Mackenzie Harris helps us all get the job done.

As the librarian and knowledge translator for the Climate Justice Organizing Hub (Le Hub), this 25-year-old is supporting a richly resourced community of practice for grassroots climate activists across the country.

This piece is part of a series of profiles highlighting young people across the country who are addressing the climate crisis. These extraordinary humans give me hope. I write these stories to pay it forward.

Mackenzie Harris, her mom Leslie, dad Andrew, and sister Jamie get ready to hike the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada. Photo submitted by Mackenzie Harris

Tell us about your projects.

Social science tells us we need the engaged and sustained participation of over one million people across Canada to create climate fairness in our cultural, political and economic systems. Thankfully, a new generation of grassroots and decentralized organizers is building the often self-managing groups and networks we need. But this work is hard and we don’t have time to all learn things from scratch. If we can share resources rapidly, this movement has potentially vast impacts. Le Hub helps organizers with personal and professional challenges and facilitates knowledge exchange and the development of best practices.

Lehub.ca began in Montreal and supports grassroots organizers across the country. With the leadership of director Jacqueline Lee-Tam and the support of our team, I curate the resources that groups are finding useful, help people find the information or connections they might need and sometimes generate content to make best practices widely available. Support from the Small Change Fund means participation is free.

Burnout is a major problem. The urgency of the many crises often seems to compel us to work more and with more intensity. By listening to the grassroots, I have learned to slow down and to rest and build relationships. This better sustains us and is more representative of the world we are trying to create.

I also work at Blueprints for Change where I provide the same services but on a global scale.

Mackenzie Harris announcing the launch of the youth-based group Banking on a Better Future, a collaboration of organizers from Climate Strike Canada and Divest Canada. Photo by Joshua Best

Can you give us an example of how you have been helpful?

As the librarian and knowledge translator for the Climate Justice Organizing Hub (Le Hub), this 25-year-old is supporting a richly resourced community of practice for grassroots climate activists across the country. #YouthClimateAction

We brought student groups facing pandemic-related drops in engagement and capacity together. Their peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing resulted in the creation of a Wikipedia page and a guide for others that has been downloaded over 250 times, so we know it is useful.

How did you get into this work?

My master’s degree in nutritional science was focused on the nutritional status (or health) of preschool-aged children. I wanted a wider impact, so I got involved with my local chapter of Fridays for Future, Banking on a Better Future and with other community groups working on Indigenous rights. I was able to land this job through my involvement once I figured out where I wanted to be.

Did the way you were raised affect your choices?

My parents love the outdoors. They went camping on their honeymoon and were careful to make sure we spent summers on lakes and in parks. This has given me a fierce desire to protect our natural spaces so that others less privileged than me can also know the joy of feeling connected to nature. My mom’s nurturing and caring ways are a model for me when I help people in the movement to care for each other and themselves.

Mackenzie Harris at a Banking on a Better Future day of action protest. Photo by Deep

What makes your work hard?

It is emotionally loaded and I have to monitor how much I take on and take in. I am learning to foreground joy.

A big challenge in the climate movement is how we make sure everyone's needs are met so no one gets left behind, especially because this crisis demands such urgency. How do we build a movement that promises to build up communities so we can be there for each other and sustain the pressure we must bring to bear on those who would destroy us all?

What do you see if we get this right?

During the pandemic, I watched civil society step up to try to ensure everyone was treated fairly regardless of race, gender, physical and mental capacity, where they were born or who they love. We took responsibility for each other's well-being then and we can do that again. I look forward to being part of a future that demands accountability and reparations from polluters and the greedy so that we provide the resources for healing and growth that Indigenous and racialized people deserve. I see a world of economic fairness without the current privilege given to banks and their fossil fuel corporate clients who finance and create destruction.

Mackenzie Harris with her sister Jamie and mom Leslie at a Pride event in International Falls, Minn., when she was living in Fort Frances, Ont. Photo submitted by Mackenzie Harris

Do you have any advice for other young people?

We need everyone engaged, but that doesn’t mean you have to drop everything or go on strike or get arrested, although those are valuable options. Everyone is good at something and we need it all. Find a group in your community that fits your values and help them see their work in relation to climate fairness.

What would you like to say to older readers?

We need you! We don’t have time to be without your wisdom and experience. But since we have the most to lose, young, racialized and Indigenous people must lead. Many have already built resilience into their ways of being and working and we have much to learn from them. Our dreams must inform the future.