Climate justice and social justice are inextricably linked. Climate justice recognizes how climate change has impacts on communities already made vulnerable by social, economic, health and other impacts, and who have contributed the least to climate change. In turn, climate change worsens existing social injustices. The connections between climate justice and social justice are drawn more clearly by those working on gender-based and youth-based climate justice initiatives and through projects that also shed light on the impacts of climate change on low-income countries.

Climate justice advocates call for a “gender transformative approach” when undertaking initiatives that address the impacts of climate change. For example, according to CARE International, climate justice initiatives should put effort into addressing  gender and power differences and vulnerabilities that emerge in efforts, including:

  • projects aimed at increasing climate resilience.
  • efforts that enhance men and women’s engagement in household practices of nutrition and health care.
  • conversations with traditional, religious, and elected leaders regarding the impacts of climate change.

Weather shocks, such as floods, droughts and historical fluctuations in temperature, heighten climate injustices when also considering age and gender. A recent study shows “[g]irls and women are particularly vulnerable to the social responses triggered by weather shocks, especially in places where they face restrictive gender norms.” Young boys in agriculture-based economies may be taken out of school to work, and adult males may be forced to choose to leave their households to migrate to places where they can find alternative sources of income due to the impacts of weather shocks.

According to UNICEF, youth define climate justice relationally. That is, youth consider climate actions to be intricately associated with other actions, including human rights, sustainable development, and addressing numerous injustices, such as social injustice, gender injustice, economic injustice, intergenerational injustice and environmental injustice. In order to address climate injustices, youth call for  “people-centered” efforts that address climate change, knowing that “not everyone has contributed to climate change in the same way.” To facilitate climate justice, youth call for:

  • skills development to enable youth and children to contribute to decision making.
  • consistent and reliable financing for youth activists to undertake projects and actions that enable them to implement their collective vision to address climate justice.
  • non-monetary forms of support in the form of partnerships to assist with climate justice action initiatives.

According to the World Climate Risk Index 2020, between 1999 to 2018, among the top countries most affected by extreme weather events, “seven were developing countries in the low income or lower-middle income country group, two were classified as upper-middle income countries (Thailand and Dominica) and one was an advanced economy generating high income (Puerto Rico).” Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti ranked highest among the countries most affected by extreme weather events. Poor families are paying the most when it comes to the effects of climate change.

Achieving climate justice requires ensuring the protection of human rights and inclusion in decision making by those made most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Chela B., Unsplash)

It’s the time of year when people across Turtle Island are turning to their gardens for food and for enjoyment. Fresh food from the garden supports health and wellness which improves our resilience as human beings. Growing a resilient garden also supports Mother Earth as the climate changes.

A garden (or a person) is resilient when it’s able to bounce back after facing extreme conditions. By learning different resilient gardening techniques, we can help our gardens withstand extreme weather caused by climate change. Practices that make gardens more resilient include, minimizing digging and ploughing (often called tilling), avoiding artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides, and including native plants. Planting perennials, the kinds of plants that aren’t weeds, but that, like weeds, come back every year without much maintenance, also contribute to making gardens more resilient to climate change in every season.

Indigenous gardens can play a key role in promoting intergenerational cooperation and sharing Traditional Knowledge about food and the environment. For example the Winyan Toka Win Garden a program of the Cheyenne River Youth Project has met the needs of elders who want traditional foods, and Lakota youth who can learn to better reconnect with the land and with each other. These gardens help build resilient communities and serve as community spaces for hands-on learning. Gardens become outdoor classrooms and contribute to Indigenous land-based learning and Indigenous food sovereignty to fight climate change.

With global warming, the growing season across Turtle Island has become longer. Learning to grow a garden that can adapt to a wide variety of growing conditions is an important factor in adapting to global warming and climate change. So, maybe the next time you admire your Three Sisters Garden grow, or the purple-stemmed asters or another native wildflowers where you live, remember that these plants help build the resilience of all of us, and Mother Earth, to climate change.


By Leela Viswanathan

At Kanaka Bar, preparing for climate change is seen as an important milestone towards the achievement of community’s vision of self-sufficiency.  It is being incorporated in everything that is being done by the community on a day to day basis.  The Traditional Territory of Kanaka Bar is located 14 kilometers south of Lytton, B.C., in the Fraser Canyon. Water plays a critical role in the health of the community. Kanaka Bar has five watersheds: Kwoiek Creek, Morneylun Creek, Nekliptum Creek, Siwash Creek and Four Barrel Creek, all of which support traditional food sources, wildlife and agricultural activities, provide drinking water to the community and hydroelectric power to BC Hydro’s grid.

Over the recent years, many changes have been observed throughout the Traditional Territory. Community members have noticed that wildlife is moving away from the community and travelling further up-mountain, salmon numbers are decreasing and are swimming deeper in the Fraser River in search of cooler temperatures and vegetation growth is changing. As well, consistent rainfall has been replaced by long periods of dry weather and unpredictable storms. These local observations are consistent with scientific predictions of how climate change is likely to affect the region. Although drought has not yet affected the community’s water resources, there is substantial concern that they may be threatened as climate change impacts intensify.

In response to these concerning changes within their Territory, Kanaka Bar has undertaken a Community Vulnerability Assessment to better understand how their environment may continue to change, and how these changes may impact key community values and areas of concern.

Understanding Kanaka Bar’s concerns and priorities was the first step in the Vulnerability Assessment process. Together with environmental professionals from Urban Systems, community members gathered at engagement events to ask questions, and express their concerns about climate change and how it would impact community life and well-being.

After priorities were identified, current and future effects of climate change on these areas were studied. Some anticipated changes that emerged from this research were warmer temperatures year-round; less precipitation in the summer but more in the fall, winter, and spring; less snow; more frequent and intense storms events; changes in water resources; continued stress on the salmon population; changes in the availability of traditional foods; and increased risk of forest fire.

Understanding the ways in which Kanaka Bar was vulnerable to climate change has allowed the community to take meaningful steps towards reducing their risks and becoming more resilient by developing an adaptation strategy. Kanaka Bar’s Adaptation Strategy supports their goal of self-sufficiency while increasing their resilience. It maps out short and long term adaptation actions in six priority areas: Water Resources, Forest Fires, Traditional Foods, Access Roads, Supporting Self-Sufficiency and Youth and Community Engagement and Education. These actions range from installing weather monitoring stations in the community, to expanding food production initiatives, to hosting annual workshops on climate change. Together they represent a “Made at Kanaka, by Kanaka for Kanaka” adaption plan that will benefit the community in a holistic way that goes far beyond coping with climate change.

To learn more about Kanaka Bar and the great strides they’re making towards climate resilience and self-sufficiency, visit their website.

Figure 1Kanaka Youth at Morneylun Water Gauging Station


Author: Kanaka Bar


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