PowerShift 2012 is finally here! As of Friday morning there were 950 people registered for PowerShift, on top of about 100 facilitators and panelists! The weekend kicked off with speakers, artists, and musicians at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.
Algonquin elder Annie St. Georges opened the conference with a prayer for the land and its people. She did this prayer in English, French, and Algonquin in an amazing effort to communicate with as many people as possible.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was next on stage to mesmerize the crowd. He talked about the links between the student crisis, economic crisis and the climate crisis.
The people who are trying to raise our tuition are the same people who are taking fossil fuels out of the tar sands and that are perpetuating massive wealth disparity. Gabriel seemed to say exactly what was on many people’s minds: “La cause de notre situation a un nom, il faut arrêter d'avoir peur de le dire, c'est le capitalisme.”
In English, “We can’t be afraid to call the cause of our problems by its name – it’s capitalism.”
Joshua Kahn Russell kept up the energy in the room by leading PowerShifters in a chant – We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!
He shared lessons learned from the anti-racism movement in California. We need to work together to make sure the actions we take are effective and will not go to waste. They need to create real results.
“It’s not enough to do self-expressive actions that feel good, it’s not enough just to be right. I don’t want to be right while watching the world burn.”
Melina Laboucan Massimo finished up the opening speeches with a devastating story about a pipeline burst that destroyed her home in the Lubicon Cree First Nation in Alberta. In 2011 there was an oil spill that ravaged the land, and that was kept secret from the locals for weeks on end. Neither the government nor the oil company stepped up to tell the community what had happened or to figure out how to resolve this disaster.
After a heart wrenching description of the realities of tar sands extraction in Alberta, Melina shared her hope and faith with the crowd.
“Brothers and sisters, the world has been waiting for this generation.”
The route to success will not be walked alone, but by many. We must work together to build the road that will lead to strong communities and clean futures.
Keira-Dawn Kolson, a Tso'Tine-Gwich'in spoken word artist from Denendeh in the Northwest Territories, wrapped up the speakers list with her frustrations, her anger, her hope and her drive for a better way forward. She capped off the night with traditional drumming and singing.
So what does this mean for us?
The climate crisis is linked to social injustice, Indigenous land struggles, and economic inequality. These problems are all the result of a capitalism economy that prioritizes profits over people and the planet.
We need to reclaim the value of our communities and environments. We need to stop letting corporate interests dominate our politics and run rampant in our lives.
Joshua Kahn Russell hit the nail on the head in his speech. “Rules are made to serve the rulers and the rulers keep changing the rules.”
So we must change the rules and the rulers. We must take the power back to create the future we all need, not the profit the ultra-rich want.
“La resistance n’est pas une resolution, c’est une responsabilité.”
“Resistance is not a resolution, it’s a responsibility.”
-Gabriel Nadeau Dubois