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This past week, I gazed into the eyes of several wise old souls. It is a singularly gratifying and enchanting experience to connect with people that are kindred in both purpose and spirit. It seems Social Change Institute is just the sort of fertile ground to grow such connections. It’s no surprise that many of the people I met at SCI are on the front lines of transforming our world. They offered diamond sharp insights into my own journey, about which I will have much time to contemplate in the coming weeks. I look forward to sharing the revelations that emerge.
It was noted repeatedly that I am about to embark on a journey, perhaps even a sacred journey. On the outside, its an intensely public experience focused on engaging people across the province in fruitful dialogue that trades in the currency of ideas. On the inside, a deeply personal quest to investigate alternative forms of energy including that which can spur one into action and shift deeply held beliefs about what is possible. An exploration of the inner landscape will fill many solitary hours spent pounding foot to pavement.
Personally, I hope it will help exorcise some of the despair I feel in the wake of Bill C-38 and the aggressive measures being taken to destroy environmental oversight and a vast number of Canada’s democratic instruments. I can only hope that this is a temporary moment of greed overwhelming goodness and good sense, a moment that activates and galvanizes the people and communities that recognize it as such. I pray that this is the darkness before the dawn of a new age of consciousness; that Harper’s short-sighted and regressive policies are but the death rattle of the fossil fuel driven economy. We shall see, I suppose.
Running away from a nightmare or towards a brighter future? This is a question that was asked of me at SCI and to which I keep returning…I think it’s both. The reality of pipelines, tankers and other tar sands expansion projects are without question the dark prospect that ignited and to some extent fuels this campaign, but the lure of engaging in a creative and collaborative process to re-imagine a sustainable future is what really propels me forward. Considering all the damage we are causing to the planet and to our own kind, I think many of us feel completely guilt ridden, and perhaps even paralyzed by that emotion. A great deal of the language and messaging in the sustainability realm is geared at reducing footprints, doing less harm, consuming less which are of course necessary, but in some ways suggests that we need to be less of our selves. Rather than doing less bad, I think we need to consider ways of doing more good by applying our unique human capacity for imagination and creativity to the task of healing our world and society.
Dialogue is an excellent tool for tapping that creative potential and developing a collaborative process that is generative rather than degenerative. I really like Annette Simmons “Guide to Facilitate Dialogue” and she has kindly given permission for me to add it to Band Together BC’s Dialogue Tool Kit. This kit, available on the Band Together BC website shortly, will also contain Tides Canada New Energy Vision for Canada and a Statement of Support for a National Energy Strategy along with suggested questions and methods of recording the ideas in the dialogue sessions that I hope many people will organize in their respective communities.
I look forward to sharing the innovative ideas that will no doubt arise from these sessions, articulated and expressed through a jambalaya of multimedia- so excited to see how they shape our future.
I just stumbled across Franke James visual essays of environmental issues: http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=11818
I think they’re really captivating and a creative way of making social and environmental commentary. Something to think about for telling the story of my journey perhaps…
A couple of evenings ago, Nate and I attended a sold out presentation by the ever eloquent Wade Davis. He was as oratorically brilliant as the last 2 times I had heard him speak, but this time his presentation carried a sombre message. Shell wants to drill more than 1,000 coalbed methane gas wells in the Sacred Headwaters-a vast alpine basin that is the shared birthplace of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers- which threatens communities, wildlife and wild salmon. His book, Sacred Headwaters is a testament to the beauty of BC’s remote north western corner and an expression of Wade’s true love for the place he calls home. The images and his words convey the wildness, the vastness, and the pristine loveliness of this place- bittersweet now that the Red Chris mine- an open pit copper mine that will result in the amputation of Todagin mountain (home to the largest population of Stone Sheep in the world) and giant toxic waste ponds- has been granted a permit to operate right in the heart of it. I was struck by the terrible irony of how its remoteness has up until now preserved it from the machinations of the industrial world but may now well seal its fate as a site for oil and mineral development as it lays far from the eyes or experience of the vast majority of British Columbians that might otherwise protect it. Those that will suffer the effects of coal bed methane drilling or copper mining are the few that live on the land and to whom their land is their life. Wade described the injustice implicit in land deals that are negotiated in far off board room by executives that have never visited the site in question and yet their decisions to plop a mine or oil well wherever they choose has consequences deeply felt by those that live there and future generations. He wasn’t suggesting that all development is bad- far from it- it’s just that there are some places that are so ecologically and culturally significant that they deserve to be kept intact. Why is that so hard to understand?
I marvel at the fact that those with the common sense to understand this are labeled “environmentalists.” Quite frankly, I’m surprised that the label exists at all. It’s like being labeled a “life-ist” or an “anti annihilationist” and then being forced to defend that position.
Wade ended on an upbeat by suggesting that we have the power to sway Shell and others in how they manage their projects. It seems now more than ever before grassroots movements have the tools to really effect change-that gives me hope.
And just when things seemed too intellectually composed, Wade slipped in a few f-bombs, some references to his drug tripping days with the Shamans and how ”Mitt Romney clearly didn’t get laid in college.”
A little something for everyone!
Well I feel like I’m going to burst- I’m just so stoked right now!! First the Delica and now Indiegogo has Band Together BC on its homepage!
This is the message they sent me:
Congrats! BAND TOGETHER BC is now featured on Indiegogo’s home page thanks to all your great efforts! Share this excitement with your funders and fans. Glad we could give a boost to your efforts.
Thanks to everyone for making this a reality!
Next step…Nominate Band Together on Change Makers BC
In a move as predictable as a victim falling prey to a villain in a slasher film, the Harper government has hacked apart the Environmental Review Process, tossing aside 50 years of environmental development and awareness as Suzuki points out:
Check out this CBC interview with David Suzuki: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/04/17/environmental-reviews.html?cmp=Ross
Not only is the federal government reducing the number of departments and agencies that can do environmental reviews from 40 to just 3, it is dramatically shortening the review time to just 24 months.
So the Northern Gateway Review Process could conclude in May, a whole year and half earlier than initially scheduled.
It comes as no surprise as Harper is simply making good on his promise to China to approve the pipelines, “radicals” and “environmentalists” be damned. Apparently wanting clean air and water, sustainable land-based livelihoods, respect for the rule of law and First Nations territories and the ability to trust in our democratic institutions makes us “radicals.”
So a more precarious future awaits us. Meanwhile, Harper makes good on another promise he made: “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.”
I’m not the kind of person that goes looking for a fight or a cause. Yes, I am a principled person and have been called “hippie” “tree-hugger” and “environmentalist,” plenty, but I don’t make a point of attending rallies or protests. Yesterday, however, I made my way to Vancouver to stand with thousands of other people that believe the tar sands and pipelines are the wrong choice- now and for the future. Together we stood in solidarity and cried “shame” on our leaders that are choosing greed over good. We listened as thoughtful and passionate speakers, many of them First Nations’ Elders (and one quite well spoke 11 year old!), spoke of the travesty being visited upon the land, and the devastation being wrought in their communities. One Elder said he would never forget something he recalled hearing as a child; “Fish to us is like bread to the white man.” What happens when oil kills the fish or when it makes the fish so carcinogenic they kill the people? Another Elder spoke of the dysfunctional disconnection some humans have (namely the proponents of the pipelines) with the land and the water, but that our movement will protect their kids along with our own. “We are doing this for our children and for Kinder Morgan’s children, so that they may have a spiritual connection with the water.”
It was a moving event. Indescribably potent was the shared sense of purpose in trying to prevent a colossally unjust and brutal assault on the systems that give us life and on the people that have called this place home for thousands of years.
I saw an elderly woman dressed all in black with a black veil over her head. On her cane, she had attached a sign: “I mourn for the planet.” A little while later I met my friends, Jane and Hugh with their perfectly beautiful new baby Audrey. It was one of those piercing moments when the truth that has quietly awakened inside erupts and paints the whole world real. The innocent newly born generation has arrived in the wake of a killing spree and is charged with making the funeral arrangements. I am an eternal optimist (what’s the point of being anything else?), but I have dark moments when I think thoughts like these. I have moments of feeling so ashamed of my species, so appalled at the greedy ones, angry at the apathetic ones, and terrified for the little ones that I sometimes think we deserve to kill ourselves off.
But I take comfort in knowing that change is constant and the future always unfolds unpredictably. I find hope in the notion of transformation. That by changing ourselves we change the world around us. We are part of a vast system, intimately tied to the wellbeing of the planet and to one another. Sometimes the immense size and complexity of the system makes it feel like it’s impossible for one person to make a difference, but I think it is quite the opposite. We are all connected, therefore we necessarily all make a difference. Each and everyone of us is working in and on the system. We are all in fact incredibly powerful, it’s often just in ways that are unseen and misunderstood.
That was apparent yesterday. You could hear the power in the enlightened words of the speakers. You could feel the hope billowing over the crowd, with everyone absorbing it. I know everyone will be taking that feeling with them and sharing it with the people in their lives, inspiring others to take action as well. That is how it will spread.
Ben West said; “If I were Enbridge, I would be shaking in my boots right now.” I couldn’t agree more.
One person’s moving experience with the destructive power of the oil industry.
“We are destroying future generations for now, and forever.”
Last night, I watched Luna’s (http://www.lunawhistler.com/) screening of Weibo’s War, a provocative documentary directed and produced by David York (released Oct. 2011, http://www.nfb.ca/film/wiebos_war_trailer/).
The film features Weibo Ludwig and his small community’s battle against the oil and gas industry. Ludwig, his wife Mammie, 2 other couples and all their children form the community of Christian fundamentalists that settled in the Grande Prairie (northern Alberta) region about 3 decades ago in the hopes of getting away from a world that didn’t share their beliefs. They had peace for about 5 years. Then they were informed that they only owned the top 6″ of their property and that the subsurface mineral rights belonged to oil and gas (Encana). A sour gas well was situated a stones throw from their farm and that’s when the trouble began. Their animals began to die and abort their young and so did the women on the farm. Mammie had a miscarriage and then a few years later gave birth to a still born baby (of which they show graphic images). They suffer inexplicable illnesses and violent skin reactions, oh and they can light the water coming out of their kitchen faucet on fire! Their attempts to write letters to decision makers and the media were futile and their protests at the well sites fell on deaf ears. Shortly after, the pipeline bombings and vandalism began. Ludwig and his cohort never admit to the acts, but the wry comments and direct support for them makes it pretty clear that they are involved if not wholly responsible. The bombings continue for many years, but the oil and gas industry continue to set up wells around the property. The community is observed and periodically searched by the police, but no direct evidence is ever discovered nor charges laid. Throw in the shooting death of a 16 year old girl that was trespassing on the property (again with no charges left) and you have a bizarre twist that further compounds the tragic nature of this story.
Ludwig was invited by Luna to attend the screening and lead a discussion. He wrote a letter declining on account of having developed cancer and not being able to travel. He said that hoped he would live long enough to write a book, that he would nonetheless publish posthumously so that he wouldn’t be thrown in jail for its contents!
So I led the discussion instead. I asked the audience what their reactions were to the film and there were some really insightful comments offered. My favourite came from a women who said she sympathized with Weibo, but felt he didn’t do what was best for his family- she felt he should’ve moved them so that they wouldn’t have suffered as they did. She thought he was trying to be a martyr and wondered if martyrdom was an acceptable way of effecting change?
It begs the question, if citizens are being harmed by corporations supported by government what are acceptable courses of action? Are there sufficient mechanisms for having one’s voice be heard and for actually changing the system? Was there a different approach Weibo could’ve taken to influence the powerful oil and gas industry that was harming human health and the environment with impunity? Was war his only recourse?
Is war ever justified? Pacifists aside, our society as a whole generally subscribes to the notion that is some cases war is justified.
St. Augustine said there were three just causes of war:
- defending against attack
- recapturing things taken
- punishing people who have done wrong
As I have detailed in a sworn affidavit, no less than three senior managers with TidesCanada and ForestEthics (a charitable project of Tides Canada), have informed me, as the Senior Communications Manager for ForestEthics, that Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan,was informed by the Prime Minister’s Office, that ForestEthics is considered an “Enemy of the Government of Canada,” and an “Enemy of the people of Canada.”
This language was apparently part of a threat by the Prime Minister’s Office to challenge the charitable status of Tides Canada if it did not agree to stop funding ForestEthics, specifically its work opposing oilsands expansion and construction of oilsands tanker/pipeline routes in Canada.