Interview of the Month: Just Recovery Kingston Knows it’s All About Community

Members of Just Recovery Kingston protest the TMX pipeline in front of MP Mark Gerretsen’s constituency office.

Just Recovery Kingston was formed during COVID to “build back better” at the local level. Their aim is to advocate for a post-COVID recovery that puts people and the environment first. Jeremy Milloy is one of Just Recovery Kingston’s founding members. We discussed the group’s origins, its projects, and how you don’t need to have it all figured out to do good for the planet. 

CL: First thing first, how did Just Recovery Kingston come about?   

JM: Just Recovery Kingston came about last summer, and it was prompted by the creation of the Just Recovery for All principles that have been adopted by a lot of groups in the non-profit sector. The last time there was a major economic crisis [the 2008 financial crisis], recovery was very much about…giving money to the folks at the top of the economic pyramid and obviously that didn’t work. Inequality got worse, we wasted 13 years when we could have worked on long-term care, climate action, etc.   

When this economic and health crisis broke the economy again…the organization I work for, The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, signed on to the principles.    

So, we brought the issue to our community to ask very generally, what would this actually look like in our community? We had a webinar and out of that came Just Recovery Kingston.   

CL: Your two areas of focus are transportation and community gardens. What led you to choose these two issues?   

JM: We chose those two areas because first we think free transit—the right to mobility regardless of age, income or disability—really hits a sweet spot for climate action.   

And the other one we chose because it makes an immediate difference in people’s everyday lives. It’s been one of the only things people can do during the pandemic and right now we think the city has done some great stuff for community gardens, but they can do more. We know that supply chains are vulnerable. They can break down as COVID-19 has shown us and that’s going to be more apparent during climate change. It is imperative that we get better at producing food here.   

 Something that’s very important for us is that we stay a very “slowly-but-surely” organization. We always intended to create something that could make positive change over the long term.   

We’ve spent the last couple of months making sure these campaigns are well thought out and long term. We created a survey about barriers to transit access for example, and by getting folks to fill out the survey we’ll know what the best demands are that we can make of the city. That’s how we want to grow the movement.   

CL: You’re clearly very passionate about these issues. how did you become involved in climate change activism?  

JM: I got interested when I was a kid. I was fortunate, I had a lot of opportunities to be in nature. I remember when I was a little kid in the 1990s, there was a lot of early concern about global warming and acid rain, CFCs and all that stuff, and I remember doing a project about over-packaging in school. I graded how much packaging was at a local grocery store and I got in the local paper for that.   

So, I’ve been thinking about environmental stuff for a long time. As I grew older, I got interested in labour issues and history…and that led me to think more about capitalism and its impact on the planet, which led me right back to climate action.   

People who think a lot about labour and workplace issues think a lot about exploitation. That lends itself very well to thinking about what capitalism does to the environment. Really, this is a systems issue and a very small group of people benefit from [the system] and a big chunk do not.   

CL: What is one thing you would say to somebody who wants to get involved in climate action, but isn’t sure where to start?   

JM: Email me! We can have a chat (here’s Jeremy’s email address, he is serious!  

 I think that there is a belief that you need to have things figured out before you do something and that’s just not true.   

Two clichés stick out in my mind here. One is, “think globally, act locally”, and it’s true, it’s a global problem but it’s my sincere belief that people can make big impacts in their communities. What can I do in my own home and town? What is a climate issue here?   

The other is, “no one can do everything but everyone can do something”. You don’t need an eight-point plan. People at Just Recovery Kingston, we’re just trying to figure it out. We learn more and we’ll see what happens.   

Live in Kingston? Check out Just Recovery Kingston and the group’s Facebook page to see how you can get involved and to find out what other kinds of climate actions you can take with your voice, money and time, head to our website.  

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