These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.
Julius Lindsay supports communities to design and advocate for the future they want. As director of sustainable communities for the David Suzuki Foundation, Julius and his team help grassroots organizations ensure climate solutions to advance their well-being.
Tell us about your work.
We lift up climate solutions that will make sense to those directly affected and train people to advocate for them with their municipal governments. We might provide funding for research, or staff might help get a community conversation going. We might support the development of a comprehensive community plan or simply support them to write a letter to their local paper, depending on their needs.
We might lead a community-designed campaign to persuade decision makers to adopt clean energy targets like the renewable energy commitments made by the cities of Edmonton and Regina. Our Common Good project in Toronto brought diverse civil society groups together to identify shared concerns so they could better identify opportunities for collaboration.
Budgets are more likely to reflect the needs and aspirations of the majority, and therefore be sustained over time, if decision makers hear diverse points of view. I am deeply committed to amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities with decision makers. The urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions makes more sense to an economically marginalized community if they see action on climate as meeting their lived concerns. For example, if a link can be made between extremely hot weather and increased gun violence, or people can see the role that green spaces can play in cooling urban spaces, engagement will rise.
What makes your work hard?
Community collaboration paves the way for innovative #climate solutions. #ClimateCrisis #ClimateSolutions
How do we improve public support for carbon pricing or other badly needed climate policies when the market economy is failing and hurting so many people? To be engaging requires us to invite people into conversations about designing a future that actually improves their lives. That process can provoke dissent and even anger from those for whom the existing reality seems to be working reasonably well.
What gives you hope?
I see people using their imaginations to create their own spaces where they can safely invent and implement solutions that work for them and their communities. So many of the youngest people on my team are brave and determined to be innovative.
What do you see if we get this right?
More people who are adversely affected by the multiplicity of crises in which we find ourselves are able to thrive.
How did the way you were raised affect you?
My dad was active in the 1970s attempt to bring a socialist government to Grenada. He taught me and my three siblings to serve the greater good. My parents also taught us to be aware of and how to navigate racism around us. When I was five years old, I was in a pharmacy with my mother, who was getting a prescription filled, when I became aware that the storekeepers' children were following me. My mother told me afterwards that this was because they were worried that I would steal things because my skin is black.
When each of us turned 12, we were given a copy of Malcolm X’s autobiography and told to read and absorb its lessons of what it is to be Black in our society. The teachings were to be aware and awake but also to realize that others are not. This requires leadership. My parents were interested in developing our capacity as whole people to serve the world.
I have coached football teams and applied those lessons there. My nickname was Zen Master because I learned from my parents to lead with kindness and compassion while still expecting that people would do their best and learn from their mistakes.
Do you have any advice for other young people?
I mentor many young people, especially racialized youth. First, get yourself out there. Get your foot in the door. If you see an organization where you want to work, get any job there. It is infinitely easier for them to ask you to do the job you want to do once you are known and have proved yourself than if you come from outside along with many other unknown applicants.
Second, use networking not just to advance yourself in the moment but to build relationships. A friend is much more likely to lend you a dollar than a stranger.
Third, create your own pathway to do the work you want to do. Who knows? You might end up doing it better than existing organizations.
What about older readers?
Stay in the race but pass the baton. We need you, but if you have been rewarded throughout your career for a particular way of operating in the world, it might be hard for you to do something different, even though a different approach is needed. Let the young people around you lead.