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Give Peace a Chance: Students Stage Sleep-In For Climate Justice

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Sleep-in for climate justice at Dalhousie U.
Sleep-in for climate justice at Dalhousie U.

I used to love fossils. Fascinating clues imprisoned in rock, showing us the breadth and scope of the strange creatures that once inhabited this planet.

As a young fossil hound, one of the most vivid images in my wee head was that of huge Pleistocene-era (big mammal time!) animals wandering errantly into tar pits, thrashing around wildly looking for a firm hold, and then, when exhaustion overtook them, steadily sinking into the bitumen-ooze. Sabre-toothed tigers and dire wolves, overcome with the frantic flailing of floundering prey, would often throw themselves into sticky situations.

Trying to wrestle a prize from the bubbling tar inevitably proved too much for the massive carnivores, and incredibly preserved fossils, recently dredged out of the tar by intrepid palaeontologists, show vivid examples of predator and prey locked in their futile battle for all eternity. The tar was not particular. The tar made fossils out of everything. The. Tar. Made. Fossils. Out. Of. Everything.

2 million years later...

The 2010 United Nations Conference on Climate Change wrapped up on Friday in Cancun, Mexico. Without a climate action plan (RIP Bill C311) of our own, the giant sloth formerly known as Canada thrashed about in all directions. With an economy becoming increasingly reliant upon splashing around in the tar sands, this giant sloth no longer has a leg to stand on. The sloth’s bluster did not go entirely unnoticed though. The Climate Action Network awarded Canada a whole trophy case full of Fossil-of-the-Day awards, and for a fourth year running Canada won Fossil of the Year! (This is not a good prize)  

Watching your elected representatives act collectively like a dying giant sloth in a tar pit on the international stage is kind of disheartening. I figured I was in need of some re-heartening, so I headed down to Killam Auditorium, Dalhousie Campus, where a group of Peace Activists from the Canada Youth Delegation were staging a sleep-in, a la John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

I set down my pillow, put on my slippers, and let the tape roll.

“It’s the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death, and we’re having a bed-in, and we’re angry that Bill C311 was turned down.” said one pyjama-clad protestor. “So we’re just letting people know that there’s injustice in the Canadian government, and the Canadian government is doing nothing for climate change.”

The frustration is palpable amidst this pyjama-clad crew. The privileges that I enjoyed when travelling abroad, by simple virtue of being a Canadian, are being lost for all of us. This is especially troubling for our youth, who now share stories of being abused, rather than befriended, when out of country. Our national image has been smeared with tar.

“There was a petition signed by 150,000 Canadians, saying that they wanted bill C311 to go through.” said another of the sleep-inners.“I believe it was undemocratic to vote in Senate to veto the bill, while there were so many Liberal members missing, after hours, unannounced, and without a discussion. That’s very disrespectful to the fact that our country is supposed to be democratic.”

Disrespectful to say the least. But the pj-crew are not a brooding bunch, and while they are quick to mention that while they may have become disillusioned in "big G" government, at the grassroots level they have a lot of love for Halifax.

“The College of Sustainability is a great resource, and a lot of profs are involved." said one sleepwear-toting student. "The Sustainability class, of which a lot of us are taking, has also been great in just getting the word out. They’re right on the ground floor of the Ramona Campbell building, and they are happy to talk to anyone about the cause.”

“Here in Halifax, our government, and our MP, Meghan Leslie," said another. "is fantastic. She was very supportive of Bill C311. She’s very encouraging of youth, which is especially important in Halifax where there’s so many of us. And she really wants to hear what we have to say.”

“There’s also a great local food movement in Halifax, and people are trying to re-engage with their communities and have local gardens. On a small scale things are really improving, and that kind of movement is really important because obviously you can’t expect the global community to work together. It’s important that rather than focus on the failures at the global level, we focus on the successes at the local level. We start working together and getting hope from that.”

“Things like the Loaded Ladle, which is the local food provider at Dal, and all the Farmer’s Markets. For such a small community there’s a lot happening.”

Finally, one peaceful protestor pontificated on the role of the peaceful demonstration in the 21st century.

“My vision of where the world needs to go does not include violence, and I think people need to realize that if you want to make change, you don’t need to be violent. If every Canadian marched on Parliament, there’d be 30 million people, and if we just stood there and didn’t move, they would do something. Now maybe that’s unrealistic, but if enough people did that, you would force change. You don’t have to pick up a gun. You should not pick up a gun. That’s their game.”

While the thought of Stephen Harper in a pair of long-johns is enough to personally make me cringe, perhaps a sleep-in on Parliament Hill wouldn't be such a bad idea...

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

Martin Luther King

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Bed-in/Sleep-in for Lennon's Legacy

Lennon's legacy is being beautifully adapted by the members of the Canadian Youth Delegation to benefit the world from two angles - peace and protection of the planet.  As the curator of a traveling exhibiiton Give Peace A Chance and the author of the only book about the 1969 Bed-in with over 80 images taken by Life photographer Gerry Deiter, I urge any Lennon fan to enjoy the pictures and stories in the book about how the idea became a moment in history. It's on super-sale at Chapters/Indigo. "Give Peace A Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-in for Peace 1969 (Wiley 2009)"

Ya, that bed-in sure put an

Ya, that bed-in sure put an end war.  


So awesome!

Brings back such fond memories of early activism and community organizing!

Such a great story. So hopeful!

Thank you for posting it and for those putting their "stuff on the line".

Tami Starlight  / VMC - Vancouver Media Coop.

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