On Equity: An interview with Naisha Khan

Mon, 22 Nov 2021

Chloe Sjuberg
Communications Coordinator, SFU Public Square

The views and opinions expressed in SFU Public Square's On Equity interviews are those of the interviewees. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of Simon Fraser University, SFU Public Square or any other affiliated institutions in any way.

The On Equity interview series is part of our 2021 Community Summit Series: Towards Equity. In these interviews, you’ll get to know people working towards equity, justice and systemic change from a variety of fields and perspectives, and learn how you can support them. We hope they will inform and inspire your own conversations and actions towards equity.

This edition of On Equity has a particular focus on climate justice, as our interviewee is Naisha Khan, who will be speaking at Hope in Resistance: Stories of Climate Justice, the keynote event of Towards Equity. Naisha is an 18-year-old second-generation Bangladeshi settler on unceded Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo territory. She is a UBC student and has been a climate and racial justice organizer for the past two years with organizations including Banking on a Better Future (which she co-founded), SustainabiliteensClimate Strike Canada and Climate Justice UBC.

To hear more from Naisha and other climate justice advocates, register to attend Hope in Resistance: Stories of Climate Justice on Thursday, November 25 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time, livestreamed from The Cultch's Historic Theatre.

How do we make systemic change?

Systemic change relies on us—the general population. Our elected officials lack the political willpower to make the necessary change that we not only need, but deserve. They will only make change with our pushing, and that is why to make systemic change we need our voice to be loud and clear. Historically, large systemic changes have resulted from sustained and active participation from only 3.5 per cent of the population. That means we do not need too many of us actively involved, which is great news for the passive supporters of this movement—like the parents of the youth climate activists like myself. But we do need a sustained movement. Systemic change necessitates uncapitalistic tendencies that reject hyperproductivity and build movements that centre care. Systemic change requires us to work together—at whatever level we are capable of—to pressure our governing bodies to give us what we deserve.

What does climate justice look like to you?

Climate justice is a lens through which we examine the world we live in. It is a fundamental understanding that in order to fight the climate crisis, we must acknowledge and actively dismantle the systems of oppression that caused it. Climate justice is not just recognizing the disproportionate impacts of climate change—it is much deeper than that. Climate justice can look like reusing your containers, or it can look like cooking meals for your neighbours—it is using one’s available resources to fight for a better world for all. For me, it is rooted in solidarity and mutual aid that recognizes systemic oppression and seeks to fight it at its root causes. My answer to what climate justice looks like is very broad, and that is because it is. It varies on what different communities are capable of, but seeks to build and support it better as a cooperative. Climate justice requires community that is antithetical to capitalism, and centres equity and justice.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the guiding question for Towards Equity: What must we understand—and do—to recover equitably from the pandemic and reimagine our systems to confront the intersecting crises of inequality, systemic racism and climate change?

In order to recover equitably and confront intersecting crises, we must uplift and centre marginalized voices. Marginalized and racialized communities have been battling these intersecting crises for so long and have survived. This means we have the solution; we just need to centre different voices to make it a reality. Through mutual aid and community care, communities that have been negatively impacted by inequality, climate change and racism have been able to uplift one another despite the barriers and challenges that face them.

Furthermore, we must understand and practice hope and joy. Systems of oppression are rooted in hate—hate for ourselves and hate for the other. Practicing joy is therefore an act of anti-oppression. It allows us to sustain ourselves in extractive systems that seek to exploit us. Shame cannot be a motivating factor for change. We must be united in a communal sense of fighting for joint liberation.

What gives you hope? What inspires you?

My communities give me hope, specifically the racialized and marginalized communities with whom I work. I am perpetually astounded by the strength and resilience of the people who organize with me. I would not be able to do this work alone; I would not be able to fight intersecting crises of oppression alone. Even though capitalism and colonialism have tried to divide and separate us, we are overcoming this through unity. This is a very powerful message, and it shows me how community and togetherness are risks to capitalism and systems of oppression. I had previously believed that fighting for climate had to take precedence over other issues, but by seeing how different movements for justice are interconnected and can work together, it gives me hope that our joint liberation is not just feasible, but on its way.

What individuals or organizations fighting for climate justice should we be paying attention to and how can we support them?

The organizations fighting for climate justice that need more attention are frontline Indigenous organizers. These are groups like Wet'suwet'en CheckpointTiny House WarriorsBraided Warriors, and more. These are people who have not only been fighting for the land, but fighting against colonialism and white supremacy. I cannot speak for them, but I implore you to follow them on Instagram and other social media, donate whenever you can, and show up to their calls to action. We should always be paying attention to marginalized voices, because it is these voices who have been fighting oppression the longest and are currently facing the impacts of the climate crisis. There is a common narrative in the media of white kids who are fighting for their futures, but this centres white anxiety over the lived experience of IBPOC voices. Listen and pay attention to groups fighting for justice in the most affected places and areas, especially because a lot of them, like Save the Okavango, are fighting for climate justice as a result of Western extractivism.

What should we be reading? Watching? Listening to? Please recommend books, articles, podcasts, films or other media you think people should read/hear/watch on topics surrounding climate justice.

I recommend There's Something in the Water, which is both a documentary on Netflix and a book by Ingrid WaldronMutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) by Dean Spade; and any book by Adrienne Maree Brown.

If this Towards Equity Community Summit Series had a playlist, what artists or songs would you want to see on it?

Dakota BearSekawnee Baker!

Who would you like to hear from in an upcoming interview? What other questions would you like us to ask interviewees? Let us know. Send your ideas to Chloe Sjuberg, Communications Coordinator, at

On Equity Interviews