‘How Active is Activism?’ And Other Questions

I RSVP’d for a ‘Defend our Climate, Defend our Communities’ event in Waterloo on the weekend. I didn’t show up. This wasn’t for any particularly significant reason — I just realized that I would have to take the bus for about 2 hours to make the rally at 10:00 am, meaning I would have had to wake up at 7 am at the latest to make all connecting buses — and I am just not a morning person (#firstworldproblems). I do, however, commend those who attended, but at the risk of seeming apathetic, I’m not sure how much it does. For anyone. Sure, it’s nice to voice your opinion, but how and why would it change anyone elses? I am also sure there are people who change their view on account of being aware, and for that reason I see the necessity to do it, but if people aren’t already aware of the problem of human-influenced climate change how can they possibly be reached? And if they are aware but on the other side of the opinion fence, how do you get them to hop over? I think the majority of people are set in their ideological ways, even in the face of scientific evidence.

This probably sounds deeply hypocritical considering the nature of some of my previous posts; I am basically facing this philosophical dilemma on the fly.

A couple of the suggested signs for the event were: ‘Harper is in Denial’ and ‘No Reckless Tar Sands Expansion’. While the latter message is valid — albeit inconcise — I think Stephen Harper is a repugnant, George W. Bush wannabe who has the magnetism of a slug as much as the next person, but clearly there are people who support him or, at the very least, support the party which he represents. Recent polls show that his approval percentage has dwindled, and Harper has tried to save himself by introducing the ‘Fair Elections Act’, the policies of which can be considered as minor acts of voter suppression. All things considered, Harper may not be so much “in denial” as “a cog in the machine”. Who is he to stop the corporate leviathan sweeping into Canada by any means necessary? In fact, how would a Justin Trudeau or a Thomas Mulcair do anything but marginally disrupt an overarching industrial dinosaur from moving as far forward as it can until eventually going over the cliff? If the Trudeau Liberals or Mulcair New Democrats come in and conduct policy, but are helpless when it comes to being corporately strong-armed, how long before constituents consider their terms as government leaders failures? Again, I admire the ralliers (I would have been right there with them had I found the wherewithal to get out of bed), but I also feel like every rally, save for maybe the Occupy movement and Zeitgeist, is missing the mark on attacking the root causes of these problems. This issue is something that Zeitgeist founder Peter Joseph has examined with proficiency, along with his collaborators.

Many questions have been posed in the course of this post so far, and I struggle to find a satisfactory answer to any of them. When it comes to the state of the climate, and the wanton disregard by nearly the entire national populaces to look at the facts, the behaviour points to an unwillingness to change. It seems like certain people have taken the old, common lessons from childhood, like “do what makes you happy”, at face value. People think, “I should do what makes me happy. Hmm, what makes me happy? Money! I should get money, and that’ll make me happy!” And currently one of the best ways to make money, especially for my generation of humans, is to go out West and work on an oil rig. At times I want to say ‘that’s fine, make your money,’ but then I think it’s just not a good enough reason to be a small part of a destructive monolithic industry. For the “do what makes you happy” people, the question becomes, “If money equals happiness, wouldn’t more money make me even more happy?” I think this is at least a minor aspect of the ethic in a country that produces as much oil as it does. But when is money for the sake of happiness by way of extracting fossil fuels for profit too much? Well, when the consensus is that climate change is very likely due to human activities, and another consensus has been reached regarding deforestation as a cause of rising carbon emissions, and corporations are actually looking to expand into BC provincial parks in the name of the fossil fuel industry, one has to wonder just how far it will go before the social and environmental impact of the pursuit of money outweighs the perceive monetary success resulting from that pursuit.

I hope we won’t be the era of people that looked at the evidence put in front of our eyes and chose to proceed as planned. Maybe I’m downplaying the role of activism for whatever reason. Maybe I’m watching too much Doug Stanhope.