A collective of Indigenous artists whose work is shared by land defenders. A waterskin used in Chad where food and water insecurity are made worse by climate change. Students taking to the streets around the world in mass strikes calling for action.
A new exhibit on climate justice at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) shares these stories and more to highlight connections between climate change and human rights. The exhibit is presented in three cases: “Striking for the Climate,” “Protecting the Land and Water” and “Code Red for Humanity.”
The concept of climate justice underscores that while climate change impacts everyone, the most damaging effects are often felt by people and communities whose rights and futures are compromised by the continued exploitation of fossil fuels and other sources of emissions. It also emphasizes that existing inequalities can be exacerbated as a result of climate change.
Curator Isabelle Masson (she/her) said thinking about climate change as a human rights issue is essential to better understanding its impacts.
“We often think about climate change through the lens of science and innovations that will reduce our carbon emissions over time. But too often we forget that climate change is impacting some people more than others today, and that those least responsible for emissions are often those most negatively affected,” she said. “Those who benefit the most from rising global emissions are also better able to protect themselves from the effects of climate change, and this raises important questions about human rights and equality.”
The exhibit also shares important connections between Indigenous rights and resource extraction. Hanging in gallery above the three exhibit cases is a massive, visually stunning banner created by a young Tsleil‐Waututh artist Ocean Hyland (she/her). It was used in a 2018 aerial blockade that prevented oil tanker traffic passing under the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver to resist the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The Squamish words on the banner mean: “It is in our blood to protect this land.” It is on loan to the CMHR from the Museum of Vancouver.
Hyland’s artwork is one of several objects in the new exhibit that share how youth are taking action for climate justice, Masson noted.
“Young people often make the strongest moral arguments for action. They want their generation and those to follow to breathe clean air and drink safe water, no matter where they live in the world,” said Masson. “Ocean Hyland’s artwork, alongside the actions of other young land defenders and climate strikers shared in the exhibit, will spark all our visitors to reflect on how they too can take action for climate justice.”
The exhibit will be on display for visitors in the Museum’s first gallery, What Are Human Rights?, until the summer of 2024.
In addition to the banner, elements of the exhibit include:
A video of the 2019 youth climate strikes, including the demonstration in Montreal that welcomed Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and drew over 500,000 people. Images from the strikes are presented alongside the iconic Thunberg quote, “Our house is on fire.”
“Climate stripes” that show the increasing rate of global warming between 1850 and 2020.
A silk screen printing frame with “Thunderbird Woman” banner designed by Indigenous artist Isaac Murdoch which says “Water is Sacred, No Pipelines!” Thousands of banners designed by Murdoch and Christi Belcourt of the Onaman Collective have been used in protests against fossil fuel pipelines across North America.
Images of land defenders Aya Clappis and Madeline Muzilh K‑N standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en people against the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline. In 2020, they occupied the steps of the legislature in British Colombia for several days alongside youth from over 40 other Indigenous nations. For them, pipelines are linked to ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous people.
A waterskin from Chad and made from an inner tube. The waterskin makes the connection between climate change and growing water and food insecurity, as dire health impacts are often faced by vulnerable communities least responsible for emissions. The artifact was sourced through a collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.
A Lego model of Hurricane Irma which caused massive damage in the Caribbean in 2017. The model shows precipitation rates collected by NASA’s Global Precipitation Satellites during Irma. Red and green blocks represent rain and blue blocks represent ice and snow that forms in the higher, colder elevations of the atmosphere. The model was developed by Kristen Weaver of NASA and built at the CMHR by Winnipeg Seven Oaks Met School student Lucas Ursel. The model is made of approximately 6000 blocks.
High‐resolution images and video are available on request.