Break The Divide is, at its core, about connection, empathy, compassion, community and resilience both emotional and physical in response to challenges, like climate change, facing our communities. Break(ing) The Divide is not a euphemism. It evokes our commitment to foregrounding empathy and community in all of our actions, while acknowledging the need to challenge, deconstruct, break in this case, the structures and logics that – when communities are faced with collective struggles – engender apathy, stifle empathy, and impede action. Break The Divide symbolizes our collective commitment to approaching apathy or antipathy with compassion and understanding, practicing empathy through community and dialogue, and fostering action through collective empowerment grounded in empathetic ways of being.
“If the only thing that unites us is the threat, then each group will move to defend their interests. But if we meet around hope in a better future, this global awareness will be transformed into positive action. Hope here is a necessary action. Our rosy dreams will probably not come to pass, but if we leave ourselves to our nightmares, we’ll be killed by fear before the floods arrive.”From Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s “You Have Not Yet Been Defeated”
Break The Divide was founded because 14 year-old Abhay had the opportunity to visit the Arctic in 2016 and witness the effects of the climate crisis firsthand on a grander scale than he had ever seen before. While the rest of Canada had only just begun to feel noticeable changes in the form of increased wildfires and other natural disasters produced by the climate crisis, Northern Canada has been feeling these effects for 30 or 40 years. The vastly different lived realities of the Inuit communities Abhay engaged with in the Arctic and his own classmates in Surrey, BC, were inextricably linked to how they understood the climate crisis and the urgency they had in addressing the climate crisis.
This sparked an important realization for Break The Divide. Apathy is not innate. It is grown, it is nurtured and it is encouraged by a society that actively devalues community connection, emotional reasoning and compassion. It means it can also be fought through empathy, through a commitment to dialogue, community, and decolonial values. It means that action is achievable for everyone. Action can be engaging in conversations in your community, it can be seeking out knowledge, asking questions, creating art, or offering assistance.
It can take various forms and Break The Divide is here to provide students with the tools to recognize how they can contribute meaningfully to issues that affect their communities in ways that foreground their, and their communities and well-being.
All of us here at Break The Divide have at one point or another felt isolated, frustrated, and helpless when faced with the overwhelming nature of the climate crisis. We wholeheartedly believe that this is the result of being given the wrong tools. We are not taught to empathize, we are not taught to feel, we are not taught to lean on our communities for support. Break The Divide aims to change this. We believe that our approach can work because it has for us and many youth we know. Because though empathy alone cannot stop climate change, it can make our communities more resilient, more connected, and more prepared to support each other as new challenges inevitably arise.