10 ways academics can promote climate justice today

Written by professors Allison Kelly and Sharon Kirkpatrick of the FAUW Climate Justice Working Group.

The pandemic has consumed much of our attention and energy over the last few months, making it understandably difficult to find the mental and emotional space to consider other societal challenges. However, as the pandemic persists, we may gradually be able to turn our attention to issues such as climate and racial injustice that pre-dated – and will certainly outlive – the pandemic. Alongside the devastation of the pandemic come opportunities to reflect on the status quo and to identify ways to create a more sustainable, just future for us all. As faculty members, we are in a unique position to take meaningful action toward climate justice.

Our actions can not only make a difference to the climate justice agenda but may also serve to reduce our own eco-anxiety while modeling actions other members of our community can take. Here are some things we can all consider doing:

  1. Add your voice. Sign petitions advocating for climate-just change at institutional and governmental levels, and share your actions with others to inspire them to do the same. One immediate action we can all take is to support the call for UW to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a just, climate-safe future, just as our faculty colleagues have done at other top universities such as Harvard and UBC.
  2. Get involved. Join groups on campus dedicated to climate justice, including FAUW’s Climate Justice Working Group, Indigenization Working Group, and Equity Committee. These groups allow us to connect and work with like-minded colleagues and can turn feelings of isolation and eco-anxiety into collective inspiration and action.
  3. Hold the University accountable. Raise climate justice at the tables at which you sit and highlight the co-benefits of actions to advance climate justice for the University’s broader goals – including sustainability, mental health and wellness, equity, and Indigenization – as well as for its reputation as an innovator and risk taker.
  4. Be an advocate. Lobby your professional organizations to tackle climate justice, for example, by reducing conference-related air travel. Our adaptations to the pandemic have taught us that virtual conferences can be highly engaging; they can also be more accessible to those who typically cannot afford travel to in-person meetings, making them more equitable.
  5. Branch out in your research. Be innovative in imagining how you could integrate a focus on climate justice in your research. You may not see obvious links, but climate change will undoubtedly impact all our fields and we desperately need expertise and insights from all disciplines to tackle this issue! Form and join groups of researchers across disciplines that care about this issue.
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Highlights from the January 30 FAUW Board meeting

Every two weeks or so, we give you a run-down of the major non-confidential topics discussed at our Board of Directors meetings. Here are the latest items:

  1. A new Board member. Patrick Lam (Electrical and Computer Engineering/Computer Science, Director-at-large elected in 2019) has stepped down and gone on sabbatical. Alfred Yu (also ECE) is stepping in until June 30. Nominations for this seat and the six Faculty-specific seats on the Board are open now and due in March.
  2. Climate Justice Working Group. The Board approved a proposal from members to form a FAUW Climate Justice Working Group. Its objectives include building climate justice awareness on campus, creating a community of practice for faculty, and sharing climate justice research with the regional community. You’ll hear more about this new group soon!
  3. Graduate Students Association unionization vote. The GSA Council (similar to our Council of Reps) has voted in favour of “the formation of a union of graduate TAs, RAs, and sessional instructors.” This is a green light for the GSA to explore the option of unionization. There is a detailed explanation on the GSA website. The Imprint has also published a statement from GSA VP David Billedeau.
  4. Our teaching workload project. We’ve collected some information about teaching workload norms and practices from our Council of Representatives. Unsurprisingly, we found wide variation across campus. This is back on the agenda at the Council of Reps meeting on February 5 as we work on narrowing our focus and filling in gaps in the data.
  5. Departmental addenda. Every Faculty has guidelines for performance reviews. Every department has (or is supposed to have) departmental addenda to those guidelines with department-specific criteria (teaching workload norms, for example). These are mandated by the Memorandum of Agreement and they’re important because they set out what the expectations are for your evaluation. We’ll be talking about what to include in these addenda—and why now is the time to update them—at the Council meeting on Wednesday.
  6. Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour. A subcommittee of the Faculty Relations and Staff Relations committees is reviewing the feedback from the Policy 33 consultations.