Toronto: Interview with Rachel Wang #WomenCrushWednesday

This #WomenCrushWednesday we are spotlighting Rachel Wang, a Women4Climate from Toronto and the Executive Director of the Bike Brigade, a Torontonian collective of cyclists serving and supporting their communities. 

Read on to find out more about the Bike Brigade and Rachel’s feminist views on climate leadership.

W4C - What's the story behind the Bike Brigade and what inspired you to join the initiative?

Rachel -

The Bike Brigade emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a free bike delivery service. We deliver food and other essentials for on-the-ground community agencies and mutual aid groups filling the gaps in our system, particularly around food insecurity. The Bike Brigade has now grown to a community of over 800 volunteer cyclists in Toronto!  

Since March 2020, the Bike Brigade has delivered over 4000 food boxes and 3000 meals and reduced 5 tonnes (CO2) GHG emissions by replacing vehicles with bikes. We have also had the privilege and opportunity to bike marshal at 24 actions, led by Black, Indigenous and youth organizers in Toronto. 

During a time of such uncertainty and grief, the Bike Brigade has helped me avoid the lure of apathy and individualism. I have been able to understand and envision how intersectional climate solutions can be developed, even in a crisis. I have also learned that something so small - a bike - could feel so powerful!

For me, using my bike is an act of resistance (everyone’s looks different). I save money: I don't pay to go anywhere within 10km of my home. I ride as a statement: Chinese women can be “Toronto cyclists” too. I get the heart going: good food isn’t always close by. And I try my best to show up: an able body lends me the privilege to deliver essential supplies for community members not served by our current system.

 

W4C - What message do you have from your own journey of being a Women4Climate, for aspiring women leaders working towards a sustainable, greener and an ever-unpredictable future?

Rachel -

As a second-generation Chinese Canadian settler in Tkaronto (Toronto), being a ‘Women4Climate’ brings an important responsibility to make space for Black and Indigenous leadership. These voices, particularly from femme, trans, queer and gender non-conforming leaders, are the ones that need to be amplified.  

Basic needs are rarely talked about as feminist issues or as climate issues. Yet, race, gender and class all affect one’s ability to access food, safety, education, health care and employment. This is something Mikki Kendall unpacks in her book “Hood Feminism”. As climate leaders, we need to understand that this deeply intersects with, and is exacerbated by, the climate crisis.  

By celebrating collective leadership and collaboration rather than ego and competition, we will begin to see and believe that another world is possible.  As Audre Lorde once said: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”.

W4C - Where do you see our cities in 10 years' time?

Rachel -

I see our cities as networks of strong and sustainable neighbourhoods (or pods!), where the currency is not capital, but relationships and care. The Bike Brigade has taught me that you don't need money to be able to help out your neighbour. Showing up, giving time and sharing what you do have is extremely powerful, especially when everyone in your community is doing the same thing. 
 
On a broader scale, I see systems solely protecting white privilege and property abolished. I see a unified understanding that racial justice is climate justice. I see less criminalization and more transformative justice and poverty alleviation. And I see white climate leaders using their platforms to centre Black, Brown and Indigenous voices.  
 
I am often reminded by community leaders that pushing for justice is not divisive: this fight is for our collective future.