April 09, 2016

Sowing the Seeds of Social Shift

From the 19th century Industrial Revolution to the 1960's Civil Rights Movement, civilization has seen periods of significant social change. Naomi Klein's book "This Changes Everything" and recent events like the Leap Manifesto town hall and Black Lives Matter tent city prove this shift is happening right now. Let’s take some time to discuss the book, the recent events, and how everything is interconnected.

This Changes Everything

Having read Klein's "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine", which respectively discuss corporate branding and exploitation of disasters, "This Changes Everything" builds on her previous works and applies them to climate change. Not only does "This Changes Everything" link capitalism to the lack of government action on climate change, but also chronicles the rise of a new social movement to fill in this void.

In light of the previous government’s 2012 omnibus bills which gutted environmental protections in order to accelerate pipeline construction such as Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, First Nations communities were among the first to resist. Especially given such pipelines would threaten their way of life, including traditional activities such as hunting and fishing. This indigenous movement, known as “Idle No More”, is among several stories around the world where those most impacted by high carbon projects (e.g. pipelines, fracking, oil/coal tankers) are fighting multinational corporations, which Klein refers to as “Blockadia”. These climate actions marked a new era where non-Natives are working with First Nations people; leading to Keystone XL being rejected by US President Barack Obama and Northern Gateway effectively gutted.
July 2015's March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate - Part of the climate
justice movement referenced in Naomi Klein's book
Such climate action goes as far back as the 1990’s, when the Ogoni people in Nigeria succeeded in stopping companies such as Shell from drilling on their territory after significant damage to the Niger River delta. While more remains to be done, this book continuously drives home the point that popular resistance is needed to transition to a low-carbon economy. To further prove why capitalism cannot solve climate change, the book cited failures of billionaire philanthropists such as Richard Branson and why geoengineering may do more harm than good.
MPP Cheri DiNovo kicking off the Leap Manifesto town hall
Leap Manifesto

To build on “This Changes Everything” and hold the new Trudeau government to account, Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, and other high profile Canadians launched the Leap Manifesto at TIFF 2015. The manifesto called for a low carbon economy based on respecting First Nations peoples, ensuring public ownership of energy assets (something the Ontario NDP is heavily focused on regarding Hydro One), creating good jobs with living wages, and fighting rising inequality. It also cited small steps are no longer enough to make this transition possible; hence the need to “leap”.
Initial reaction to Leap Manifesto by right-leaning sources
On Tuesday, March 29, over 500 people attended a Leap Manifesto town hall hosted by MPP Cheri DiNovo and film director Avi Lewis. This town hall covered a diversity of interests such as postal workers, transit advocates, First Nations, and the $15 and Fairness campaign. Representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers used an analogy to imagine Canada Post acting as a bank providing green loans and delivering organic food with electric vehicles. Sounds cool, but maybe they should emulate the Netherlands and use cargo bikes instead?

There was one particular group acknowledged – Black Lives Matter – which set up a tent city protest at Toronto police headquarters.
Black Lives Matter

From March 21 to April 4, Black Lives Matter Toronto set up a tent city to protest the refusal to charge the Toronto police officer responsible for killing Andrew Loku. This was only the latest incident where the black community was victimized by police actions; proving the fight for racial equality launched in the 1960’s is far from over. Aside from police killings, carding (the practice of stopping individuals to collect information) is another key issue which got significant media attention thanks in part to activist Desmond Cole’s article in Toronto Life from last year. This prompted a review by Queen’s Park and a commitment by Mayor John Tory to end carding, while Toronto City Council approved a motion on March 31 to demand the Ontario government review the Special Investigations Unit’s practices from an anti-racism lens.
A dance performance done at BLMTO's tent city
On Friday, April 1, I biked by the #BLMTOtentcity site to get a first-hand look. It was fascinating to see a community emerge with sleeping bags, food stations, first aid supplies, yoga mats, and performances reflective of their culture. First Nations peoples were there in solidarity throughout the two weeks, while people of all races and faiths expressed support for their cause of justice. A couple of dance performances and musical acts were done when I was there and the spirits at the scene remained high throughout. The tent city ended with a march to Queen’s Park on April 4, where Premier Kathleen Wynne met with the activists.
Groups in solidarity of Black Lives Matter
Final Remarks

The point consistently made in “This Changes Everything” and these recent events is achieving climate justice requires everyone’s efforts. We may choose to advocate in different ways, but we live in a world where everything is interconnected and should seek to support other causes when they need it most.

Leap away!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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