Our Climate Voices leverages the power of storytelling to reshape the way we think about climate change. The climate-justice organization was launched to center the experiences of those often sidelined by the mainstream environmental movement—youth, people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, low-income communities, and others—through first-person stories that humanize the climate disaster. In foregrounding the role of people on the front lines of growing climate impacts—a young Oregon farmer contends with wildfires and heat waves; an environmental protector from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe fights against pipelines that sunder sacred tribal land—Our Climate Voices combats climate harm while connecting individual stories to systemic challenges such as environmental racism, poverty, and community health. “If all we’re doing is talking about taking carbon out of the atmosphere,” noted Aletta Brady, the organization’s founder and executive director, “we’re not supporting the communities that are actually being impacted.” To mobilize change, each story ends with a concrete call to action for followers to support the storyteller’s work. Looking at climate action as a form of social justice, these stories affirm that the best environmental solutions are those that put people first.
Our Climate Voices (OCV) is a climate-justice organization that is humanizing the climate crisis through storytelling. To ensure protection against the worst impacts of climate change, we need widespread mobilizations pushing for systemic change and climate-resilient communities now. Storytelling has an unparalleled power to instill a sense of collective ownership over the fight and galvanize movements. OCV is doing just that. Employing written, audio, visual, and live media, we are elevating the urgency and importance of the climate crisis by centering the voices of people directly impacted by climate change, on the front lines of climate change, and facing exacerbated institutional harms due to climate instability.
OCV has been inspired by moments in social justice movements—the fight for marriage equality, the Movement for Black Lives, and the #MeToo movement—where it becomes clear that our fights for justice and liberation are about collective, decentralized leadership, and everyone having a voice, rather than just looking to leaders or spokespeople. The climate crisis impacts or will impact everyone in one way or another. We each should understand how this disaster impacts us, and stand up and use our voice to demand immediate action on climate. Movements are strongest when we mobilize together and speak up.
Our biggest challenge is reach: ensuring that our stories reach the people who feel disconnected from the climate crisis or don’t know what to do about it. We know how important it is to humanize climate change, which is too often portrayed as a disaster happening somewhere far away or in the future when, in reality, it’s happening in our communities all around the world. It’s difficult to get the type of national attention that we need to have a large-scale impact. At the same time, we know that storytelling has the unique effect of mobilizing people to action, and we’re prepared to bring our stories to people across the country and the world.
We’ve been inspired by leaders and thinkers who have tackled systemic challenges by refusing to separate systemic injustice from our individual humanity. Leaders who make room for people to show up and share their authentic experiences, stories, and perspectives inspire us all to greater connection and action. Creative thinkers that have pushed conversations toward more spaciousness, compassion, and collective liberation include Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rosa Parks, Winona LaDuke, Paul Wellstone, Brené Brown, and all people—particularly young people—who are taking direct action, speaking out, and calling for systemic change and immediate action on climate, have deeply influenced our work.
This project is about anyone whose life has been touched or will be touched by climate change; it’s about all of us. It’s about making this fight personal, from the mundane to the life-changing. And, in particular, it’s about young people, LGBTQ people, Black and brown people, Indigenous people, migrants, and low-income people—the people least culpable for carbon pollution—whose communities are most vulnerable to climate impacts and whose voices are least represented in climate change solution-making.
Texas and New York
ImmSchools seeks to transform America’s schools into safe and welcoming places for undocumented students and their families.
One Water One Health is harnessing wastewater treatment plants across America to pinpoint harmful chemicals and help restore community health.
The Hood Incubator leverages the legal cannabis industry to advance racial equity and build economic power for Black communities.
South Dakota Voices for Peace fights bigotry and hate against Muslims, immigrants, and refugees in rural places.
The REAP program provides reentry support for system-impacted LGBTQ+ people, rebuilding their power and centering their capabilities on the path forward.
The First 72+ helps stop recidivism through hand-in-hand housing, small-business incubation, and other services grounded in healing and hope.
VIISTA seeks to revolutionize immigration law by creating a nationwide pipeline of legal advocates to advance immigrant justice.
An apprenticeship program for preservation tradespeople helps fill urgently needed jobs while building equity in the heritage movement.