ECO HERO OF THE MONTH
Emma is C0-Founder of Raised Roots an urban agriculture operation and consulting company that works with clients to integrate a sustainable food systems approach to projects.
Emma graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2016 with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies. She majored in International Development and minored in Geography. Emma has focused on understanding the benefits of nature-based solutions and how the food system both contributes to climate change and the opportunities it presents for climate change mitigation, specifically the potential of urban agriculture.
Thank you, Emma, for your great contribution!
1. Aside from your official job title, how would you describe the work that you currently do?
Day to day, I work on our consulting projects which lately is a lot of report writing for clients. I spend a large chunk of time doing business development, talking to potential clients about the role food could play in their projects and helping them envision what taking their project to the next level of sustainability would look like. I also make sure I spend time connecting with policymakers in various cities to gain a better understanding of the barriers and opportunities they see to advancing urban agriculture policies. Our team sees supportive policy as one of the main drivers in successful and widespread urban agriculture implementation and policymakers need to start listening to the communities they work for.
2. How is your role and your work changing as a result of growing awareness and action in the response to the Climate Crisis?
Our role is becoming more and more important the farther along in the climate crisis we get. Our cities need to be more focused on urgently building resilient infrastructure that will help us adapt to climate change. More of our clients are actively seeking out sustainable solutions and want to understand how to better integrate food into their projects. This is relatively new and I think the pandemic played a part in drawing attention to the importance of a resilient food system.
3. Can you describe one or more events that led you to pursue this career path?
I pursued this career path not because I am passionate about climate change mitigation and adaptation but because I am terrified of what our future might look like if we don’t address the climate crisis. What started it all was watching The Inconvenient Truth in Grade 7 and realizing I could not ignore what was happening to our earth. From joining the eco-club in high school to starting Raised Roots, it all stems from the eco-anxiety that I feel constantly.
4. When has it been tough doing this work; and what have you done to carry on?
Sometimes I feel really small against all the problems and feel like no matter how hard I work, I won’t even make a dent in making the world a better place. I’ve focused my path on urban agriculture but there are so many other issues that I wish I could dedicate more time to ex. Indigenous sovereignty, combatting systemic racism, reproductive rights, affordable housing, living wages, worker’s rights and so many more but I can’t solve all these problems and that frustrates and overwhelms me.
When I start feeling overwhelmed, it’s helpful to think of all the people I know working in these spaces. Being surrounded by folks committed to social and environmental justice on other paths is comforting. I like to think of an Instagram post I read one time that said something along the lines of “there are many lanes to advocacy work and we don’t have to occupy them all”.
5. What advice would you share with young environmentalists?
Some of the best advice I have learned working in this space is to really understand your audience and tailor your message to them. Unfortunately, most people don’t care that much about climate change, that sea levels are rising, it’s harder to grow food, that the entire community will be displaced or that forests are catching on fire at alarming rates etc. These are intangible problems that most people think won’t ever happen to them in their life.
When speaking to people who may not believe in climate change, I avoid polarizing terms like climate change and global warming and instead talk specifically about the issue at hand. One example I use is the issue of flooding and more extreme weather events. For homeowners, I try to connect it to them and what they care about (usually money) by saying more heavy rain in Toronto will likely lead to basement flooding, it will cost money, you will lose belongings and in general, that’s just a very stressful situation to have to deal with. This is just one example but it’s been helpful for me when creating presentations. campaigning for climate action and thinking about how I can have a greater impact.
6. What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing our planet?
The two most pressing issues facing our planet are capitalism and white supremacy. Capitalism drives greed, over-consumption, exploitation, poverty, extractive practices and more. It is driving the climate crisis and I like to reject capitalism wherever I can. Some examples of how to do this include, switching from the big banks that invest your money in fossil fuels to ones that don’t (This article helped me), use the library for books instead of purchasing new ones, grow your own food, participate in the sharing economy whenever possible and buy second-hand products instead of buying new are all good places to start!
The second issue which is deeply entangled with capitalism is white supremacy. We will never be truly sustainable if one group of people holds so much power over others. All climate movements need to focus on equity. This is obviously a huge issue and I think learning about racism and how we unknowingly participate in it daily is a good place to start for folks.
All these ideas I have learned from Black, Brown and Indigenous activists who share their work on social media. Some accounts I follow include (not an exhaustive list but a good place to start!)
THE ECO HALL OF FAME