by Brynne Sinclair-Waters
You’ve heard it before: Climate change is happening, and fast. Troubling trends include rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and increasingly severe natural disasters, to name just a few. Add to the mix increasing economic inequality and you’ve got the perfect storm. In the midst of all this, the Canadian government has kicked the Kyoto Protocol to the curb and continues to throw money at the oil industry, while simultaneously pushing forward an austerity agenda that is slashing public sector jobs, cutting essential public services, and gutting environmental regulation. In other words, these days you can see how one might lose hope.
Despite all this, “hope is a moral imperative” – these are the words of Maude Barlow speaking to a group of student leaders at the Sierra Youth Coalition’s National Conference last weekend in Mississauga, Ontario. We must continue to believe that things can get better.
In the Tyee last Summer, Rex Weyler compiled comments from many prominent thinkers on the topic of finding hope in the current political moment. A moment in which, he explains, we are forced to come to terms with the fact that despite fifty years of environmentalism, our society is less sustainable. He suggests that the search for hope is not straightforward. He quotes George Monbiot who says: “the promise to save the world keeps us dangling, not mobilizing… Hope is the rope on which we hang.” He also challenges us to respond to University of Texas professor Robert Jensen who says that “to be a hope-peddler today… is laziness.” Weyler concludes that “hope is a useful frame of mind, but not a strategy” and that social movements have to “move beyond hope to action.”
For me, in the midst of hastening environmental degradation and increasing economic inequality, attending PowerShift is one way that I am finding hope by taking action. And, hundreds of youth from across the country will be joining me! So, naturally, I’m excited.
Meanwhile, in my home-province of PEI, the provincial government has approved a plan – known as “Plan B” – to reroute the Trans Canada highway utilizing federal money from the Atlantic Gateway fund. The proposed highway will cut through the beautiful hillsides of PEI and requires chopping down rare hemlocks and pines estimated to be 200 years old. The process has lacked both genuine public consultation and sufficient environmental assessment. Despite these concerns and significant public opposition, Premier Robert Ghiz continues to insist that the project will go ahead. This week construction began and a hemlock grove that Islanders have been fighting to protect has been destroyed. This saddens me and makes me angry. But here too I have found hope because Islanders are taking action to Stop Plan B. Although I now live hundreds of miles away, I have heard stories and seen pictures and videos (like this one and this one) of people marching together, camping out, and physically occupying trees to stop the construction of this undemocractic, unnecessary, wasteful, and destructive project.
I’m attending PowerShift to renew hope for a more just and sustainable future by taking action, so that next time the hemlocks will stay standing. I have hope not because I believe that we can build a more just and sustainable world, but because we’re already doing it. It may not be enough, yet. But even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, I will continue to have hope as long as we continue to take action.