The first time I read Arundhati Roy, it kept me up. She is not only an activist and author, she is a changemaker – a brilliant wordsmith capable of wrapping thoughts and images around you as easily as a mother wraps a blanket around a sleeping childs shoulder at night.
This line above: “Remember this: We be many and they be few.They need us more than we need them.”resonates so strongly with me that every single time I read it, I get goosebumps on my arms.It’s so incredibly true. Why do so many people feel helpless in the face of so relatively few decision makers? And why do so many people still believe that once you check your little mark in the box in a voting booth, that your job is done… when in fact it is just beginning.They do need us to keep everything going – why else do they pander so much at election time? ‘They’… need you, to stay in power.
There’s so much going on in BC right now that needs more attention,so much that should be running on the evening news- I’ll write more over the weekend.But last night sitting on the couch relaxing with my middle son, we started watching the documentary ” This Changes Everything”. Like you,I’ve heard so many differing opinions on Naomi Klein and not surprisingly her twitter bio states: “They say I’m polarizing.” She is. But whether you love her or hate her, believe in climate change or not, I think this film is a must watch for the attention it brings to many environmental,social and political issues besides climate change. This film gets conversations started in a big way.
Over the course of 90 minutes, viewers will meet…
Crystal, a young indigenous leader in Tar Sands country, as she fights for access to a restricted military base in search of answers about an environmental disaster in progress.
Mike and Alexis, a Montana goat ranching couple who see their dreams coated in oil from a broken pipeline. They respond by organizing against fossil fuel extraction in their beloved Powder River Basin, and forming a new alliance with the Northern Cheyenne tribe to bring solar power to the nearby reservation.
Melachrini, a housewife in Northern Greece where economic crisis is being used to justify mining and drilling projects that threaten the mountains, seas, and tourism economy. Against the backdrop of Greece in crisis, a powerful social movement rises.
Jyothi, a matriarch in Andhra Pradesh, India who sings sweetly and battles fiercely along with her fellow villagers, fighting a proposed coal-fired power plant that will destroy a life-giving wetland. In the course of this struggle, they help ignite a nationwide movement.
There are scenes that brought outrage sometimes,empathy in others. There is a scene where Crystal is speaking with a man from the military base I think, asking for access to traditional lands to survey the damage of a spilled pipeline.He’s speaking in manner that clearly shows his disdain and impatience at her presence and then bends over to lean down to her face and says:” Did I confuse you?” in such a condescending tone that tells me he thinks she is a ‘dumb Indian’… it took my breathe in a flash of anger and I could feel my cheeks burning. (And those are her words for his tone,as told to relatives after.)
Rarely have I been spoken to like that,but there was so much more in his tone that I can’t even describe… it wasn’t just misogyny, it was cultural insult. I felt sickened. My son asked why he spoke to her like that and it was impossible for me to quickly convey generations of history between settlers and First Nations in a quick answer- that’s something we’ll be talking more about today as I sit to watch the rest with him later.
I was reminded of Helen Knott, who traveled this week to speak in Toronto about Site C to a group, including Quakers who are opposed to this ridiculous project. Helen whose voice speaks strong and proud of her ancestors who know the land that is already at risk in the Peace valley. There have been hurtful comments made about her and other camp members like Yvonne whose smiling eyes and strength of spirit is bright in everything she writes or speaks. Helen wrote a post a while ago that sprang into my mind while watching Crystal being spoken down to in last nights documentary,one that taught me more than she knows, I suspect.
Helen, Yvonne and several others including two unnamed defendants- John Doe & Jane Doe and anyone who assisted them – are heading to court next week to fight an injunction BC Hydro has applied for to remove them and the camp at Historic Rocky Mountain Fort.
With several other court challenges still underway with area First Nations, BC Hydro has been working as fast as they can to get preliminary work done, as Premier Clarks promise to get the dam past the point of no return rings overhead.
BC Hydro is so desperate to move ahead they’ve been quietly been offering thousands of hectares of land to First Nations in the area, in exchange for the Site C dam site which is on Treaty 8 land. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/crown-land-offered-to-first-nations-in-return-for-site-c-dam-site/article28807209/
This area is one of what Klein refers to as a ‘sacrifice zone’. When government and industry decide they want an area of land for whatever project is at hand, everything in that area is sacrificed- including the people who call that land home. No longer will they be able to hunt on that land or forage for food and medicinal needs. Fishing in the dam would be risky business: a health risk – fisheries were ruined by the WAC Bennett dam,thanks to the decaying matter in the reservoir that releases mercury and contaminates fish.
Of course compensation is offered – payments here and there, some nice things for local cities,contributions to social agencies that are hard to turn down. Fort St. Johns mayor Lori Ackerman has been in the press recently for having strongly negotiated a plum deal for the city in exchange for community compliance. But one has to ask how hard that negotiation was for her, when she has already announced that she intends to run for the same BC Liberals forcing this project through, in the 2017 election?
Hudsons Hope mayor hasn’t completed an agreement yet and has been speaking honestly and openly about the impacts prior dams have had on their community. Because when the projects are done,the compensation used up, what’s left is irreversible. Only now years later is Hydro and the government suddenly concerned about compensating for what was lost forever years ago, let alone what stands to be lost now.
Both the provincial and federal government have run roughshod over process and treaty rights when it comes to Site C and continue to do so. The new governing party of federal Liberals has yet to respond to repeated requests to reveal the reason for approving the Environmental assessment certificate that the Harper cabinet kept secret and today we learn 14 permits were issued during the federal election writ period. http://www.desmog.ca/2016/02/19/site-c-dam-permits-were-quietly-issued-during-federal-election
This, is at the heart of the message I personally took from Kleins film last night.
Watching the massive protests in India that stopped industry in its tracks,the words of a middle aged Indian woman were stark.She said that they ( her and other women & men) realized when they were getting beaten by law enforcement officials, that this was it: they must continue to stand up against this, at that very moment – or die trying. For them in that area of India, there was no other choice because no one was listening and government gave more rights to private investors than they gave the people who made their lives off the land. And it should never, ever come to this. Any where!
We are doing things wrong here in BC. We do need jobs, good paying ones that will support families,but we do not have to be victims of insincere public consultations that have become meaningless shows in many cases, just so government can say they fulfilled their obligation to consult.Walking into someones community, their lives and saying “This is what we are going to do here, but don’t worry we’ll compensate you.” is not how things should be done. We can and should do better than this. Just because it’s been done this way for so long, doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t change that.
Communities must have priority voices and choices in the way they want to move forward, grow business and protect environment. The inherent value of the land is often far more than a price can be attached to.Its cultural and historical significance can be priceless and its a place for generations yet to be born – it’s tremendously shortsighted to think otherwise. As Crystal states in the film,it’s not just a First Nations issue – if you drink the water or breathe the air, or eat the food that grows and is raised on the land, it’s your issue too.
And Site C, the project that I don’t just believe is wrong, I know it’s wrong. 12,000 years of human history gone, farmland, First Nations treaty lands and an economic nightmare that will weigh on my childrens children.For what? There is no longer a reason to build this dam
It’s as much about learning from our past, as it is, taking care of the basics. I don’t like the words, shoulda, woulda, coulda….Sometimes you have to take a break, look at what you know and where you have been, so you can figure out the best way forward, for everyone.
Because although I believe it is never too late to change course and head in the right direction, it’s equally true that sometimes you only get one opportunity to really get it right.
And do you really want to take that chance?
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt