PhD student sparks a Community Conversation on Climate Change

Tyrone HallAs a spring ice storm descended upon Toronto, PhD candidate Tyrone Hall motivated community members to take action on climate change at a new instalment of York University’s Community Conversation series.

Hall is a Vanier scholar studying Communication & Culture. He moderated the event, titled “Talking Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Action.” Hosted at the Toronto Public Library Wychwood Branch on April 14, the conversation framed climate change as an urgent global challenge that humanity must think about more comprehensively to boost engagement and effectively mitigate and adapt to current and projected impacts.

“This conversation was an opportunity to start a dialogue and get folks to start thinking about some of their own mental blocks to climate change messaging, and how that may undermine broader causes they care about deeply,” Hall says.

Flooding in IndiaHall’s dissertation research focuses on how communities, including Indigenous and traditional peoples in Fiji, Belize and India, interpret their experiences with climate change impacts and the nature of the actions they take to manage current and projected impacts.

“My research is about people who have an intimate relationship with the natural environment, which includes a myriad of traditional communities,” said Hall. “The intimate connection with the natural environment is key as it makes very clear the direct risks or exposure, the ease with which people’s vulnerabilities are compounded and the existential implications induced and/or exacerbated by climate change.”

Hall makes the case that communication is among the range of policy instruments being called upon to play a central role in enabling changes in society sufficient for addressing the depth of current and anticipated challenges associated with global climate change. He encouraged event participants to contemplate what the nature of the changes needed are and how communication can lead to the realization of critical changes at the individual, social and political levels.

“I am tremendously pleased with how the climate-justice link was received,” said Hall about comments from attendees. “I’ve had fantastic follow up conversations about the need to engage marginalized urban populations across the country and this is a research direction I am committed to exploring.”

The conversation, which was framed not only as a scientific or economic issue but also an issue of social justice, with racial and class implications, resonated with the audience. Hall also advocated that conversations about climate change should be strategically presented in a way that connects people to local effects and the impact on their lives.

“I enjoyed the climate change Community Conversation because we had a conversation that was critical of the role that capitalism plays in climate change strategies towards mitigation and adaptation,” said attendee Shannon Holness. “Hall’s research advanced the discourse on climate change from the typical argument about greenhouse gas which ultimately reify the economic capitalist perspective. The way in which we explored climate change through a lens of ‘loss and damage’ created a space for a genuine understanding of the lives of those who live on the margins in various geopolitical contexts, usually post-postcolonial, and the ways their lives are relentlessly interrupted by climate change’s predecessor — manmade environmental destruction.”

Community Conversations is an initiative of the office of Global and Community Engagement (GCE) in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. GCE funds Community Conversations, connecting the Faculty and York University with a variety of community groups and members within the Greater Toronto Area.