Fourteen community activists and activist scientists from Brazil, India, South Africa and Arctic Canada will gather at York April 16 and 17 for an international conference – Strengthening the Ecojustice Movement: How Will Disenfranchised Peoples Adapt to Climate Change? They will share stories about their local vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, as well as discussing strategies for addressing inequities in climate change causation, mitigation, funding, education and global/local politics.
The idea for the event arose from a conversation in São Paulo last summer that York Vice-President Academic & Provost Sheila Embleton and Associate Vice-President International Adrian Shubert had with Miriam Dualibi, director of the ECOAR Institute for Citizenship – a Brazilian non-governmental organization (NGO). ECOAR was a partner in Ellie Perkins’ Sister Watersheds Project and is a host organization for the York International Internship Program.
Left: Gathering water in India
“Miriam was frustrated that discussions of climate change and its impacts usually ignored the circumstances and needs of people in developing countries,” said Shubert. “She said it would be wonderful to have a platform to make these concerns better known in the Global North. We realized immediately this was something York University should do.”
Moving from this broad idea to the conference required much effort and some luck. A working group consisting of Dawn Bazely, director of the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS), Professor Martin Bunch and Professor Ellie Perkins from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), political science Professor Richard Saunders from York’s Faculty of Arts, and Adjunct Professors Kaz Higuchi and James MacLellan (seconded from Environment Canada to FES) identified potential speakers from the three southern countries as well as the Canadian Artic. Higuchi and MacLellan were also able to secure funding from Environment Canada to allow the conference to go ahead. Additional funds came from the International Polar Year and the Office of the Vice-President Academic.
Right: Aaju Peter
In addition to ECOAR’s Dualibi, the participants include South African environmental journalist and activist Rehana Dada; Aaju Peter, a Inuit culturalist, designer of traditional clothing, musical performer, translator/interpreter and law student who is very active in social and cultural issues in Nunavut; Andy Norwegian, language specialist at the Deh Cho Divisional Education Council in the Northwest Territories; Joyashree Roy, director of the Global Change Program at Jadavpur University in Kolkatta – a York partner institution; and Chaitanya Kumar from the Indian Youth Climate Network in Hyderabad.
Lunch each day will feature a documentary, starting with Weather Report on April 16, directed by York film Professor Brenda Longfellow, followed by Asfan Chowdury’s Who Cares if Bangladesh Drowns? on April 17. The conference will also include a Funding Open House at which the speakers will be able to meet representatives from the Canadian International Development Agency, the International Development Research Centre and NGOs as well as with private funders.