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Womxn demanding climate justice


  • Celeste Alcena

  • Diane Beckett

  • Shannon Chief

  • Cherie Wong

November 26, 2019

Event Summary

A pensive, introspective mood characterized this year’s last Ask Women Anything (AWA) panel, as the four climate activists who introduced themselves to the audience gathered at Bar Robo for the event on November 26th. This month’s participants included Indigenous Anishnabe activist Shannon Chief, Cherie Wong, an intersectional feminist and politico, community organizer and artist Celeste Alcena, and Diane Beckett, who works on environmental, climate, and sustainability issues.


     AWA’s moderator began the discussion by asking the participants to comment on the urgency that has marked climate activism in recent months. All of the panelists applauded the passion and commitment of climate activists today, by especially highlighting the important role youth groups and organizers have played with respect to climate justice as a movement. Chief emphasized the necessity of empowering today’s youth and letting their actions be guided by their elders’ wisdom and knowledge, especially because they will be responsible for rebuilding and restructuring society after climate justice has been achieved. 

Beckett emphasized the importance of the organizing work today’s young climate activists are doing, while noting that change will not occur unless the political will exists to affect it in today’s world and that it is essential that we make living sustainably on the earth more accessible and equitable. Wong agreed, and underscored the change in perspective that becomes possible because of activism, while at once pointing out that advocating in favour of changing our responses to climate crises causes people to shift their views on key issues, even if political change occurs slowly or is ultimately not possible. She also noted that both the ability to protest climate inaction and the choice to make personal decisions with respect to climate change⸻ by choosing to eat vegan, or to recycle, for example, or electing to buy organic rather than processed foods⸻ are privileges some groups enjoy and exercise while others cannot.


    All of the panelists highlighted the colonial nature of the Eurocentric/Western relationship to land and nature, which is one based on human domination and control over the earth and its resources. Alcena even suggested that it is necessary that humans think about and change the relationship we have to the land and the environment around us, by acknowledging the cyclical, interdependent connection we have with it.


    The panel ended with an audience member asking each speaker to tell a personal story that reflected on the advocacy work they were doing. In response, each of the speakers shared a personal anecdote, described a vision, or told of a meditative moment that enabled them to connect with other people and climate activists, to persevere, and to continue working towards a more hopeful, sustainable, and equitable future.    


Thanks so much to Bar Robo for hosting, to our volunteers for making this program what it is, and to Ottawa for coming out.  Have a great Christmas and holiday season everyone and we will see you in January!

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