Joy doesn’t pair easily with the climate crisis. Yet, working with others on climate justice, I have felt moments of joy. Especially in youth-led coalitions like the one coordinated by Fridays for Future Toronto (FFFTO) this summer.
As the youth take on organizing tasks, sometimes for the first time, they show courage and initiative. The tasks aren’t always easy – like talking to groups of adults about climate justice, chairing large meetings with diverse participants and moving actions online. They manage them well though!
At one of the youth-led coalition meetings, for example, I was asked for the first time ever whether I had any accessibility needs. As a person with chronic illness this hit me with a kind of tear-wringing wallup. I was allowed to bring my whole self to the circle.
This grace, courage and initiative are an absolute joy to witness and support.
Love isn’t always a natural fit with the climate crisis either. But, standing in the open air at climate strike rallies, surrounded by others who choose to lean into shared goals, I have no better word. Love is demonstrated through action; with collective action, it multiplies.
In fact, working in coalition is one of the single, most powerful things we can do. In coalition, we are allies, supporting each other as we hold up our corner of the sky. We are changemakers, giving each other strength to surmount the roadblocks to a better world.
There is a lot to surmount! In fact, fear is naturally paired with the climate crisis. The consequences scientists, Indigenous peoples and others have warned us about continue to accelerate – our fears play out on high speed.
Disillusion also pairs well with the climate crisis. Despite the mounting consequences, our government approves new oil and gas projects and gives billions in fossil fuel subsidies. Banks also invest billions, funding pipelines that violate Indigenous rights. Wealthy countries fail to provide the help poorer countries need as they face unprecedented drought and floods.
Actions and choices like these put short-term profit before people.
Youth understand both the threats and the potential for change. At one of the first climate strikes in Toronto, I stood in a small crowd at Queen’s Park as a young girl spoke. She lamented that the endangered animals in her picture books might disappear before she got to see them.
In 2019, tens of thousands attended the climate strike. Long before the unions, university students, environmentalists and parents arrived though, a child of about nine followed those on the set-up crew around. He asked, “please, how can I help?”
Since 2019, FFFTO took the organizing pieces they learned and ran with them, coming up with well-articulated pillars and developing a nuanced vision of the interconnected issues that underscore climate justice, like Indigenous, migrant and workers rights.
It’s for all of these reasons – joy, love, fear, disillusion, vision – I feel called to join when FFFTO youth invite adults to the organizing circle.
Many say they take action for their children. For me, who has no children, perhaps I’m taking action for all of these children. I see wisdom beyond their years. I see an anxiety they shouldn’t have to shoulder. Quite simply, I want to help with that, I want them to reach their goals. This is not just a personal or moral motivation though. I’m convinced a collective pursuit of climate justice is the best move for everyone, the best chance for our whole, broken system to heal and re-form.
This time around, I’ve had two moments of joy already. I held a media training day, learning alongside FFFTO youth who shared many ideas and later, tried their hands at writing op-eds and media advisories. Secondly, at the Labour Day parade, I joined volunteers aged about 18-80, who flitted among the marchers, big smiles on their faces, handing out the psychedelic Global Climate Strike posters.
Joy, however, does not pair easily with the climate crisis. Come join FFFTO and allies, the next time we raise a strong, collective voice for climate justice.
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