By JAN SLAKOV
2020: a year people are eager to leave behind, as visions of overcoming the pandemic dance in our heads.
This year also came with the fires, extinctions and refugee crises of our worsening climate crisis.
Like most people, I prefer not to dwell on such thoughts.
But a few lines by a young man I knew as a child sober me up: “We have overshot our capacity to reduce CO2 naturally . . . The next decade will be hard, but not as hard as the 2030s.”
He wrote a book, Dancing After the Music Stops, inviting “people to dance on the upper deck of the Titanic as it sinks.” There’s a place for such a reaction, but let’s save what can yet be saved. It’s not just the climate, but the creeping fascism; yes, it’s awful, but the resistance is so beautiful!
I recently re-connected with Bob Thomson, who won the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Integrity Award of 2013, after he leaked statements by the Canadian ambassador to Chile regarding the Pinochet coup, 40 years earlier. His actions were a kind of “catalyst” that helped many others welcome Chilean refugees in the wake of the coup. In accepting the award he saluted whistle-blowers of our time, people like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, who risk their lives and reputations to bring us hidden facts, alternative voices, different interpretations. He thanked the people who helped him, who confirmed with hugs or praise, that he had done the right thing.
Immediately I remembered reading about a transformative hug: Lynne Quarmby describes how, when she was arrested in 2012 for blocking a coal train, “some in the crowd were jeering . . . and instead of standing tall . . . I hung my head. [Then] a woman broke from the crowd . . . She was crying and the policeman who was escorting me allowed her to approach; she gave me a hug and whispered, ‘Thank you, thank you.’”
This vignette gives us insight into how we can all make a difference, as citizens, as police, in whatever capacity we find ourselves. The destructive construction of the TMX pipeline has been put on hold for a time after a worker was killed and another seriously injured. A grove of cottonwoods is still standing, although a YouTube video called the “Highest Treehouse in the World?” and shared by science enthusiast Kurtis Baute has been removed.
They aren’t giving up, though, and neither should we. The idea that such talented, dedicated people face persecution and arrest, not just by the RCMP, but by private CN and BNSF railway police, is hard to take. A good number of activists and civic leaders, including authors Heather Menzies, Helen Forsey, Elizabeth May and Salt Spring’s Bill and May Henderson of Chilliwack fame, have signed an open letter inviting police to speak out in favour of upholding international law, of refusing to be part of ongoing ecocide.
Imagine what would be possible if we all channelled our resources and gifts towards averting a Titanic catastrophe. Bob Thomson did that, becoming the founder of a fair trade organization called TransFair, now a “slowcialist or heretic in the church of growth.”
Here’s to a future we can embrace, full of transformative hugs and learning together how to be good ancestors.
The writer is a Salt Spring resident and frequent contributor to the Driftwood’s opinion pages.