News | Detroit organizer talks climate justice in Montreal

Calls for community and policy-level solutions

On November 14, Detroit-based organizer Charity Hicks presented the third installment of CKUT’s “Under the Weather” climate change series with a lecture on the importance of community organizing in the ongoing movement for climate justice. Hicks stated that her aim was to “define ecological dilemmas facing the earth, identify the implications for our communities, and strategize solutions to resolve these dilemmas.”

Hicks identified the global economy as one of the main drivers behind climate change, saying “I don’t really want to quote President Clinton but… it’s the economy, stupid!”

She described how the “industrial, globalized, and capitalist economy” has led to a series of crises including a lack of water, an overload of waste and toxins, diminishing cultural and biological diversity, restricted food and agriculture, and a conflict between the climate and energy.

“Every 14 days, an ethnicity and a language is under annihilation,” Hicks explained. “Communities are being destroyed, people are being displaced.”

 “In your lifetime, the Arctic will be free of ice […]. The earth doesn’t discriminate [who it impacts], but the global economy does.”

U2 Political Science student Yasmin Ali thought Hicks offered a unique perspective on the connection between climate change and social disruption.

“It was just interesting what she said about the Arab Spring. Never once have I heard my professors kind of connect the socio-economic issues that led to the Arab Spring actually happening to ecological issues, and that migration from rural to urban settings. I thought that connecting that was such an interesting framework to look at this issue that has already been analyzed in so many ways,” she told The Daily.

Hicks also explained that, due to what is termed the “lag effect,” the world is currently experiencing the environmental effects of carbon emissions from the 1960s. She argued that the impacts of today’s emissions are still to come: “In your lifetime, the Arctic will be free of ice […]. The earth doesn’t discriminate [who it impacts], but the global economy does.”

Throughout the lecture, Hicks discussed solutions alongside the environmental issues. “We have to start growing food locally and regionally,” she said, giving examples of local food projects in Detroit, such as those by the Detroit Food Justice Task Force. She suggested a goal of 25 per cent locally grown food for Montreal.

“[Our solutions to environmental issues] must be what is really needed and be politically realistic.”

Hicks touched on the importance of movements led by Indigenous populations to climate justice solutions. In a recent article for The Media Coop on the Idle No More movement, Hicks said, “As the oldest cultures that are place-based and rooted in ecosystem-based knowledge and exchange and reciprocity, that [Indigenous] wisdom is like a roadmap […] they represent a way of knowing and being in place that we’ve lost.”

Hicks stressed that “[Our solutions to environmental issues] must be what is really needed and be politically realistic.” She maintained that there is a need to combat false solutions, and that “environmental champions” in government and policy-making are a necessity.

Discussing the balance between optimism and urgency, Hicks told The Daily, “I have kind of moved away from the doom and gloom. I don’t think we function under depression. Our change can either be intentional, or the result of a collapse.”

To close her presentation, Hicks extended a call-to-action to Montrealers, asking them to “be a part of the shift” toward climate justice. To those skeptical of climate change, she urged, “Montreal, do not be a cynic. This is not a hoax, this is for real.”


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