Book Recs (May/June 2023)

Here are four books we’re reading to learn about the experiences of migrant workers in Canada, and to get equiped to fight the climate crisis.

Harvesting Freedom: The Life of a Migrant Worker in Canada is maybe the first memoir by a migrant worker living in Canada. Author Gabriel Allahdua details his life growing up and living in St. Lucia, and then his decision to become a migrant farmworker in Ontario, we he worked in a massive greenhouse. Through Allahdua, geaders get to know many people who are working for better conditions and rights for migrant workers, and we travel through different parts of the political system – including visiting Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

For books on the climate crisis, we’ve got three recs.

First, journalist Geoff Dembicki digs into what the oil industry as been doing on climate for the last sixty years in The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change. Dembicki weaves together scenes from the halls of Columbia University in New York, to oil sands corporate office in Calgary, to the sprawling empire of the Koch brothers (who made much of their early fortune importing oil sands products from Alberta to their refinery in Minnesota). Altogether, he shows that since 1959, big oil companies have known about climate change, known what to do about it, and have fought like hell to make sure we do the opposite.

Next, the six-author team behind The End of This World: Climate Justice in So-Called Canada* lay out an inspiring vision for how to reduce the production and use of fossil fuels, respect Indigenous sovereignty and rights, and have an economy that works for everyone. The key, they argue, is not individual behaviour change like walking to They call this a just transition (a term they acknowledge has been co-opted by governments to mean something much less ambitious). They end the book by discussing what we as regular people can do now in order to set ourselves up for bigger social changes in the future.

Lastly, we have to mention Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, the non-fiction graphic novel by Kate Beaton which won CBC Canada Reads. The story details Beaton’s actual experience working in the Alberta oil patch to pay off her student debt She is constantly being looked at and talked to by men, as one of the few women in company camps where men outnumber women 50-to-1. These are places with rampant misogyny, loneliness and sexual violence. But life there is also punctuated by people, including migrant workers, showing small acts of kindness to one another. Ducks is a powerful reminder of the experiences of working in the oil industry, and resource industries more generally, and how it affects everyone involved.

*The End of This World is co-authored by The Grind’s publisher, Dave Gray-Donald

This article appears in the May/June 2023 Issue.