We’re here to talk about the weather. All through the winter, when we called one another from different parts of the country, we said “yeah, it’s 10 degrees here in January—it feels good, but also bad?” We said “I’ve been using my SAD lamp and I think it’s helping.” We also said “I’ve tried everything, and nothing’s helping.”
To talk about the weather is to talk about grief, about panic, and mourning. Looking at the effects of climate change directly is painful—it can be galvanizing and also paralyzing. As Andrea Abi-Karam writes: “the commons get burned over & over / & we absorb it all—the loss—all knotted up beneath each knee cap.” After watching cherry trees bud before the frost is over, contributor eyos describes crying and laying down tobacco “for all of us who come out to bloom for the wrong season.” This issue is about the changing weather, what it does to us, to our bodies and communities, and to the land where we live.
In a world that seeks to separate people from the land, and sorts people into opposing categories, how can we be whole?
When bad weather hits, it can remind us, as Estraven Lupino-Smith explains, “that there are things beyond our control—that there are other ways of being in the world—despite those who have attempted to make us think otherwise.” And yet, while the weather itself may be impartial, its effects are always felt unevenly. “If mother nature is racist it’s only because, like the rest of us, she’s forced to function within these oppressive man-made economic/political regimes that we all exist in,” writes the main character in Francesca Ekuwayasi’s short fiction. Weather cannot be separated from the political, economic, and racial orders that we exist within.
When we chose this theme, we were thinking about Christina Sharpe’s understanding of the weather as “the totality of our environments.” The systems that shape our world, that bring violence and suffering to some and prosperity to others, can sometimes seem like the weather, or the outcome of natural and objective forces that are beyond our control. While it is true that these systems create environments that we must live and interact within, they have been created and renegotiated to serve certain interests.
Weather systems are affected by the geographies they travel across. A storm that travels across a warmer ocean can be much more powerful when it hits the land. Thinking about wholeness in a world where lines are drawn (and often violently enforced) by borders, walls, roads, and fences is challenging but necessary. It means really looking at those hierarchies that go unquestioned when we talk about the Arctic as “the top of world,” as Maya Weeks points out in A Log of the Sea, and it means tracing the patterns as well as the divergences when thinking about the systems that shape our world.
Settler colonialism can pose as a type of weather system, but as contributor Quill Christie-Peters writes, its conditions are intentional and strategic, “producing storms of genocidal violence aimed at the destruction of Indigenous life and thirsty for the occupation of Indigenous land.” Taking shelter under such conditions is a form of resistance to systems that seeks to erase Indigenous rights to land, but escaping the storms entirely is nearly impossible. As Rebecca Jade writes in a critique of anti-Blackness and gender and sex assignation, “Distance from whiteness would be fine, because who the hell would want to be white, except for the fact that under whiteness, whiteness is synonymous…with being recognized as full and complex beings.”
To build the futures we want, we need to use everything we’ve got. We need everyone to be able to use the tools that allow them to survive.
Many contributors to this issue grapple with some version of this question: in a world that seeks to separate people from the land, and sorts people into opposing categories, how can we be whole? Separating people from all things “natural,” including our own bodies, has defined dominant ways of thinking for centuries, and during that time it has justified exploitative violence against people, as well as the environment.
Attempts at reaching across this gap take many forms. Some look like trying to build new worlds, ones that are creative and joyful and whole. Some look like finding strategies for survival. Many are both. “Self-pleasure is a practice,” writes Christie-Peters, “that helps me land in a body that has often felt so far away from me.” Anne Theriault grows plants to help her through a depressive episode, a time when everything seemed to be “getting worse at an alarming pace.” After her miscarriage, Kaley Kennedy swims: “It was something to get me through the long days, and the sadness, and the lonely feeling that my body was a mistake…The effort of my body falls away when I swim. All I think about are the sensations. The feeling of flying. The coolness of water on my skin. My body is working, but it’s not labouring.”
To build the futures we want, we need to use everything we’ve got. We need everyone to be able to use the tools that allow them to survive. We need the land and water defenders, and those who are actively fighting companies and governments who seek to destroy or enclose the land. We need to constantly challenge the binaries that are keeping us from seeing our wholeness and our connections to one another.
How can we do this? Kennedy speaks about “increasing the terrain of family and kin,” showing how “queering our understanding of kinship [creates] a broader understanding of responsibility to each other.” Leya Tess’ illustration series shows us how to fight to protect wild salmon, while learning from them at the same time. Carley-Jane Stanton writes that this future is going to look, at times, like “wandering together through lands burnt by forces greater than any of us alone, working toward a common goal, and sharing in both failure and the bounty of success.”
Here’s to weathering storms, to mourning what they’ve destroyed, and to rebuilding what’s been left in their wake.
In love and solidarity,
Your GUTS editors