By SJ Rasheed
As my time with Waterlution comes to an end, I wanted to write a final farewell and summarize all that I have learned and accomplished during this very transformative year, as well as share some photos of the many amazing places I had the privilege of visiting.
So, let’s take it back to May 2021, I’d just finished a gruelling four years of journalism school, and was looking to apply to law school for the following year. With a whole year ahead of me, I had two main goals for myself.
- I wanted to use my journalism degree to enact change outside of the confines of a traditional news agency, specifically in the realm of climate justice
- I wanted to connect with individuals who were being most affected by the climate challenges, hear their concerns, and use what I learned to inform my practices as an environmental lawyer in the near future.
It was with these two thoughts in mind that I joined Waterlution as a communication coordinator.
My first trip to speak to innovators, knowledge keepers and community members in Atlantic Canada was an expansive learning experience. For the first time, I put my journalistic skills to practical use and did on the fly interviews, covered sensitive and moving topics. I collected first-hand testimonies of the dangers of coastal erosion, microclimates and spoke to individuals who were crafting creative solutions to address these issues.
From speaking to PhD students to ocean technology start up innovators to fishing tack up owners, I gained valuable perspective on the perils of climate change in this region and many others. With the help of my experience colleague Karey, I learned how to best capture each of these unique stories and left each visited site more inspired than before.
Along with hearing testimonies from community members, I also was privileged enough to hear sacred traditional knowledge from land and water protectors and elders. As an implicated settler on these lands, I wanted to ensure during these interviews that the knowledge learned was distributed in a way that honoured the generations of those beforehand who cultivated these practices. Through these conversations, I gained a deeper appreciation for the practices which Indigenous peoples have used to live in harmony with nature, and an understanding if the role settlers must play in listening and learning to these sacred teachings.
Something which has always stuck with me from my days as a journalist student is the burden we bear as observers who are responsible for not only exposing issues, but also representing individuals who are affected in an authentic way. I always bore in this in mind during my producing process and kept an open line of communication with my interviewees to ensure I was properly telling their stories.
Spending this exceptional year alongside others in the water sector, I also learned all of the work we have yet to accomplish – especially when it comes to the much-needed diversification of this sector. Many of these spaces remain fairly homogonous, and as consequences rely on limited ways of knowing and being. As someone who is often the only person of colour in these spaces, my hope is that young people in a similar position as me who are looking for a way to make change will find companionship in each other and continue to offer valuable, unique perspectives.
I learned so much from my colleagues this year, and want to end by thanking them for the adventures, memories and lessons learned.