Leading the Charge: Climate Change, Disability and Storytelling

Leading the Charge: Climate Change, Disability and Storytelling

By Sarah Firth

This artwork is a graphic recording, or live illustration, that was created by capturing the key points from the panel discussion ‘Leading the Charge: Climate Change, Disability and Storytelling’ (watch/listen here). Graphic recording is a vibrant way of visually capturing real-time conversations through words and images. I came to doing this style of work as someone who is neurodivergent. I find that drawing out conversations as they happen, using visual and spatial mapping, allows me to listen and go deeply into the messages and ideas, as well as present them in an appealing and engaging non-linear way.

For a plain text version of the graphic recording (with image descriptions), click here.

A graphic recording capturing the main points and ideas of the 2019 panel discussion 'Leading the Charge: Climate Change, Disability and Storytelling', including illustrations of the speakers Fiona Tuomy, Carly Findlay, Andy Jackson, CB Mako and Lefa Singleton Norton.


Sarah Firth headshot

Sarah Firth is a Melbourne-based, Eisner Award–winning comic artist, writer and internationally renowned graphic recorder. Her work has been published by ABRAMS Books, ABC Arts, ‘Frankie’ magazine, Graphic Mundi, Penn State University Press, Penguin Random House, Picador, Allen & Unwin, ‘The Nib’, Black Inc. and Routledge. She is currently working on her debut graphic novel.

Leading the Charge: Climate Change, Disability and Storytelling — plain text version

Stories passed palm to palm. [image: one hand holding another, above a Venn diagram showing the word ‘present’ as the intersection of ‘past’ and ‘future’]

Our histories interweave. [image: threads of different colours in a woven pattern]

Layers of colonisation can be seen in environmental degradation. Rivers slick with oil. [image: thick, black oil]

Five kilograms of paraffin a month. It’s life-saving. I need it. [image: a container of paraffin, next to which is a hand holding a dollop of paraffin, as well as two speech bubbles]

Stress. Fear. Anxiety. There must be a deaf and disabled lens on climate issues. [image: a speech bubble, pointed to a man and a woman)

Lived experience as part of a wider framework of experiences, systems and structures. Individualistic solutions won’t solve things! [image: various shapes surrounded by a dotted line]

Adaptation, suffering, resilience – in our bodies, in the land. But we can offset our medical needs with other actions. [image: an arm, a verdant landscape and three trees]

We will all be disabled at some point. Just ban straws! No! People need them. Pre-cut packaged food is needed! Many things seen as a given in the climate movement aren’t inclusive or accessible. [image: speech bubbles next to a man, a glass with a straw, and a package of pre-cut food]

Disability activism skills feed into climate activism – live-stream, access and info. Making disability access mainstream. More inclusive protests. Beyond capitalism: the inherent worth of beings. [image: a laptop, two arrows indicating the cyclical relationship between disability activism and climate activism]

Disabled people are more vulnerable in this current climate crisis – water limits, access, bushfire escape, the heat, asthma, medical needs. [image: a puddle of water, a person in a wheelchair, a fire, the sun, wind with pollen, pills and other medication]

Deeply ingrained ideas around who is ‘worth saving’. [image: a seesaw with one figure closer to the ground than the other]

The power of storytelling. Diverse stories help change the world. Climate action and activism through storytelling. [image: the planet Earth]

The UN resolution on climate change to develop a disability-inclusive approach with action. Involving disabled people in disaster discussion and plans – from the start. Hurricane Katrina really gave attention to the issue. [image: three speech bubbles containing a question mark, a tick mark and a cross, next to a pencil, a hand pointing downwards and a faint image of a hurricane]

Challenge individualism. Respect and mutual care. [image: hearts of various colours]

We need to open up the narrative, not just jump into solutions. [image: Fiona Tuomy]

Set good boundaries. I get a lot of comments on my food choices! Use your social media to make an impact. [image: Carly Findlay]

We need to learn how to be here on this country. Learning from First Nations people. [image: Andy Jackson]

No-one left behind. Questions the structures! Push for inclusion. [image: CB Mako]

Connect the head and heart. It’s been pivotal. Stories of place, space and meaning. [image: Lefa Singleton Norton, next to a brain and a heart connected by waves of energy]

Graphic recording drawn with love on Wurundjeri country by Sarah Firth — @sarahthefirth, sarahthefirth.com