PowerShift BC focused on the activism side of climate change, thus a side I am not too familiar with. I decided to go to the conference with an open-mind and with the determination to learn something new.
First night, there was the opening plenary, featuring some fantastic keynote speakers, David Suzuki among them. We heard from Crystal Lameman who spoke of moose with puss bubbles on their chests and harvested deer with green meat. We were reminded of the importance of knowing your roots - how the majority of Canadians, including myself cannot tell you the story of their ancestors, while all First Nations people can. We heard from David Suzuki, who preached to us about the importance of putting Eco back into Economy, where it belongs. We heard from Ta’Kaiya Blaney, who at 12 years old has been shaped and moulded by her elders to understand the importance of preserving nature and how to communicate this importance to others. It was a mind-blowing opening to an interesting weekend with fellow activists, friends and leaders.
I noticed that there was a common attitude to blame corporations and companies for their lack of compliance in environmental issues. For example, in Suzuki’s speech he mentioned that he spoke to the CEO of Shell and told him that water and air are of the utmost importance and Shell’s business model should reflect that in their operations. I believe that he is preaching to the wrong people. The reason why these corporations exploit resources, people and the environment is because of the continuing and endless consumer demand. Meaning, you and I and the rest of our friends and family are to blame. How many people at PowerShift BC own an iPhone or another smart phone? We cannot hold others accountable before first holding ourselves accountable. This requires a shift in our values as people and consumers.
There were many things that I learned:
Prisons: About the privatization of prisons in the USA (essentially meaning prisons are for profit). The use of solitary confinement for more than 40 years is a preferred method of “treatment” as opposed to rehabilitation. There was a call for prison abolition and complete restructure of the system.
Big picture thinking: The importance of big picture thinking, one may think that personal contributions to environmentalism and sustainability are sufficient for world change. Unfortunately, it is not the way to achieve substantial change, but I do agree that change starts within yourself first. Conquer yourself then influence others.
Be positive: The importance of remaining positive and idealistic. Some may say this hinders growth and change, but I believe it’s fundamental to realizing a solution. Without forward-thinking and ideal solutions, there would be no dreamers, and I believe without idealistic people dreams can never be realized, they will constantly be hindered by the inability to “think big.”
Don’t blame the person: I learned this last year in one of my Sustainable Community Development classes, but nevertheless it is of important to remember that the person is not to blame, it is the system. People deny things like climate change and racism exist due to their underlying belief system based on the environment they have been brought up in. You cannot blame a person for thinking the way they do, but you can be optimistic for change by communicating your opinion in a unbiased and objective manner.
Alternative models for education: Despite all the negative things learned, there was a positive note. A presentation was made by the Institute for Global Solutionswhere they have reorganized the structure of high school curricula to include both experiential and interdisciplinary education. You could say that this alternative curriculum was influenced by David Orr. Personally, interdisciplinary courses have been the most beneficial for my in university (despite the politics and bureaucracy surrounding them) and I am happy to see this concept being introduced to the high school level.
Taxation as engagement: The importance of taxation as brought forward by Andrew Nikiforuk. Given the example, that Norway is also a “petrostate,” but instead of funding government operations with oil money (like in Canada), they have secured it in a pension fund for future generations. Achieving a shift in revenue allocation depends on citizens actively questioning and giving attention to a government’s operations. Andrew emphasized that this attention is achieved with higher taxes; higher taxes encourage citizens to be aware of their government’s activities as they are contributing a substantial amount of money towards its operations.
Ultimately, in personal reflection I have determined that empowerment and solidarity is greatly important in forming and advancing a movement. But, as an individual I am more results oriented. This weekend did not provide me with any inspiring solutions, and I believe there are better ways to create change than through protests. PowerShift BC was more focused on creating awareness, which is of course a fundamental stepping stone on the way to change.