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Zero Hour Arkansas reflects on the first full year of Roots Magazine

Sophia Nourani

A zine is a self-published physical work, often mass printed in a small circulation. Zines have become a common medium for artists with niche topics wanting to express their ideas using images or text. Roots Magazine was created in 2022 as a way to spread information related to environmental injustice to the youth in our area. Amelia Southern Uribe, one of the founders of Zero Hour Arkansas and Roots, said the concept began in early 2019 as a chapter in Fayetteville High School.

“And from there, we were focusing on climate strikes and engaging with youth through traditional methods of sustainability like composting, recycling,” Uribe explains, “working on policy with the city of Fayetteville sustainability department to kind of encourage carpooling to schools.”

As she got older, Uribe said she realized that in order to attract a more diverse audience to environmental activism, Zero Hour Arkansas would need to use a different approach.

“The work that I started off doing was very region specific, but I wanted to take a more intersectional approach, coming from an identity of having immigrant parents and being queer, and noticing how all these different factors affect different areas of my beliefs and policy, but they also affect me in a way that relates to sustainability. I wanted to take my background with my culture and my queerness and bring that into an intersectional approach to climate justice,” Uribe said. “And I want to start talking about ways that we experience environmentalism in our day to day life and add a systematic approach, as well. So Zero Hour started to become less on policy, and more a community based organization to meet people where they're at, and give them the tools to talk about complex issues like environmental racism, or environmental ableism. And with that approach, we could reach more people that were experiencing different forms of oppression as well.”

Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, while environmental ableism is the tendency to exclude or erase people with disabilities from environmental progress or action. With these forms of oppression in mind, Zero Hour Arkansas focused less on traditional forms of activism, and more on ways that bring a voice to those that are often misrepresented in environmental politics. Ways like Roots Magazine.

“Roots is our climate justice zine. We thought about it from the idea of what is missing in Arkansas, and we started looking at statistics and gaps in our education system, and why climate education isn't taught at a broad level, or even at a high school level,” Uribe describes. “So Grace Holley and I, the co-founder of Roots, started talking about how our passions for art, marketing and journalism could come together to create this idea of community celebration through an art form. We started putting together Roots, and we opened up submissions. In our first year, we gained around twenty, thirty submissions from local artists. And this year, we really focused on getting diverse perspectives from other parts of the country. We have submissions, not just from Arkansas, but from Mississippi, out of the country, Panama and other regions, we really just wanted to highlight what environmental justice at first looked like.”

I asked Uribe how it felt to personally reflect on how Zero Hour has progressed since its creation in 2019.

“I think it’s been really incredible to see our growth, we've added new members since. At first it was just Grace and I and a couple of our friends working on the zines, four people, and now we are leading a group of twenty. And not only that, we've gained so much… not just support, but financial support as well, from communities. We've gotten donations and funding from foundations that we thought we would never have absolute access to and not only are we getting access financially, but we're seeing impacts. Not just in our university but in the community, and people are talking about environmental justice,” Uribe answers.

“And especially, I'm reflecting on when I first started in activism people would tell me like ‘Environmental justice is not a thing’, ‘Environmental racism isn't a thing’. Even sharing my story about growing up in Florida, and being an activist and then coming to Arkansas, I could start seeing that the way that we talk about climate change and the way that we experience climate stories through other people, the more empathetic we are to it and the more that we want to take action because someone know and love has been impacted by it. So I think even that part of it, sharing a story and especially putting something out there as raw and beautiful as Roots is really just inspires people to take action.”

The next issue of Roots Magazine will focus more on how the community interacts with our environment on a day-to-day basis.

“We really wanted to focus on building up our community, highlighting people that have been doing the work for years. Doing work that maybe isn't talked about, like sustainable fashion, or gearing up for what our future can look like in Northwest Arkansas with outdoor tourism and making that an inclusive approach using an environmental justice lens. Those are just a few examples of things that are going on right now, and why equitable education and journalism is going to be the key to moving forward in any space, but particularly northwest Arkansas, since we are very heavily focused on outdoor tourism. And that's where our economy will shift in the next couple of years,” Uribe said.

“We want to keep building it and reaching new people and expanding the ways that we think about environmentalism. Whether we go in a direction to focus on eco-anxiety in youth, or we start thinking about what the future is for environmental justice, I think we're definitely trying to stay as innovative as possible. And I think with that, we definitely want to hear from the community and see what people want and what people need. So definitely just engaging more, putting on more events and learning how to reach more people too. in ways that we haven't before. And I think also with that, I forgot to mention earlier, but we do want to compensate our artists and our journalists. Moving forward, we want to be able to compensate anyone that submits. I think a lot of activists, whether that's in the form of educators or journalist or people that you see leading protests, this work is free labor, but it goes into impacting community and the reward that you see is not always a financial reward, but it's the way that you can impact and relate to your community.”

To find out more about Zero Hour Arkansas or stay updated on Roots Magazine, you can visit their Instagram. To learn more about This is Zero Hour, the national climate action organization, you can go to their website.

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Sophia Nourani is a KUAF producer and reporter.
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