by Nicole Jashapara
I read shado’s Climate Justice issue in the midst of Extinction Rebellion’s September Rebellion. Like other rebellions, Parliament Square in London is filled everyday with speakers, samba bands and policemen. What is different, however, is the increased emphasis on justice. On the Friday evening that I read the magazine, I have just returned from a ‘Climate Justice is Migrant Justice’ event. The day before I heard Esther Stanford-Xosei, a Reparationist and member of the Stop the Maangamizi campaign, read Ken Saro-Wiwa’s final statement, a Nigerian activist killed for his opposition to Shell’s destruction of Ogoniland. Mainstream climate activism – in the Western, whitewashed sense – is attempting to be more intersectional, and to build solidarity with other justice movements. The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has emphasised that there needs to be an urgent, radical overhaul of the racist, capitalist structures we exist in: all justice issues are interconnected, and the climate crisis is not exempt. But what does that actually mean?
shado’s third issue is exhilarating exploration of the interconnectedness of justice issues, filled with the words and artwork of 50 contributors. The variety of perspectives on climate justice is astounding: Kate Metcalf discusses the Feminist Green New Deal, whilst Poppy Hall writes of environmental warfare in Gaza. Kera Sherwood O’Regan examines the interlinks between climate and disability justice, whilst Fope Olaleye analyses the whitewashing of Western environmental rhetoric. This issue comes at a time when Intersectional Environmentalism is increasingly fashionable, with the popularity of influencers like Leah Thomas and Mikaela Loach; Thomas wrote about anti-racist environmentalism in Vogue and founded the Intersectional Environmentalist platform, which has 136k followers on Instagram. Social media has been vital in the dissemination of radical ideas around justice, but justice issues can also not be reduced to infographics. shado, as a magazine that gives space for longer-form essays from experts in the field, allows for more nuanced, complex insights into how certain injustices are produced, and how they can be combatted.
Most strikingly, shado’s Climate Justice issue emphasises that viewing the climate crisis as something that can be resolved by simply limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees is inherently flawed. This is epitomised by Sienna Somers’ article on the exploitation of Bangladeshi workers in the garment industry, which illustrates how the climate crisis is enmeshed in other structural injustices. Somers shows how fast fashion is not a simple matter of greenhouse gas emissions: in many ways, it is a colonial phenomenon, epitomising capitalist exploitation of Black and Brown workers, and it is also a feminist issue in how it disproportionately affects womxn. In order to address fast fashion’s contribution to global heating, these other justice issues must be addressed, and power must be re-figured and re-distributed. This issue of shado makes climate justice feel real and comprehensible, rather than an abstract political idea, and in doing so demonstrates the genuine necessity for radical, anti-capitalist change. As Teju Adisa-Farrar writes in her article:
‘We must invest time, energy, and resources into ecological, community-based models of ownership and control. We must focus on investing in practices that reject the same structures that hold up our current fossil fuel extraction-based economy and anti-Black society. Radical change will be collective, common, and geographically specific.’
shado stands for ‘See, hear, act, do’, and the magazine intends to ‘[drive] change at the intersection of arts, activism and academia’; radical change is at its heart. Several essays do end with an excellent, targeted call to action (Kera Sherwood-O’Regan’s is particularly good), but in others – and in the issue overall – this can feel a bit lacking. It is brilliant to bring these issues and voices, as Poppy Hall writes, ‘into the international consciousness’, but it can also feel difficult to know what to actually do with this newfound knowledge: more emphasis on mobilising the individual reader’s political agency and capacity for change would have made the issue even better.
Although Hannah Robathan and Isabella Pearce, shado’s founders and editors, are white, none of the contributors are: given the centrality of racial justice to climate justice, this is a vital editorial decision. In her article on ecofeminism and indigenous communities, Diana Paris Rodriguez writes of how people at the forefront of the crisis need to be seen not as ‘objects of study, but as active participants in change’. It is all too easy to patronise and dehumanise people in the Global South, as well as minorities in the West: environmentalists’ white saviourism detracts from the autonomy of those who need to be ‘saved’. I am particularly struck by Vanessa Nakate and Davis Reuben Sekamwa’s article, in which Nakate discusses the blatant disregard for Africa in Western climate change policy: it is ‘written in black and white in the Paris Agreement … I heard a quote once; ‘one point five degrees is murder for Africa. Two degrees is when the whites burn”. I had read about Nakate before, when she was cropped out of a viral photo of her with other prominent climate activists, including Greta Thunberg; all the others were white. Black and Brown faces are literally erased from the environmentalist movement, whilst Western environmentalist policy values white lives more than Black, Brown and Indigenous lives too. This is why shado is so important: people of at the centre of the climate crisis must be given space to express their voice and autonomy.
If you are interested in climate justice, either as an activist or a bystander who’s seen the phrase floating around on the internet, I cannot recommend shado’s Climate Justice issue highly enough.
With so many contributors and so many essays, it could be easy to feel overwhelmed reading shado. The emphasis on artwork, however – particularly photography – gives the magazine a regenerative, sometimes joyous feel. I am relieved to find Ngadi Smart’s photography, striking photos documenting thriving indigenous cultures and Black sensuality against colonial-era architecture; the visual allows for types of storytelling that cannot be communicated through words. The ‘Everything is Connected’ photography project, also in the magazine, aims to inspire empathy and action by 'showing the connection between planetary health and human health’. These photos, expressing the fraught, complex relationships between humans and the natural world, literally give faces to the intersections of climate justice: it is a clever, creative way of grounding distant political realities in something tangible and moving.
In 2019, the Guardian updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crisis, preferring ‘climate emergency, crisis or breakdown’ over ‘climate change’, and ‘global heating’ over ‘global warming’. It’s an editorial decision that has seeped into my own language; I never use the phrases ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ anymore, and find that conversations I have now more accurately reflect the genuine urgency of the situation. Language matters; as the editors of shado write, they want to choose words ‘wisely’, language that ‘reflects the true story of the crisis’. It’s something to consider: writers in shado alternate between ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate change’, and although a minor point, I wonder how much our actual labels for the ‘climate crisis’ affect how we respond to it.
If you are interested in climate justice, either as an activist or a bystander who’s seen the phrase floating around on the internet, I cannot recommend shado’s Climate Justice issue highly enough. The writing in it occupies the space between academic essay and mainstream article brilliantly, and you will come out of reading it feeling enriched with knowledge, with a simultaneous awareness of how much more there is to learn.
shado's Climate Justice issue will be available to purchase on September 14th. In the meantime, you can pre-order from their website. Thank you to shado for the advance review copy.