Panel 2.1: Climate Refugee Stories: Building an Archive of Resilience

Tina Shull, Tanaya Dutta Gupta, Emma Crow-Willard, Christine Wheatley, Monica Curca, Thor Morales, Sienna Leis, and Hania Mariën

This panel explores the intersections of struggles for climate and social justice, and how interdisciplinary collaboration can contribute to climate change education through a discussion of the Climate Refugee Stories digital humanities project. Climate Refugee Stories is a multimedia narrative, public education, and archiving project that documents stories of people around the world displaced by the impacts of climate change and a global hardening of borders, broadly defined. Supplemented by a #ClimateMigrationSyllabus, high school curriculum, and community discussion toolkit, the project is designed to engage students, non-governmental organizations, and affected communities in questions of who are “climate refugees,” the historical origins of climate change’s disparate impacts, and how communities are responding to a convergence of crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is global in scope but focuses on specific regions, especially the United States as the largest carbon emitter in world history and as current US policies of climate change denialism and refugee refusal are exacerbating a global refugee crisis. Climate Refugee Stories employs mixed methods of participatory action research, oral history, filmmaking, archiving, and co-curricular development to invite storytellers, students, and audiences to debate and define “climate refugees” for themselves in order to reveal the historical, political, economic, and environmental causes of global inequality and displacement, to recognize community resilience, and to provide tools for allying movements for social and environmental justice. Our panel of project collaborators will discuss their experiences of gathering stories from the US-Mexico border, Central America, Bangladesh, India, Ghana, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas, as well as the challenges and opportunities we have encountered.

Project Director Tina Shull, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Post-1960 US History at UNC Charlotte specializing in immigration history, race, mass incarceration, and climate migration. In 2016, she was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship for her work in immigration detention storytelling. Climate Refugee Stories is supported by grants from National Geographic and the University of California’s Critical Refugee Studies Collective.

Tanaya Dutta Gupta is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Davis, with her research broadly focusing on climate change, migration, borders and inequality in the Global South. Her educational background includes MA in Geography from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India, and BSc in Geography from Presidency College, University of Calcutta, India. Tanaya is an affiliate of the Global Migration Center at UC Davis and is a Visiting Researcher at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).

Impact Producer Emma Crow-Willard is a filmmaker, scientist, and founder of Roots of Unity Media, formed to combat media stereotypes of women, minorities, and science through film and education. Emma works with communities affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the United States. She holds a Master’s in Environmental Management from Yale and directed the Yale Environmental Film Festival in 2017-8.

Christine Wheatley, PhD, is a scholar of global migration and the Executive Director of New-Age Environmental Development of Africa (NED Africa). For her doctoral work in Sociology, Christine conducted fieldwork with displaced migrants in the United States and Mexico. Her organization now works with communities affected by deforestation and coastal erosion in West Africa to build sustainable new economies.

Monica Curca is a peacebuilder, artist, and Participatory Action Research facilitator and filmmaker. She is the founder and Director of the storytelling non-profit Activate Labs and holds dual Master’s degrees in Sustainable International Development and Conflict and Coexistence from Brandeis. She works to build trauma healing spaces with migrant families along routes of the “refugee caravan” in Guatemala, Mexico, and in US immigration detention.

Thor Morales is an ethnobiologist, photographer, filmmaker and participatory video & photovoice facilitator in Mexico. He leads participatory video and storytelling at Activate Labs.

A self-described ‘climate convert’, Sienna Leis is a graduate in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Sienna is dedicated to working with government, educational, and non-governmental organizations in The Bahamas focused on rebuilding the communities most impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

Education Consultant Hania Mariën is a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Through her work she partners with young people and their families in arts-based Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR) projects. A concurrent focus of her work is creating more welcoming educational communities for immigrant-origin youth, and developing resources to support educators in teaching about migration.


Panel 2.2: An Intergenerational Panel: Personal and Collective Resistance in Times of Uncertainty

Tianna Arredondo, Gabi Jubran, Mila Aliana, and Celia Alario

COVID 19 underscored what climate and social justice activists have long understood— that systemic and institutional racism and classism in the United States has resulted in a society where communities of color and low income communities, especially BIPOC folks, are at greater risk in health crises – just as they disproportionately bear the brunt of climate injustice and environmental racism. There are “Seven Dimensions of Wellness” which include each being’s physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual wellness, as well as the social, environmental and occupational ‘wellness’. These last three categories are essentially the work our movement groups are addressing with our campaigns for a just and vibrant society, culture, workplace and planet. But until we make the first four a priority, we can’t succeed. A mindset shift is key, and it is time to begin viewing health, wellness and resilience as an essential STRATEGY to create lasting systemic change. The Climate Justice movement needs a major reframe to see embodiment of health and vitality not simply as ‘good self-care’ or good for ’team morale’ but as a strategic imperative. What if we retool how our movements do the work, with the recognition that the wellness of each of us, activists or not, is as important as any other strategic output or outcome we need to achieve? How do our relationships (connections) with well-being of self, society and environment give us resiliency and strength in times of uncertainty and crisis? Join our vision for this new strategic orientation. Join us!

Mila Aliana has been navigating the quest to learn how living systems and their lifecycle, within nature and society, behave and balance themselves in times of disruptive and emerging change. She is exploring projects of heart experimenting to this essence, a way of being living as an organism and network of organisms, upholding the integrity to think, be, and act in co-creating balanced and beneficial conditions for all life forms to flourish. Mila is presently piloting the Guardian of Life with other like-minded heart warriors and pioneers, experimenting a way of life with integrity to living systems and its lifecycle. She is also honored to be the emissary of the Wisdom Weavers of the World, a wisdom circle of Elders from around the world with a call to unity to work together from the heart towards an everlasting harmony and thriving of life. She has also recently co-founded Women Tapestry of Life, a conversation circle for the sharing and exchange of wisdom and grace by women elders from around the world, starting with conversations with Indigenous Grandmothers Celia Alario consults as a communications strategist, coach, and media skills trainer.

In the last 25 years Celia Alario has helped amplify groundbreaking media campaigns, provided one-on-one coaching for dozens of Communications Directors, trained hundreds of spokespeople and placed thousands of stories about critical social justice and environmental issues in media outlets worldwide. She’s on the Advisory Board of Kindle Project, and alternatively chases her poodle across the majestic red rock landscapes of Moab, Utah and the effervescent coastlines of Santa Barbara, California. Specialties: Communication strategy, creative visuals, synthesis, public relations, publicity, branding, media and messaging training, spokesperson and public speaking training, group meeting facilitation, social media, radio production and hosting.

Tianna Renee Arredondo (they/them) is a Black-Mexican thought liberator moved by modes of ancestral technologies most familiarized as healing justice and/or self-healing. They grew up between Ohlone and Yokut Territory between so-called Santa Cruz and Fresno, California experiencing the juxtaposition in climate, culture, and class from a young age. Tianna has supported environmental justice organizing at the local, statewide, national, and international level with leaders from many sectors. Their soul calling is to create media and spaces that are transformative, allowing melanated folx to self-actualize and heal while in nourishing community. Their most current role is as an environmental justice organizer for supporting Hawaii and California leadership on campaigns. They are also working to create structures and processes of accountability within the non-profit industrial complex with the vision of being able to create a more equitable and healthy Black, Brown, and Indigenous-led climate justice narrative within spaces that are known for extracting and disrespecting QTBIPOC leaders.


Panel 2.3: Climate Justice and Indigenous Communities

“Food Scarcity and Climate Justice in the Guatemalan Highlands”

Melina Smith

As climate change transforms weather patterns and disrupts ecosystems around the world, communities dependent on agriculture are expected to suffer the greatest impact. Guatemala is amongst the top ten countries in the world most susceptible to climate change. The highlands of Guatemala, home to the highest concentration of indigenous communities and central to the country’s agricultural production, is the most vulnerable area in the country. Nearly half of Guatemala’s population is indigenous, and their sustenance is almost exclusively agrarian. A recent food security and malnutrition crises has disproportionately affected these already vulnerable communities. Climate change is expected to accelerate disruptions to agricultural production in the highlands, leaving these communities in dire food deficits. In a country where the poverty rate amongst the indigenous population averages at seventy-nine percent while they live in one of the most environmentally hostile places in the region, climate change becomes more than an environmental issue, it is an issue of justice and human rights. This presentation will outline ongoing research conducted at, a collective of students, academics, and activists, currently conducting mixed-methods research on academic and development policy literature, and work produced by local grassroots movements, to highlight the inextricable link between climate justice and food insecurity in Guatemala, and the structural factors contributing to this relationship. The aim is to produce knowledge to inform local stakeholders and guide decision-makers to implement effective policy. Our findings thus far indicate that climate justice-related issues such as poverty, lack of accessibility to services, and the marginalization of underserved communities are the leading drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition in the highlands of Guatemala.

Melina holds a B.S. in City and Regional Planning from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo with a Minor in Sustainable Environments. For her senior thesis, Melina stayed in an ecovillage in Mexico for the purpose of analyzing their economic, social, and environmentally sustainable practices, and the feasibility of these practices being implemented in metropolitan cities. She has worked in the private sector leading public engagement in environmental justice communities for municipal planning projects, as a city planner in local government, and currently, as a campus planner helping California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo meet their long-term sustainability goals. She began her non-profit work volunteering for the Global Ecovillage Network, analyzing the legal and regulatory funding frameworks guiding Colombia’s commitments to environmental protection. Melina is currently a research volunteer for, conducting academic and policy research related to the connection of climate justice and food scarcity in Guatemala, and how local and foreign action can efficiently address this issue. She has a committed interest in doing all that she can to contribute to guiding sustainable and equitable development, and promoting a healthy and prosperous future for communities around the world.


“Water Equity and Climate Justice in Guatemala”

Shea Cheatham

Guatemala is a critical site in terms of immediate climate justice concerns. Despite an abundance of precipitation, a changing climate and poor water infrastructure has made water accessibility a constant concern for many Guatemalans, and has already forced thousands to migrate from the region. Here, we present an ongoing, mixed-method investigation into the structure and history of water equity in Guatemala, both as a social fact and as a proxy for a broad range of climate justice issues. Through the analysis of historical and scientific documents, we develop a theory centered around the notion that water equity is a foundational requirement for climate justice in general, and that, by extension, the state of water-related justice issues can indicate the general state of climate justice in a region. Examining water equity as a root requirement of climate justice enables us to support local actors working at the community and policy levels in the development of focused, practically actionable adaptation and mitigation strategies. Furthermore, successful climate mitigation and adaptation methods in Guatemala may prove to be vitally important to global efforts by serving as an inaugural example; to this end, we aim to create informed projections regarding just climate futures worldwide.

Shea is an Argentine-American with an M.S. in Earth Systems Sciences and an M.A. in Philosophy, both from Stanford University. As a graduate student, her work ranged from hydrodynamic modeling to environmental messaging and ethics. She recently held a visiting faculty position at Principia College, where she taught courses in environmental ethics and feminist philosophy. Now at Region360, Shea works as an editor and researcher, focusing on the dissemination of critical environmental information for use at both the community and policy levels.


Panel 2.4: Abolition Ecology

DSA Santa Cruz Ecosocialist Working Group (represented by Martabel Wasserman, A. Laurie Palmer, and T. J. Demos)

“[A]bolition has to be ‘green.’ It has to take seriously the problem of environmental harm, environmental racism, and environmental degradation. To be ‘green’ it has to be ‘red.’ It has to figure out ways to generalize the resources needed for well-being for the most vulnerable people in our community, which then will extend to all people,” Ruth Wilson Gilmore told Chenjerai Kumanyika in a recent Intercepted podcast. As members of DSA Santa Cruz Ecosocialist Working Group, we analyze, organize and create together in order to prefigure and enact an abolitionist horizon informed by the radical Green New Deal and the decolonial Red Deal. Our video presents two of our ongoing projects, exemplifying our participatory agit-prop and creative propaganda: The Multispecies Tribunal Against Private Property for Crimes Against the Commons and the Abolition Ecology Walking Series. Both take our local surroundings in Central California as conflictual sites within which to critically analyze structural challenges and imagine systemic transformation. The Tribunal gathers performative testimonies (humans and non-humans) that offer evidence of harm enacted against the multispecies commons by private property. The Abolition Ecology Walking Series explores the nexus of police violence and environmental destruction (by transforming Santa Cruz’s vital ecosystems into racialized scenes of biosecurity and defensive botany, where real estate value trumps housing justice priorities), and how abolition ecology produces antiracist environmentalism. Working at the intersection of art and activism, we discuss how our local praxis envisions and enacts the systemic changes required globally for anti-capitalist and abolitionist environmentalisms.

Laurie Palmer is a Professor in the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz, a member of the DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, and an artist and writer living in Santa Cruz.

Martabel Wasserman is a PhD student in Art and Art History at Stanford, a member of the DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, and an artist, writer and curator living in Santa Cruz.

T. J. Demos is a Professor of Visual Culture at UC Santa Cruz, director of its for Creative Ecologies, and a member of the DSA Ecosocialist Working Group in Santa Cruz.

DSA Santa Cruz Ecosocialist Working Group organizes to fight capitalism and build local power for climate, environmental and multi-species justice. Part of the national organization Democratic Socialists of America, we work to spread an understanding that capitalism and imperialism must be fought against to promote the health of our planet and all of its people through public information campaigns, agitprop, literature, and mutual aid. It is not simply enough to Decarbonize, we must also Decapitalize, and Decolonialize. For “Confronting Climate Crisis,” our group is represented by A. Laurie Palmer (a Professor in the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz, and an artist and writer living in Santa Cruz), Martabel Wasserman (a PhD student in Art and Art History at Stanford, and an artist, writer and curator living in Santa Cruz), and T. J. Demos (a Professor of Visual Culture at UC Santa Cruz and director of its Center for Creative Ecologies).


Panel 2.5: Climate Justice and Renewal I: Fossil Fuels, False Climate Solutions, and Popular Responses

Brian Tokar (moderator), Marcelo Calazans, Nnimmo Bassey, and Patrick Bond

Brian Tokar: Co-editor of the new book, Climate Justice and Community Renewal: Resistance and Grassroots Solutions (Routledge 2020), which uniquely highlights the experiences of people who are engaged in local climate justice struggles and community renewal efforts on five continents. Its fifteen contributed chapters illuminate justice-centered responses to escalating climate disruptions and highlight strategic and on-the-ground links among campaigns to resist extractive industries, defend land and forests, protect water resources, and develop community-centered responses to a variety of climate-related threats. These are framed in relation to various reconstructive efforts to reclaim community, democratize energy systems and envision a more just transition toward a renewable future.

Brian Tokar is a Lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, a faculty and board member with the Institute for Social Ecology, co-editor of Climate Justice and Community Renewal, and author and editor of six previous books on environmental issues and movements.

Nnimmo Bassey: My presentation will focus on community struggles to keep fossil fuels in the ground and their confrontations with extreme pollution and other acts of corporate irresponsibility. I will also speak of the Annex Zero option proposed by Oilwatch International as the viable way to keep carbon in the ground, avoid conflicts and bring about financing of reparations through payment of climate debt. The presentation will round off by examining the carbon politics that keeps the UNFCCC from addressing fossil fuels while the UN veers towards technofixes.

Nnimmo Bassey is a Nigerian architect, environmental activist, author and poet, who chaired Friends of the Earth International for five years and is now the Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation.

Patrick Bond: Climate crises are conjoined with other battles over how a country’s natural resources are managed, especially in countries facing desperate inequality where an alternative to fossil fuels is urgently needed. In Durban – home to Africa’s largest refinery complex, where offshore oil and gas drilling is being promoted by the world’s biggest oil companies – there is a South Durban Community Environmental Alliance strategy that is not only generating genuine Just Transition options for the local economy. SDCEA also insists on the “Right to Say No!” to abusive extraction of natural resources. This reflects the combination of thinking about current crises of local pollution and catastrophic hazards, about future generations’ rights to resources, and about linking these through a Climate Justice narrative and resistance politics.

Patrick Bond is Distinguished Professor of Political Economy at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the author of numerous articles and books on the politics of climate justice in South Africa and globally.

Marcelo Calazans: I will talk about two local struggles and local community renewal efforts confronting the oil industry and timber monocultures in Brazil: Quilombolas communities reconverting Suzano’s eucalyptus green deserts into Atlantic forest and food cultivation in North Espirito Santo state; and fisher communities fighting along the Brazilian Atlantic coast, confronting the oil industry and petro-dependence.

Marcelo Calazans is the director of FASE (Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional) in the state of Espírito Santo, a Brazilian civil society organization that works on human rights and rights of nature, and an activist for twenty-five years around rural struggles in Brazil.


Panel 2.6: Climate Justice and Renewal II: The Politics and Promise of Local Alternatives

Brian Tokar (moderator), Georges F. Félix, Terran Giacomini, Karl-Ludwig Schibel, and Kelly Roache

Brian Tokar: Co-editor of the new book, Climate Justice and Community Renewal: Resistance and Grassroots Solutions (Routledge 2020), which uniquely highlights the experiences of people who are engaged in local climate justice struggles and community renewal efforts on five continents. Its fifteen contributed chapters illuminate justice-centered responses to escalating climate disruptions and highlight strategic and on-the-ground links among campaigns to resist extractive industries, defend land and forests, protect water resources, and develop community-centered responses to a variety of climate-related threats. These are framed in relation to various reconstructive efforts to reclaim community, democratize energy systems and envision a more just transition toward a renewable future.

Brian Tokar is a Lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, a faculty and board member with the Institute for Social Ecology, co-editor of Climate Justice and Community Renewal, and author and editor of six previous books on environmental issues and movements.

Georges F. Félix: In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and María disrupted an already weakened Puerto Rican food system. Environmental vulnerability is coupled with evidence of climate changes: higher temperatures; coastal and mountain soil erosion; and loss of biodiversity. In the aftermath of the disaster, the poor response on behalf of the government was counter-balanced by strong and already-existing social networks, particularly among farmers participating in agroecological markets. This presentation discusses and critically analyzes the potential of agroecology to transform the food production system of Puerto Rico in light of its social and political context.

Georges F. Félix is a field agronomist with specialties in agroecology and radical system redesign, an international university lecturer on agroecology and agroforestry, and a frequent collaborator with NGOs and grassroots organizations in Puerto Rico, Europe and the US.

Kelly Roache: This talk will assess efforts to build renewable, equitable, accountable, and local community-shared solar consistent with a dual power political framework, in which community-owned renewable energy projects not only serve immediate needs, but can be engines for broader policy, systems, and social change. Case studies will include the successful reclamation of an abandoned public school property in Buffalo, New York to erect affordable senior housing and community arts spaces served by tenant-owned shared solar.

Kelly Roache is a co-founder of Symbiosis, a confederation of local, direct democratic projects across North America, and an Institute for Social Ecology board member. She has served on the Steering Committee of the New York Energy Democracy Alliance.

Terran Giacomini: This presentation explores the politics of food sovereignty and agroecology from an ecofeminist perspective. It draws on my PhD research with La Vía Campesina movement for food sovereignty to highlight the ways that Vía Campesina women and their allies are building grassroots alternatives to challenge green capitalism and false climate solutions.