Work at CSI for the day with our new Lounge Pass!

The Next Generation of Climate Action

Stefan Hostetter

Stefan Hostetter

Director of Community

Authored by Stefan Hostetter & Kathryn Tait

What happens in a crisis? Where do we turn?

A person squats in front of a long rectangular piece of wood. The wood is painted black, and on it in white paint reads: No matter what we went through I still love you Malv (the rest of the letters are obstructed by the person writing on the wood)
Six panels were designed and created within Lighthouse Collective space and were the first installation Canadian Community Challenge put up as a part of the Malvern Pilot Program.

We found out in March 2020 as the world rapidly adjusted in response to the pandemic. In many ways, we failed people. Frontline workers from nurses to warehouse workers were left to bear the brunt of the danger, while folks in assisted care facilities received a fraction of the support they needed. Despite continued government promises of “building back better”, the legacy of the pandemic has been increased inequality in both wealth and health outcomes. The pandemic years were a terrible, harmful time for millions of people. What have we learned about how to improve our social and community structures?

As we worked our way through those early days of the pandemic, we experienced a profoundly different way of life. Carless roads, planeless skies, and a year where annual emissions dropped for only the second time since the turn of the millennium (for those keeping score, the first time was during the 2008 housing collapse). Caremongering groups popped up in hundreds, if not thousands, of communities; organizations like The Bike Brigade were founded, the City restructured its workforce to support the most dire of needs. As the gears of global capitalism ground to a halt, our communities stepped in to keep us all going. It was a moment when a different world felt possible, precisely because we were experiencing it live.

How can we learn from our crisis response to the pandemic for other, ongoing crises like climate change? 

A person stands behind a podium in the lounge of CSI Spadina and speaks to a large seated audience.
In June 2023 Youth Harbour’s Climate ShareSpace launched at CSI as a part of our partnership with the Lighthouse Collective.

Our government’s approach to climate action has been about betting on technology and physical infrastructure and trying to incentivize capital markets to get it built. We were told that we just needed a few tweaks to our system and the ‘invisible hand’ would take care of it. We were told that our best hope was to lean into the power of the market. We were told it was a technological problem and so we tried to solve it that way. And we have seen remarkable progress; renewable energy & battery costs are down as much as 90% since 1990 and are now cheaper in most jurisdictions than even maintaining existing fossil fuel plants. Battery and storage prices have seen similar drops, meaning electric vehicles can now be cheaper than their gas powered competitors. And in 2018, the holy grail of market driven climate policy was passed in Canada: the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. All significant victories with thousands, if not millions, of people responsible for those wins. And yet, even with these economic and technological victories, emissions in Canada, and across the world, have continued to increase. The only two times emissions have dropped since the turn of the millennium have been in conjunction with catastrophic blows to the world economy.

A visual mapping network of groups connected to Toronto Climate Action Network
Lighthouse Collective staff put together a mapping project to understand and review connections between climate projects in Toronto.

What this tells us is that to solve the climate crisis (and many others), we need to rely on our community ties. To rely on the ‘invisible hand’ is to try to hide climate action, to tell people that the world doesn’t really need to change. And if you look around and pay attention, that feels pretty damn out of touch. Instead, we need to understand that social infrastructure is just as important as physical infrastructure.

The next generation of climate solutions puts the needs of communities at the centre of their work first. They bring in a wide range of partners, especially those not normally involved in climate action, and they fundamentally tell a different story about the world we live in. We have so many examples, whether it’s the Canadian Postal Workers Delivering Community Power that reimagines the postal network to deliver a new array of local services like elder check-ins, low-fee banking, etc. Or the Amalgamated Transit Unions’ Intercity Bus Network which envisions a low cost low emission way to travel between cities. Or the City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal project, which combines building retrofits with resident service improvements. Yesterday’s investments were technology-enabling, and now tomorrow’s investments need to be community-enabling. Examples of the multisolving that we need are everywhere, we just need to fund and implement them at scale. 

A heatmap of Toronto Climate Action Network's presence in City wardsWe exist in a world with overlapping crises that we wake up and face everyday.  And so the next generation of climate action must tell a different story, and reflect a different reality. A reality where climate investments meaningfully improve the lives of residents, where every community in the country feels connected to the work, where we acknowledge the stakes and get down to the hard work of building a world that breaks down the individualistic silos and shows how much better life could be.

In this new story we know we cannot rely on ‘invisible’ forces to do the hard work for us, but we are far stronger collectively than we ever could be as individuals. And so while the road ahead is long, we are up to the task, resting on each other when we need to, and together we’ll build a world that is not only better for our descendants but also for all of us living here and now.

Lighthouse Collective logo
The Lighthouse Collective employed CSI Members Briteweb to support the creation of this logo and brand details.

What is the Lighthouse Collective?

And that is the world we’re working to build with the Lighthouse Collective. A partnership that is building new pathways into the climate movement by supporting the social infrastructure needed to meet people where they are, engage communities in collective visioning, and provide them with support to connect with the people building this new reality. We’ve been building this work over the past year and a half and are launching into the world on May 2nd. If any of this post speaks to you, we’d love for you to join us at the event (tickets here) and also on this journey. 

Because it turns out that those who you turn to in a crisis are all around us, and we know a different world is possible, we just have to build it.

White text on a black background reads: Join us as we have music, art & community coming together to build a better Toronto. All proceeds going to the youth Climate ShareSpace. Tickets out now list of partner logos including Music Declares Emergency Canada, Centre for Social Innovation, Toronto Environmental Alliance, The Harbour, Toronto Climate Action Network, TTCRiders, The Grind, City of Toronto, Green Majority Radio, Canadian Community Challenge, The Green Line, Raising The Rood, Toronto Public Space Community, T.O. The Good Swap, CIUT 89.5FM

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CSI Member FES works to empower youth for a more inclusive, fair, prosperous, and sustainable future, including through their The Youth Harbour initiative. CSI partnered with The Youth Harbour to offer a Climate ShareSpace, which provides a centralized location for cocreating, convening, and resource sharing among youth climate and social justice activists.
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CSI Member FES works to empower youth for a more inclusive, fair, prosperous, and sustainable future, including through their The Youth Harbour initiative. CSI partnered with The Youth Harbour to offer a Climate ShareSpace, which provides a centralized location for cocreating, convening, and resource sharing among youth climate and social justice activists.
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