A Bigger Picture – Vanessa Nakate

Vanessa Nakate on the cover of TIME magazine

Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate activist, who started the first climate strikes in Uganda as part of the Fridays for the Future movement. She was invited to various international conferences and was famously cropped out of an AP photo of her and other (white) climate activists. In the book, she reflects on that incident, her climate activism, racism, and there is a deep emphasis on intersectionality, particularly the links between climate and gender.

I found the book a great read, it was an enjoyable mix of things that felt familiar (eg. awkwardly holding up a sign somewhere), but in a very different context, and Vanessa’s personal reflections and history. 

Some of my favourite bits of the book are the parts where she is describing her early climate activism.  Where she was doing something that was difficult to explain to people, often on her own or with only a few people, often feeling ignored by passers-by.  The questions of where to go, and what the signs should say felt familiar.  She mentioned that she wasn’t sure what to put on the signs but included one slogan which said ‘Thanks for the Global Warming’ which was intended to be sarcastic.

However, while there were elements of her activism that felt familiar, it was also clear that she operates in a very different context.  There was an illuminating discussion about how school strikes may be an option for young people in the West but are more complicated in a place like Uganda where schools have to be paid for, and where failure to attend can be more strictly punished by expulsion. She writes about adapting the school strikes for her local schools by bringing the striking into the classroom, with the consent of the teachers.

One of the threads which runs through the book is intersectionality, in particular, the intersections of gender and race with the climate crisis.  One of the difficulties she has in getting more women activists involved, particularly young women, is that standing in a public place with a sign is seen as not something a marriageable woman would do.  Or alternatively, she is only doing it to be noticed by men.  As she becomes increasingly involved in a global movement, she becomes increasingly aware of the role racism plays in the climate change conversations, as well as the reality of the climate emergency.  Not only is she cropped out of pictures, but she notes the general lack of voices from the global South and when they are included it can be in a tokenistic way.  However, she also pays tribute to the many other activists, particularly women activists who have inspired the work she does and she brings their voices into the book.

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Book review: Mindfully Facing Climate Change

Reviewed by Katja

Mindfully Facing Climate Change by Bikkhu Analayo

Bikkhu Analayo is a Theravadin monk, scholar and meditation teacher. In this book, he looks at how buddhist practice can help us facing climate change and its impacts. The book is based on a series of four talks and essays each based on one of the four noble truths. You can either watch the talks that all also include a meditation, or download the book for free. As a scholar, he is really interested in early buddhist texts and explores questions like the relationship to nature in early Buddhism and different understandings of interdependence. He gives some examples of sutras and explores what those mean for our understanding of ecology and acting on climate change. I’ve found this to be really helpful knowledge when talking to other Buddhists who might be skeptical about why buddhists should need to act on climate change. The other area of inquiry is how to not be overwhelmed and here his approach is based on the Brahma viharas/divine abodes. There is also a conversation with him and Joseph Goldstein on the website introducing the topic: Mindfully Facing Climate Change

Katja is a member of XR Buddhists

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