Emilie Craig of Earth Guardians Says Healing Happens From the Inside Out
T he climate crisis cannot be ignored. Every Friday, Milk will be focusing on solutions and stories from the environment’s biggest supporters; through essays, photo stories, updates on the latest technologies, and tips to combat the climate crisis, we’ve got you covered. This week we speak with the 20-year-old artist and activist, Emilie Craig, from Earth Guardians.
What made you want to start getting involved with climate change? Can you remember a particular moment in your life where something just clicked?
My hometown is located on the coast of Maine. Rising sea levels directly threaten my home, and many houses within a mile of my home have flooded during hurricane seasons. Witnessing repeated floods and power outages over the years sparked anxiety about the security of my future and future generations to come. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99.9% of the world’s oceans, which is disrupting the seasonal migration of endangered right whales and affects other species in the food chain. I feel that it is our duty to protect the land, people, and biodiversity so we can pass natural beauty and security on to our children and grandchildren to come.
How did you get started with Earth Guardians?
I first learned about Earth Guardians when the Co-Youth Directors, Marlow Baines and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, spoke in my Environmental Studies class at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I was inspired by the authenticity and uniqueness fostered within the EG community, and I began volunteering with the Boulder crew to help organize Boulder’s action for the global climate strike on March 15th. The spirit of the organization is truly priceless and I have been organizing with Earth Guardians ever since.
Could you talk more about what went on at the Earth Guardians Panel in September? What other recent actions have you helped to coordinate with Earth Guardians? What actions are planned for the future and how can people find out about them?
In September, Earth Guardians held a series of panels at the EQ Planet Home conference highlighting youth activism, regeneration and rethinking activism, how youth action can impact the political landscape, how to start an Earth Guardians crew, and what the youth leaders of today need to lead well in 2030. After the conference, we met with youth activists in DC to lobby congress and strategize, followed by the UN Youth Climate Summit and the NYC Climate Strike, where Earth Guardians launched the mobile app, Earth Tracks. Earth Tracks provides users with a system to measure and track environmental action, and using the app is a simple and rewarding experience. My takeaway from helping to coordinate EG’s presence at these events is that we need community, authenticity, compassion, and creativity in these spaces now more than ever to heal the corrupted system that created the climate crisis. I believe that Earth Guardians provide a space to learn and experience this, and more information about Earth Guardians crews, events and initiatives can be found on the website and through the Earth Tracks app.
What made you want to start the Climate Reality Campus Corps: University of Colorado, Boulder Chapter?
After moving to Colorado to attend CU Boulder, I became aware of the oil and gas expansion in Colorado and the ways in which the industry has affected the community’s health and air quality. I knew that I wanted to take a stand, and with the mentorship of Taylor Rogers, 100% Committed Chapters Coordinator at The Climate Reality Project, I decided to assemble a team of students to start CU Boulder’s Campus Corps Chapter in January 2019. The chapter provides a space where students can discuss local and university policies that affect our environment and our future and activate around solutions. We have focused heavily on helping to organize and attend local climate strikes and we are currently shifting gears to write and rally students around a resolution supporting a bolder commitment to carbon neutrality. To me, the most inspiring part of the experience has been connecting with students, youth leaders, and other chapter chairs who share the same goals and values.
How do you make sure your voice is heard? What would you tell kids around the world who want to get involved and help out but feel like no one would listen?
Communication is the key to turning solutions into actions, and being a climate activist can be very isolating as many people still don’t understand the threat that the climate crisis poses. When speaking out, try to engage the listener by remaining open-minded and relating the climate crisis to their interests and experiences. Ask the listener what questions they have and make sure the conversation is oriented around how they can help. Finding and collaborating with other activists and organizations makes the work fun and sustainable.
In addition, mental health and environmental health go hand and hand, so make sure that you make time to care for your mind and body because healing happens from the inside out.
You’re quite the artist. Where do you find most of the inspiration for your work?
I am most inspired by my friends, family, and mentors and the lessons they teach me day to day. I create artwork to thank the people and experiences that have shaped me, and I give it all away in hopes that it will inspire change. My recent works use charcoal, watercolors, and colored pencils to portray a message of hope and a shift through the changing seasons, elements, and planets. Instead of depicting the pain of the present, I try to challenge societal norms by painting the picture of who I want to be.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend most of my free time volunteering with Earth Guardians, running the Climate Reality Campus Corps: CU Boulder Chapter, and community organizing, and I am trying to designate more time to self-care. I believe that scheduling mindfulness practice and time to enjoy life allows the work I do to be sustainable, and I enjoy drawing, writing music on the piano, jamming with friends, and spending time outside as possible.
What’s a good starting point for people to get involved in climate justice?
The first step I recommend is to research the environmental issues in your local community and who, what, and where those issues affect. From there, research local grassroots organizations and action opportunities and volunteer with whichever is most inspiring and fitted to your skills and interests. Collaboration is the root from which change will grow and is a great way to building community at the same time. Now, more than ever, we have the freedom to use our passions to fight for a just and sustainable world, and “no one person is too small to make a difference” – Greta Thunberg.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Juliet Wolf
PHOTO ASSISTANT: Kaia Miller
PHOTO ASSISTANT: Karlhens Pompilus
STYLIST: Talia Bella
STYLIST ASSISTANT: Angie Cabrera
Stay tuned to Milk for more climate crisis solutions.