Community-Based Climate Change Narratives and Action-Taking Through Zine Making

Isabelle Elizondo


Zines are DIY, self-published magazines that contain art, poetry, or essays from a variety of diverse contributors. Zines play an important role in providing a platform for unheard minority perspectives. They are closely tied to a variety of subculture movements, originating in the 1930s through science fiction fanzines, evolving with the punk movement in the 1970s, and maturing during the riot grrrl era of the 1990s. In zines, authors and artists published everything from their political manifestos to reporting on the daily musings of retirement home members (Duncombe 5). Very often zines were critical in forming the rhetoric surrounding counterculture movements as well as growing into their own underground culture(Duncombe 7). 

Zines continue to thrive in the digital age. There are a variety of zine festivals (Chicago Zine Fest, Zine Fest Berlin, Tijuana Zine Fest ) around the world, a magazine about zine culture (Broken Pencil), and the emergence of zines on social media platforms (Polyesterzine, Babyzine, From Pluto Magazine). “Eco-zines” are a subcategory within zine culture. They focus on a variety of topics such as sustainable fashion (Fashion Revolution), sustainable living (Bright Zine), and environmental activism (It’s Freezing in LA). They all present alternatives to mainstream narratives about environmentalism. 

For my capstone project, I will be examining eco-zines' ability to offer narratives of hope and agency related to climate change action through their alternative messaging. First I will address defeatism as a reaction to climate change developments and reporting. I will also discuss the prevalence of nihilistic narratives in art and literature while also claiming that they limit an individual’s sense of agency and promote inaction related to climate change. Then I will argue that zines can successfully offer hopeful, action-based narratives based on their historical role as an alternative to mainstream reporting and art.  

There are many groups within the Notre Dame and South Bend community (Sunrise, CCL, Sustainability Commissioners, Unity Gardens, etc.) that are attempting to promote community-based climate/environmental action. All these groups approach action differently (lobbying, protesting, gardening) but ultimately have parallel goals. I propose that zine-making can be a powerful way to develop and strengthen community bonds between these groups with similar goals, but disparate actions as well as draw in new local members to promote more collective-action within the local community. I plan to utilize my research in narratives and collective-action to inform my zine that will be created through contributions from community members.  

In addition to collective action, I theorize that zine-making can increase the sense of agency within an individual. This increased agency can also be a catalyst for action-taking related to climate change. Throughout the zine-making process, I will record my own experiences with the zine-making process through a critical reflection to assess my beliefs about climate nihilism and hope.