On Track – Victoria

Victoria is a beautiful city, judging by the people we met, the places we went and the company we kept. We kicked off the visit in the right company at the CYCC and Canadian Labour Congress’ People’s Assembly on Climate Change. To hear the thoughts of over 40 citizens of Victoria on issues such as the Green Economy, technological fixes, and the responsibility of developed nations to accept climate targets first, was a clear reminder that these ideas need to be aired and discussed at all levels of society. Having these discussions with people who care about issues of climate change and an engaged civil society is of course bent in a certain direction but the dialoguing that was created sparked many lights in my thoughts and new understandings. There was a general conclusion that was echoed in our subsequent activities in Victoria: that solutions need to come from all angles. We need to urge our governments to set targets and make policies that contribute to a less wasteful world, but we also need to create solutions in our communities. We can do this by deciding not to buy into the myth of necessary economic growth, and instead choose to support local and/or ethical businesses (such as ones with a triple bottom-line who consider human welfare in their decision-making), we can barter and make and grow things ourselves, and we can take those extra steps to be real neighbours to those who live near us and be supporters of open dialogue and healthy human interactions wherever we find ourselves. These are the networks that can grow and support human flourishing without taking more than the earth can offer.

Over the following two days similar ideas were presented in a much more formal setting and language. At the University of Victoria both Jamie Biggar, who spearheaded last year’s amazing ‘It’s Time to Listen’ campaign and has worked extensively on campus and climate organizing (Common Energy, goBeyond, Sierra Club, LeadNow), and Blake Anderson, the first Sustainability Coordinator at Queen’s, defended their theses analysing the challenges of climate change. Both were supervised by Micheal M’Gonigle (Planet U) and proposed a need for revitalization of our public discourse and the need for alternatives to our current governance models. Their presentations and the discussions which ensued provided plenty of food for thought.

During one of the victory celebrations it was ironic when carbon sequestration – which we had been discussing at the People’s Assembly and precisely why it wasn’t a solution – came up as a possible topic of study for one of the climate activists. Perhaps after seeing my reaction, Geoff explained his proposed phd work and it became clearer to me that the method, turning human solid waste into bio-char and using it in other necessary processes such as cement creation – is really a re-use solution. It’s interesting how much our need to use jargon and form opinions on possible solutions can close our minds before we even understand. It reminded me of the lady who was opposed to ideas of a ‘Green Economy’ dismissing it as greenwashing but when I explained it from the perspective of Van Jones and his book The Green Collar Economy, she was ready to get on side. As I am now on side for carbon sequestration, when it’s really a way to make better use of waste! All the solutions we can put to use – the better.

The next day began with a rally for Climate Action at City Hall, which included a Skype visit from Elizabeth May. The gathering was large and showed public support for climate action is not waning. Tria Donaldson (a former SYC BC coordinator) and Geoff who also showed up at the rally. We had an excellent lunch to discuss strategies for continuing to unite the youth movement and keep SYC relevant with updates to our structure and resources.

Having left Victoria filled with ideas (thanks to a great community), song and good food (thanks to Mister G. Cross and Emma Z.) and some good art talk with Michael, I am ready to hit the road again and learn all I can from the folks in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg!

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