The invisible work of the climate movement – Fix

Hello everyone. We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve chosen a date for our first Looking Forward Book Club chat: Wednesday, September 14 at 6 p.m. ET. We hope to see you there!! RSVP here – more details (and a fun surprise) below.

Vision

“I take care of the financial audits. I chase people for receipts. I take care of filing standardization and make sure our board approves things and updates the accounting policies and procedures manual – but it all comes from a place of care and protection for our team , for our mission, for our organization.

— Azuré Keahi, accountant for Soul Fire Farm

---

The projector

Azuré Keahi was eight months pregnant with her second child when she applied for a job with Capital Bookkeeping Cooperative, a worker-owned company based in Troy, New York, which provides bookkeeping services to mission-based organizations and local businesses. For someone who liked to have his hands in the dirt, this was an unexpected decision. She had worked in an artist residency, using permaculture design to manage landscapes and nurture local ecosystems. But to care for her children, she felt she had to work from home.

“I’m going to try this stuff,” she thinks to herself, “and see how I can apply my creativity and love of the land to administrative processes.

After four years as an accountant, she realized that accounting, too, can be environmental work. By accounting for clients like Soul Fire Farm – an African-Indigenous-focused community farm – she could unleash this organization’s ability to do what it set out to do: fight racism in the food system. and create a model of sustainable agriculture. Although her work doesn’t look like what most people would imagine to be “climate advocacy”, Keahi quickly realized how important tasks such as paying people on time, keeping the organization in compliance with the IRS and maintaining a balanced budget were crucial to the group’s success. .

Behind every social movement, there are countless people playing supporting roles – balancing budgets, coordinating trips, bringing snacks, or sitting outside meetings to watch the kids. But while these accountants, cooks, custodians and other people are essential to the functioning of climate and justice work, most of us don’t hear about them. This Labor Day, we tell the stories of some of those who provide this crucial work – often women, queer people and people of color.

Azuré Keahi, accountant for Soul Fire Farm, working alongside her children at home.

Azuré Keahi, accountant for Soul Fire Farm, working alongside her children at home. Sina Basila Hickey

Most of a social movement is groundwork, says FaRied Munarsyah of People’s Kitchen, a Vermont-based volunteer organization that provides free food for activist events. The “glorious and sexy stuff”, like being on the front lines of crowded gatherings, is a small part of the work involved. And without that behind-the-scenes effort, a meeting, workshop, or demo won’t be so magical. “No meeting can go without coffee,” he laughs. “Someone has to do this stuff.”

People’s Kitchen volunteers collect donations from local farms and grocery stores, prepare meals in commercial kitchens, and serve them at events such as workshops or Statehouse protests hosted by climate groups like 350 Vermont and Rising Tide.

For Munarsyah, this offering has a ripple effect – it supports people doing activism and it also builds community. Whether people are taking a break from a long day of workshops or sitting under a tree to eat during a protest, breaking bread together encourages conversation and cultivates relationships, which Munarsyah considers essential to organizing. work.

“I think food is really important for any event,” he says. “It’s a way for people not only to feed themselves, but also to share with others.” And while the events may make headlines, Munarsyah says the vast majority of the work it took to get there goes unnoticed: “Ninety percent is just meetings, the logistics of things and looking for a daycare.

Volunteers prepare and serve food at a community event in Vermont.

Volunteers prepare and serve food at a community event in Vermont. Courtesy of People’s Kitchen

Finding child care is made easy by organizations like the Greater Boston Childcare Collective (GBCC), which provides the service for free at community organizations and other activism-related events. “We do this so that parents and children can participate more fully in the movements,” says Shay McIntosh, GBCC volunteer and member of the planning team.

In McIntosh’s experience, the burden of childcare often falls on mothers and grandmothers who may be prevented from participating in the organization of labor if they are kept at home to watch the young. What the GBCC does is help take on this “unrecognized work and stress,” McIntosh says, so caregivers can be leaders in the work. She believes this is especially important for making spaces accessible to low-income people and people of color, who are disproportionately affected by climate impacts. One of the groups GBCC has volunteered for is Housing and Climate Justice for Acton, which helps apartment and condo residents find solutions to housing and climate-related emergencies. McIntosh sees GBCC’s work as a manifestation of both feminism and racial justice.

Keahi, who describes herself as quiet and shy, says her contributions sometimes feel overlooked in activist spaces. On a tough day, being the accountant can seem like a thankless job. “I do all this work. Like, nobody notices,” she said.

But, she adds, she does it because accounting takes advantage of her strengths, concretely supports environmental projects and actually brings her joy. She thinks it’s possible that others will also find this sweet spot. “I know everyone is good at something,” she says. “Everyone can offer his gift.”

-Marigo Farr

More exposure

  • Lily: some Ask Umbra columns from the vault – this one offers a broad definition of green jobs, and this one explains why all sorts of social good work is seen as fighting the devastating effects of climate change (Grist)
  • Lily: a question-and-answer session on why social workers are essential to our climate future (the 19th)
  • Look: “The Big C”, a short animated video exploring the intersection between work and climate (The Center for Cultural Power)
  • Genius idea: Check out the Climate Venn Diagram, an exercise pioneered by marine biologist and climate policy expert (and Grist 50 Fixer) Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. The idea is to find the intersection of what you are good at, what brings you joy, and what needs to be done in the climate movement. Try! And don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

On our horizon

The time is near… for our first Looking Forward book club! We meet in two weeks, the Wednesday, September 14 at 6 p.m. ET (on Zoom), to discuss the climate anthology All we can save. You don’t need to have read the whole book to enter – but if you have, please let us know in the RSVP form which essays you would most like to discuss.

And we’re excited to share some great news: we’re having a special guest appearance. Katharine K. Wilkinson, one of the co-editors of All we can savewill join us for the discussion!

Don’t miss — RSVP for the gathering here.

A goodbye

What would a climate protest be without all these fire signs? This too takes time and work. Check out this video tutorial from 350 Seattle showing how to stencil signs.

A screenshot of the video tutorial