5. McMaster University: Dr. David Farrar (president@mcmaster.ca)
  6. Queen’s University: Dr. Partrick Dean (principal@queensu.ca)
  7. Saint Mary’s University: Dr. Summerby-Murray (president@smu.ca)
  8. Trent University: Dr. Leo Groarke (leogroarke@trentu.ca)
  9. University of Alberta: Dr. David Turpin (uofapres@ualberta.ca)
  10. University of British Columbia: Dr. Santa J. Ono (presidents.office@ubc.ca)
  11. University of Calgary: Dr. Ed McCauley (president@ucalgary.ca)
  12. Université Laval: Dr. Sophie D’amours (Damours@gmc.ulaval.ca)
  13. University of Lethbridge: Dr. Mike Mahon (mike.mahon@uleth.ca)
  14. University of Manitoba: Dr. David Barnard (president@umanitoba.ca)
  15. Université de Montréal: Dr. Louis Roquet (executiveeducation@hec.ca)
  16. University of Toronto: Dr. Meric Gertler (president@utoronto.ca)
  17. University of Victoria: Dr. Jamie Cassels (pres@uvic.ca)
  18. University of Waterloo: Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur (president@uwaterloo.ca)
  19. Western Ontario University: Dr. Alan Shepard (Alan.Shepard@uwo.ca)
  20. York University: Dr. Rhonda Lenton (president@yorku.ca)