Category Archives: Women, Land and Rivers

Poet Crystal Good Visits Climate Narrative Project

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 9.51.07 PMNationally acclaimed poet Crystal Good, author of Valley Girls, read her work to the Climate Narrative Project fellows, and led a discussion on the role of poetry, spoken word performance and art in the field of climate justice. A resident of West Virginia, Good has been active in various clean water campaigns, as well as the movement to end mountaintop removal strip mining.

More on Crystal’s work can be found here:

Women and Climate Change

It has been widely recognized that women are more susceptible than men to the ravages of climate change, particularly in developing countries. Around 70% of the world’s poor are women, many of whom who lead lifestyles in which they are heavily dependent on the land and thus extremely vulnerable to changes in weather patterns. Furthermore, existing gender inequalities impede the ability of these women to cope with changing weather and climate-related disasters.

The issues of climate change and gender equity are inextricably linked, and neither can be addressed without acknowledging the other. In many cultures, women are responsible for gathering water and fuel for the household. As climate change and unsustainable practice cause droughts and scarcities, women have to travel farther and spend more and more time to access these resources. This takes away from time women could be devoting to education or earning an income. Traditional roles often make women more vulnerable to disasters, either because of lack of education or because they are restricted from leaving the home without a male escort. Thus, they are more likely to be left behind in the event of a disaster such as a flood, and lack the resources to migrate. This is true even in the developed world; for example, single mothers in New Orleans suffered after Hurricane Katrina due to limited mobility. Women in the developed world are also more at risk of dying in heat waves than men, and women generally are more susceptible to the consequences of nutritional deficiencies that could result from climate change-related food shortages.

However, women do not only relate to climate change as mere victims. Women have the potential to be major agents of change for environmental sustainability. A recent study has shown that in developed nations, women are more likely than men to recognize that climate change is a threat and that responding to it requires major lifestyle changes, and not simply technological fixes. Since women are traditionally in charge of household consumer decisions, they have the power to choose more sustainable alternatives. On a larger scale, women make valuable contributions to climate negotiations and policy-making by taking into account the needs of disadvantaged groups and the natural environment. Women in leadership tend to be forward-thinking and less likely to take risks on short-term fixes. Recognizing this potential, the UN designated one day of COP21 to be “Gender Day,” to talk about these issues and to encourage the consideration of gender from the beginning when coming up with climate solutions.

A report by USAID accurately describes the relationship between women’s issues and climate change:

“Women must be part of the economic, social, and political transformations that come with a transition to a clean energy future, in order to participate as agents of change rather than merely recipients. . . . Women often possess special skills and experiences relevant to climate change, especially knowledge of local ecosystems, agriculture, and natural resources management. They hold great potential as entrepreneurs in clean technology and ecofriendly enterprises. Women are also disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change and are often left out of technological development. Climate change interventions are unlikely to be successful without the support and involvement of women.”



Miriam Kashia: Climate Action Warrior

635802556189350098-Rosie-Rises-AgainOn Friday I had the opportunity to meet with a remarkable local leader in climate justice, Miriam Kashia. Miriam’s dedication to climate action has brought her to participate in efforts troughout the country and to lead in countless movements for sustainable changes here in Iowa. In 2014, she participated in the Great March for Climate Action, walking about 3,000 miles from LA to Washington, DC. Since then, she has participated in a movement to protect the land of indigenous people in the Pacific Northwest, acts as a leader in the 100Grannies, and performs daily efforts to raise public awareness on environmental issues and push for laws that promote a sustainable future.

“It’s like a full-time job,” Miriam told me. “I’ve never felt so energized.” One of her focuses is on working for community rights. In this country and throughout the world, millions of “sacrifice zones” are created when the unsustainable practices of corporations result in the destruction of local communities. On the Great March for Climate Action, citizens of a town in Indiana greeted the marchers with signs that said “Save Us.” BP was planning on expanding a plant into their community, displacing the citizens from their homes. Miriam emphasizes speaking up for communities at risk.

Miriam shared with me a wealth of stories and experiences too numerous to include in one blog post. She talked a lot to me about intersectionality, the idea that all forms of social justice are connected and that advancing one cause helps all of the others. She says that right now, we are in a paradigm shift where all we can see is chaos. But changes are going to build up and increase in momentum until as a society we come to a complete change in values. The change will seem to happen overnight,  but really it will be the product of years of hard work of people on the ground. Until the change comes, she will be there working tirelessly for a better future.


Everything is Connected

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 5.00.30 PMIn preparation for my interview later this week with local environmental hero Miriam Kashia, I came across this inspiring graduation speech she delivered a few years ago which ties in with our theme of climate change as a moral issue. In it she uses the concept of “quantum creative consciousness,” the idea which states that, based on advances in knowledge of quantum physics, everything on earth is connected with and has an influence on every other thing on earth through the butterfly effect. By acting with our “creative energy” we create a ripple effect that has the potential to create true change in our world. Miriam then cites the current large-scale environmental destruction of the earth as both “the most massive, dangerous, and seemingly insoluble problem facing the world today” and as “a testing ground for implementing this newly identified quantum creative consciousness.” In this way, Miriam shows that addressing climate change and ecological destruction is a moral issue, and the action we take must be motivated by compassion and care for others and the Earth itself.

The speech ends with:

“I hope you will remember these three things:

  • You are not bound by the same limitations that have been unknowingly self imposed on the generations that preceded you.
  • The language of creative consciousness is deeply felt emotion, especially compassion, because compassion is always from the heart, not from the ego. And it is contagious.
  • You are free to be all you are. Not only free, but compelled by the laws of the universe to create yourself and your world.

My warm congratulations. Thank you for inviting me to share in this most memorable day of celebration and transition. I challenge you to grow your own Truth throughout life and to live that Truth to the fullest. By the time you are my age, perhaps the expanding awareness that we are all quite literally connected with everything and everyone will have altered the way we live on this planet. You will be the conscious creators of that better world, tiny ripples that spread.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Emmanuel:

Destiny is the soul’s consciousness flowing ever and ever more strongly and swiftly toward Light and toward Truth and toward Oneness. There is no other destiny than this.”

Home: Poet Warsan Shire on Migration, Becoming a Refugee

From the Guardian:

“No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border / when you see the whole city / running as well.” This evocative stanza from poet Warsan Shire’s Home hit a nerve online recently as the European public finally woke up to the reality of the refugee crisis. Explaining, in short verses, the unthinkable choices refugees must take, Shire writes: “no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land.”

The young Nairobi-born, London-raised writer first drafted another poem about the refugee experience, Conversations about home (at a deportation centre), in 2009 after spending time with a group of young refugees who had fled troubled homelands including Somalia, Eritrea, Congo and Sudan.”

Full story on Warsan Shire and other young poets in London dealing with migration themes:

Relationship between Yoga & the Environment:Sarah Nagengast


Yoga and Nature

Sarah Nagengast is a senior at the University of Iowa who is also the Co-President of the University of Iowa’s very own Environmental Coalition. She is super involved in issues revolving the environment and sustainability and is also super passionate about yoga.

She was the first person I interviewed for my project and it was interesting to see how yoga helps her to be a strong advocate for the environmental cause.

According to her, doing Yoga inspires her to respect the environment and it’s biotic and abiotic components and thus motivate her to work for environmental conservation, to be a vegetarian, to recycle, to not waste water and so on and so forth.

Since the world is still in the transition from an economy oriented world to an eco-conscious world, and very few people believe that climate change is happening, and very few out of those actually do something to try and reverse it, it is sometimes difficult to deal with people who deny facts or people who do towards achieving sustainable practices. Also at the same time we keep hearing about the floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes and the whole refugee crisis. All these things some times add up as stress and affect us by mentally exhausting us and resulting in lack of sleep/rest/temperament. This also has health benefits.

Sarah feels that doing yoga every morning helps set the tone for the day before getting into these things and helps her deal with people more efficiently. Sarah aims to work in the environmental field and educate people and advocate for environmental justice.

Along with Sarah, there are many environmentalists who believe that yoga is a good tool that one can use to keep calm and thus efficiently participate in interpersonal conversations to educate people about the environmental cause. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India said that Yoga could be an answer to Climate Change at the UN Climate Summit.

Peepal Baba is another environmentalist that I will be interviewing who also believes in spirituality and practices yoga and meditation and has planted over 10 million trees in his lifetime in India and Europe. I have sent him the questions, spoken to him over the phone, and he will be sending me the video regarding the same.

COP21: Ecologist Guide

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 9.25.45 AM Along with world leaders and negotiators, a lot of non-governmental, environmental and civil rights groups will be converging on Paris later this month for the COP21 climate summit. Here’s a clip from the Ecologist magazine’s guide to some of the activities”

So what’s happening? And how can I get involved?

The conference itself runs from 30th November – 11th December. But to get in, you will need to have got registration already. And if you haven’t, all the easier to dedicate yourself to everything else that’s going on.

A good place to begin is at one of the convergence spaces. The main one so far confirmed is the Climate Action Zone (ZAC), open from 7th-11th December. This will be a central hub for daily updates from the COP, action planning, workshops and general assemblies.

From early November, Jardin d’Alice will be a large art-action space for building tools for the marches and actions (such as giant inflatables and banners) and hosting a 500-person kitchen.

Check out ARTCOP21 for mainstream art events throughout the COP. Place to B is holding a space for creating alternative narratives of the COP for journalists and blogger types (with space for sleeping 600 at reduced rates), and Eroles will be holding a creative space for collaboration, workshops and opportunities to get involved.

Let the Climate Games begin …

On the weekend at the start of the summit (28th-29th November), there will be mass marches all over the world, including London, New York, Paris, Berlin and others. The London march is on 29th November with smaller local marches in other cities including Cardiff and Edinburgh on the 28th (though Belfast will march on the 29th).

This same weekend Paris will also see the arrival of ‘ZAD’ (Zone a Défendre, or zone to defend) convoy-marches of tractors, bikes and people on foot from land struggles all over France (and possibly Europe) for a mass convergence and banquet.

The opening day of the COP (Monday 30th) will see the opening round of the Climate Games, an innovative form of political engagement taking the form of a real-world ‘Disobedient Action Adventure Game’.

Trialed in Amsterdam coal port this summer, it is essentially a framework to allow for diverse tactics – such as civil disobedience, theatre, art and direct action – to be used together. Teams register, complete their stunts and actions, and submit photos and action reports to the website to be awarded points and prizes for innovation, courage and creativity. The opening round has a focus on ‘greenwashing’.

This day will also be a global day of action for students, with students of all ages encouraged to skip school as part of a global Climate Strike, and organise an action for climate justice.

Climate actions

Civil society will gather in Montreuil during the middle weekend (5th-6th December) for the People’s Climate Summit – a down-to-earth alternative to the political circus playing out in le Bourget, with debates, workshops, screenings, preparation for action and a Village of Alternatives. There will also be a Global Critical Mass bike ride on 5th December.

Other actions include: the Pinocchio Awards ceremony for dirty corporations on the 3rd; an International Tribunal for the rights of Nature on the 4th; a day of action on food sovereignty and TTIP on the 9th, as well as a participative Art Not Oil performance protest in the oil-sponsored Louvre; and day of fracking action on the 10th.

Solutions COP21 is a sideshow event to the official summit, exhibiting “products, services, processes and innovations” for addressing climate change.

With corporations able to pay large sums of money for a space in the COP21 itself if they exhibit within the ‘solutions’ expo, activists have lambasted the exhibition as a symbol of corporate greenwash and vowed to target it with protest. It runs from 4th-10th December in central Paris – get there before the 4th to be ready for mass action.

The talks are scheduled to end on the 11th December, but historically have always overrun, so are actually expected to finish on the 12th – hence the 11th / 12th will be the focus for mobilisation. Saturday 12th, or ‘D12’ as it has been dubbed, will be the main day for mass mobilisation and is expected to go down in history.

Friends of the Earth International are planning an evening rally of speakers and music at Place de le Republique on the 11th, and the closing round of the Climate Games will be on 11th/12th.

‘Climate disobedience’ at Le Bourget …

Plans are coming together for the ‘largest ever act of climate disobedience’ in the form of ‘Red Lines’ occupations encircling the summit, being organised by an unprecedented coalition of NGOs, trade unions, youth, faith, and grassroots groups (Coalition Climat 21, or CC21).

The red lines represent minimum limits for a just and liveable planet, that the negotiators are expected to cross in their lack of ambitious action. The occupations will fill roads around Le Bourget with huge inflatable red lines, farmers with tractors, Occupy-esque tent villages, frontline communities, and thousands of determined people.

At the same time, around the world red lines will appear on targets for action in 2016 – sites of fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure and affected communities. The action is being organised in a way that avoids police escalation (though it is impossible to predict police behaviour), making it accessible and safe for people who have never taken civil disobedience before but want to take bold action at this crucial moment.

Plan to be in Paris by noon on the 11th at the latest for briefings and non-violent civil disobedience trainings. And remember – if there’s one activity at which the French excel, it’s demonstrating.

Mass rally in central Paris

For those not comfortable with the idea of civil disobedience, a rally will also be held in central Paris on D12. Precise details are still being worked out, but current thinking is that twelve blocs will march from twelve locations, carrying red lines representing different themes, to join a giant human chain around Place de la Republique and create a ‘Grand Clamor’ with drums, bells and sirens sounding.

The human chain will surround representatives from affected communities from around the world who will sing and speak before plans are made for an unprecedented year of action in 2016. The whole day will close with a clear link between all of the actions in Paris and around the world.

Updates on plans for D12 will appear on the CC21, and Climate Justice Action (CJA, a large international coalition of grassroots groups) websites as plans develop.

After having the final word on the talks and claiming the moment to build a strong movement for action in 2016 and beyond, whatever the outcome of the UN summit there will be a celebration and Climate Games Award Ceremony on Sunday 13th. Check the Climate Games website for updates and don’t miss the party!

Abundant Safari in Iowa City

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.19.25 AMCheck out Backyard Abundance’s restoration projects through their Abundant Safari program in Iowa City, including the Terry Trueblood recreational site:

Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

The Terry Trueblood Recreation Area is located along the Iowa River at the south edge of Iowa City. It was once a sand and gravel quarry and spans over 200 acres. The beautiful lake comprises almost half the area and is home to fish, ducks, and other wildlife.

A paved trail around the entire lake runs through forested and open areas providing opportunities for biking, running, walking, and sightseeing. Many interesting destinations can be found along the diverse lakeshore for canoes and boaters. Sandy dunes and beaches on the lake’s south peninsula will supply hours of adventure.

The long trails and diverse terrain creates a great habitat for children and adults to wade, get muddy, see waterfowl, catch frogs, and enjoy themselves. Boaters, picnicers, bird watchers, insect enthusiasts, and photographers will enjoy a part or full-day trip to the area.

Study on Climate Narratives in an Age of Climate Cynicism

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.01.37 AMCheck out the findings from a new study, “News Media and Climate Politics,” by the Climate Justice Project, led by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the University of British Columbia, on effective climate narratives in an age of “climate cynicism.” According to the authors: “It is often said that society is at a crossroads of climate change, and that is particularly true for how journalism will choose to represent climate politics in the future. News media can continue to direct a narrow spotlight upon the failures of governments, political elites and international negotiations. But to capture the full story of climate change, reports of failure could instead be juxtaposed with some of the countless ways in which individuals are coming together in new forms of solidarity, community and action. The path that is chosen may well have a critical impact upon how and if people who are already concerned and alarmed join with their fellow citizens and become active participants in, rather than helpless observers of, the politics of climate change.”

Here are the key results:

1. Success stories about climate politics have a positive impact:When participants read such stories, they were eager to learn more, and their perspectives shifted to become more optimistic.

2. People are especially excited by stories of entrepreneurial activism and everyday heroism — that is, tales of people who, through their own initiative and creativity, open up new spaces for political engagement for themselves and others. These stories provide concrete examples of the connection between individual and collective action. In the absence of this connection, desire for action can default to more familiar but limited ideas of individualized behaviour change (recycling, reducing energy consumption, etc).

3. As people increase their awareness and understanding of political successes, they are more likely to contradict others’ cynicism by bringing up these success stories. This is a strong argument for giving such stories a more prominent place in the mix of news about climate politics.

4. People engage more strongly with localized information about the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as solutions. Such examples make it easier to identify with and understand the issue.

5.Descriptive communication is more powerful than prescriptive: Moral injunctions to “get active” in climate politics are a common feature of environmental communication, and they may have some positive impact. But they also risk increasing feelings of guilt and frustration. On the other hand, news that provides compelling stories about the experiences of people who already participate in climate politics —including not only why they are active but also how that experience affects them — can provide a much easier point of entry into political engagement. People come to understand different forms of democratic engagement as normal activities that people just like them are doing (and enjoying).

6. Information about how to engage politically, and the effects of political engagement, is just as important as information about climate change science. While our participants were reasonably well informed about the science of climate change and about national and international climate politics, they had much less understanding of individual and collective political agency. News media could provide more stories about how a single political action by an individual (e.g. voting, joining an organization, participating in a campaign) can, together with the single actions of other individuals, create a collective political force with transformative consequences.