I was lucky to grow up on the West Coast of Canada on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations also known as “Vancouver.”
Although I was close to nature all through my upbringing, I focused on genetics and microbiology to gain a greater understanding of epidemiology (the study of diseases) instead of environmental sciences like my mom. I quickly realized a couple months into my Master of Science in plant genetics that although I was doing the work I thought I had interest in, I was spending much of my spare time at social justice-centered actions with my friends, many of which focused on climate justice.
It had never occurred to me that I could facilitate climate action oriented work as a career. It was only after I attained a permanent lab manager position at the University of British Columbia in 2020 that I finally found the courage to change my path, which sounds counterintuitive I know.
During the initial lockdown in 2020, my entire lab worked from home and I started to realize how I wanted to be more involved in the activist world.
Working in a lab is great if you have anxiety or find it hard to socialize all the time; it provides a protective space to work without interruption. However I was spending lockdown alone in my tiny apartment in Vancouver and I was going crazy! Luckily everyone was on the internet that summer and it was the birth of the infographic. We were all sharing information (some accurate, some not) and learning to connect in new ways, and I was discovering how productive mobilizing on the internet could be, especially when everyone was desperate for human interaction.
I was also learning of the many justice-centered fights that were happening across the world and was supporting them in any way I could. This was a moment when I realized the research I was doing in the lab was not transformative in a way that I wanted. I wanted to change a system and I wanted to collaborate with people who felt the same way.
So, I did just that and changed my career. I left the university after my contract ended in October and I left my tiny apartment to move to a tiny island called SDAYES or “Pender Island” on the coast of British Columbia. I was staying with my aunt who lives on the island and taking some time to figure out my next move. I was working at Sea Star winery (great wine if you ever come across it) as an apprentice winemaker, which is another passion of mine. This was where I met my current boss Deb Morrison and where we created and established our organization, CLEAR Environmental; I started working as a learning designer.
After one conversation I knew immediately I wanted to work with Deb. She was in every corner of the world working on big UNFCCC-related projects (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and smaller scale local projects with the WSANEC community on the island — all related to climate justice. This was my opportunity to learn and focus on the work I have been interested in my whole life.
I am very grateful for where I am now and from where I came; I am still learning and shaping my career path but CLEAR Environmental has allowed me opportunities to travel and meet climate actors from all over the world.
I am writing this now from my dining table in London, UK, a place I never thought I would be able to live in back in 2020. I am very excited for the work we will accomplish in Bonn at SB56 and I am looking forward to the justice-centered ideas that will shape this new work program!
Chris Cameron is a life sciences researcher, published writer, community organizer, filmmaker and radio programmer. She focuses on working in relationality with community to collaboratively design solutions that act to dismantle environmental racism perpetuated by ongoing white supremacy and capitalism. Chris co-facilitated a workshop series on Climate Storytelling with the UNFCCC’s Paris Committee of Capacity Building (PCCB) Network last year and continues to incorporate storytelling in her climate justice work. She also coordinates a community designed radio project called Sound Ecology – incorporating artists’ climate oriented philosophies and cultural experiences presented as sonic toolkits to survive the changing world.