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Earth Day webinar – Change and Resistance: Agriculture and the Environment

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: April 21, 2020 1:00 p.m.

Fletcher brings forward the voices of people deeply affected by floods, droughts, and wildfires
Fletcher brings forward the voices of people deeply affected by floods, droughts, and wildfires Photos: U of R Photography

The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped the entire world upside down, including cancelling or postponing the scheduled plans of scholars and students worldwide. Dr. Amber Fletcher, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Studies at the University of Regina, has been selected as the 2020 Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Prior to the pandemic, she was set to begin her residency at UMass Lowell’s Peace and Conflict Studies Institute this Spring; it has postponed until Fall.

Over the last decade, Fletcher has studied both high-level changes in policy related to the environment, climate

Amber Fletcher
Fletcher, 2020 Greeley Scholar
for Peace Studies at University
of Massachusetts Lowell

change, and agriculture, and the everyday effects of these policies on the lives of Canadian Prairie farmers, particularly women. In her research, Fletcher helps to bring forward the voices of people deeply affected by floods, droughts, and wildfires, as well as the impact of economic and gender inequality during times of crisis. 

“I’m really looking forward to connecting with community organizations in the Lowell area,” said Fletcher. “There are different foodscapes in Massachusetts than on the Prairies. Food is being produced and distributed in different ways, and I continue to be excited to see what could be learned there and what I might be able to bring back to my work at the U of R.” 

Each year, the Greely Scholar award committee selects one distinguished advocate for peace to visit the UMass campus to advance the cause of peace and justice while engaging with students and the public.  

Starting early in her career, Fletcher’s academic contributions have been well recognized and in demand. She has contributed to expert testimonies for two Standing Committees of the Parliament of Canada on the topics of farmers’ wellbeing, as well as gender and the environment.

In 2012, she spoke before the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on the topic of rural women’s wellbeing. Most recently, she was a contributing author to a 2019 special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is former President of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. Fletcher holds two medals from the Governor General of Canada for her research and advocacy on gender equality in Canada.

In her role as Greeley Peace Scholar, Fletcher will be presenting her first webinar Change and Resistance: Agriculture and the Environment on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

“In a way, it’s strange to talk about climate change and agriculture right now, because everything is about COVID-19 now. But climate change is a crisis, and COVID-19 is a crisis. During crises, regardless of the type, inequalities are magnified,” said Fletcher. “These major defining events starkly expose issues of power and inequality, which can serve as a turning point for recognizing and doing something about those issues.”

In her presentation, Fletcher will look at two different forms of change and resistance on the Canadian Prairies that are related to climate change and agriculture, and to socio-economic and gender inequality.

Her focus on change will highlight climate change, warming trends, and increased risk of local disasters. She’ll address how farmers are affected by and responding to those challenges and how the agriculture industry is adapting to and preparing for increased disasters. 

The existence of climate change and the role that human activity plays in increasing climate change, however, faces significant resistance in our province. Fletcher expects that to gradually change, particularly in a sector such as agriculture that is so dependent on climate.

“We are going to experience more severe droughts, floods, and wildfires so the effects will become personal for many. But at the same time, it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around something they haven’t yet personally experienced.”

Fletcher will also talk about alternative food practices such as small local food production, community-supported agriculture, and organic farming as a form of resistance against industrialized, highly corporate farming.

“Inequality, gender, and class are always present within this topic,” explained Fletcher. “There tends to be more women in organic agriculture and women there are really taking a lead. Alternative agriculture provides an opportunity for women to enter the industry in a way that isn’t always possible in the large-scale forms of agriculture, which tend to be male-dominated.”

Whether the issue is a pandemic or climate change, crises expose problematic forms of inequality and power structures in society. They either provide opportunities to eradicate inequality and the structure of power, or risk reinforcing both.

“If we look at food, markets, and trade, COVID-19 has made us realize the importance of being able to access the things that we need domestically, like masks,” said Fletcher. “In many ways, COVID-19 and climate change expose the flaws in our macro-level political economic structures and institutions, such as an overdependence on international trade or making cuts to social support systems.”

Fletcher is eager to start the next stage of her research program. “I would like to expand our research into synthesizing the various tools, programs, and resources on preparedness for disaster,” said Fletcher. “I’d like to find a way to easily convert research into policy recommendations and mobilize research results into initiatives and actions to support people in their communities.”

Dr. Fletcher’s webinar Change and Resistance: Agriculture and the Environment will take place Wednesday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. (CST) / 7:30 p.m. (EST). To watch simply visit HERE.

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