Before coming to Iqaluit in 2019, she worked on community-led renewable energy projects in Ontario and New York State.
The following interview has been edited and condensed.
Were you interested in renewable energy growing up? Was it as talked about at the time?
When I first got interested in climate justice, renewable energy wasn’t my biggest priority. At the time, there was more dialogue about “Here’s what’s wrong, we’re all going to die in 30 years,” which is really anxiety-inducing — and we need to be aware of climate anxiety. In my late teens, I realized that we need to come up with solutions and not just point out issues, and it was in university that I started to think about renewable energy. From when I joined, the conversation has shifted, and we’re now talking about how we can use the solutions we have. We just need the political will to actually do that.
What is a myth you want to bust about renewable energy in the Arctic?
The question I get asked the most is “Does solar work in the Arctic?” Some communities see 24 hours of darkness at times, so how does that work? When you’re looking at renewables in the Arctic, it’s important to look at the annual energy production from solar. In the summer, some communities see 24 hours of sunlight, so there are times when you’re constantly generating electricity. It definitely works.
The term “just transition” is often used in terms of renewable energy. What would a just transition in Nunavut look like to you?
A just transition must be community and Inuit-led and incorporate Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge and societal values). Inuit need to be meaningfully consulted in any process, and I’m not seeing that right now. It’s not just about getting something out there so we can have a renewable energy policy in Nunavut, it needs to benefit and stem from Inuit communities.
What is one reality of the climate crisis that everyone needs to understand?
For me, the biggest reality that people don’t necessarily understand is the urgency of the climate crisis. There are a lot of climate targets for 2030 or 2050, but things need to change now. It’s this thought that we just have to keep the lights on right now, but we also need to transition away from diesel as 100 percent of the territory’s electricity.
Have you watched the movie “Don’t Look Up”? What are your thoughts?
I did. When I first got involved in climate justice, the dialogue was mostly “Here are all the terrible things that are happening,” and I felt that from the film. The message tried to be “There’s an urgency that people aren’t taking seriously,” which is accurate of climate justice, but I prefer the dialogue of “Here’s what we can do to make things better.”
Advocating climate justice is important, but it can also be exhausting. How do you take care of yourself while taking care of the environment?
It can be frustrating to feel like nothing is changing, so it’s important to find or build a network of people who share your concerns and passions. Getting outside also reduces my stress. I got a dog a few years ago, so having her force me to go out is a good thing. Having other passions beyond this one thing that is so big is important.
How hopeful are you that governments and businesses will get on board with the transition to renewable energy?
I am optimistic that things are changing. We now realize that leaders are making decisions that affect youth, and businesses have been getting on board with this transition because they’ll generate cheaper electricity. We just need the territorial government and utility companies to cooperate with us. I’m optimistic, but there’s still room for improvement.