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A Power Shift

Indigenous voices at forefront of growing movement

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

Climate justice is the civil rights issue of our generation, says Powershift organizer Clayton Thomus-Muller.  Photo: Powershift 2012
Climate justice is the civil rights issue of our generation, says Powershift organizer Clayton Thomus-Muller. Photo: Powershift 2012

The environmental movement in Canada just got bigger – and so have the movements for Indigenous rights, migrant justice and anti-capitalism.  

From Oct. 26 to 29, over 1,000 youth from across the country — including almost 100 from Nova Scotia — gathered in Ottawa for Powershift 2012.  It was a conference that had climate change as a starting point, but it didn’t focus on climate science, government inaction or buying green.  

“We can’t talk about the climate and the environment without talking about the people that live on the land,” says Harsha Walia, a South Asian activist, writer and researcher who was a panellist at the conference.  “An understanding of colonialism has to be the foundation of everything.”

Powershift’s organizers, facilitators and speakers recognized that it is impossible to isolate environmental catastrophe from the systems that feed it and the people most affected by it.       

Any campaign, such as the campaign to shut down the Tar Sands, needs to be placed in a broader framework, says Walia, who spoke on a panel about building a multi-issue movement for climate justice.   

“The Tar Sands is about climate justice, it’s also fundamentally about Indigenous communities fight against colonization and extraction on their land,” explains Walia.

“It’s about ensuring that women have safety because whenever there’s resource extraction in boom towns we see high rates of violence against women.  It’s about real estate speculation and massive amounts of poverty around those communities.  It’s about labour struggle, because we see increasing numbers of migrant workers being brought in to work on these projects.

“When we have an analysis of capitalism, colonialism and oppression we begin to see all the specific issues we’re working on in a broader framework,” says Walia.  

The desire for transformation, rather than reform, brought Aaron Beale, a Dalhousie student, to Powershift. Beale was tired of the environmental movement talking about changing lightbulbs rather than changing systems.

“The conference was a lot about uniting people from different movements … There was also a lot of talk about structural problems and capitalism, which I think was important.”  

Workshops at Powershift included skill-based sessions on direct action, political theatre, media messaging and website design.  They also included panels on the role of the labour movement, green anti-capitalism, how reproductive justice is connected to environmental violence and climate-induced migration.

Indigenous people had a prominent role in all areas of Powershift, from conference organizers to keynote speakers to workshop panellists.  

According to Mohawk activist Ben Powless, who helped organize the conference, Indigenous struggles were at the forefront of Powershift because First Nations communities are on the frontline of climate change and it is critical “to support their work, to support their struggles, to elevate their voices.”  

Keynote speaker Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) spoke about the way Tar Sands development is poisoning her community’s water and air. In response, BLCN is asserting its role as caretakers of its traditional territories and taking legal action.

“We have been granted a trial,” says Lameman, “And the law is on the side of Beaver Lake.” BLCN wants recognition of its constitutionally protected rights to hunt, trap and fish; and to protect the ecological integrity of its territories.

A panel of Indigenous youth activists spoke of the challenges of organizing in their communities.

We don’t come from a place of privilege and being students,” says Missy Elliot from Six Nations.  “When we go out and organize, there’s always the issues of money and resources and what’s going on at home.”  

Elliot says the legacy of residential schools continues.  “We see a lot of strength in our people, but a lot of issues, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, suicide.”  

Despite these challenges, young people in Six Nations are currently mobilizing against Line 9, a new Enbridge pipeline threat in Ontario.  

Vanessa Gray, who spoke on the panel with Elliot, is from Asmjiwnaag First Nation, near Sarnia Ontario in an area also known as Chemical Valley.  

“It’s a huge example of environmental racism,” says Gray, whose community is surrounded by factories and oil refineries.  “I thought everyone had to live next to Suncor,” she says.  “All the kids I went to daycare with had puffers … Growing up there, you can’t just go play in the pond because it’s toxic.”  

Gray started an environmental youth group when she was 16.  “I want to be here for those youth who want to speak out against what’s not right,” she says.   

The prominence of Indigenous voices at Powershift was important for non-naitive participants, says Powless, who works with both the Indigenous Environmental Network and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.  It is important for everyone to hear about the struggles that are happening within these communities and “to meet some of the frontline people and get a real sense for what those issues are about, what people are dealing with.”

Dalhousie students Caitlin Oliver and Andrea Robinson were especially struck by the stories of First Nations being impacted by the Tar Sands.  

Oliver, who is in her final year of her Environmental Engineering program, says that she already knew the Tar Sands were bad, but the stories from Indigenous communities reaffirmed that she will not be following her friends to high paying jobs at Shell and Suncor.

“A lot of environmental engineering jobs are aimed at oil and mining,” says Oliver.  “I’ve never wanted to work for oil and mining, but [the stories of Indigenous struggles] reaffirms for me that that’s not what I want to do with my engineering degree.”

Robinson, a third-year International Development and Economics student, recognizes that her direct experience of fossil fuel development and climate change has been very limited.  

“I’m extremely privileged,” says Robinson.  “I grew up in a relatively small town in Ontario, surrounded by agriculture.  Food security was never an issue.”  Robinson’s personal experience of climate change has been limited to things like not having campfires during dry summers.

“I fundamentally believe that people who are in situations understand them better than people who are not,” says Robinson.  “So I have so much to learn.  I think that’s the biggest thing I’m coming away [from Powershift] with.  About how much I have to learn from Indigenous people and people on the front lines.”

Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar Sands campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network and conference organizer, sees the shift at the conference and in the movement in general as deeply encouraging. “This social movement’s success is based on being strongly rooted in an anti-colonial, anti-rascist, anti-oppression model of social movement change theory,” says Thomas-Muller.  

“Seeing all these young people exposed to the theories of change that were on the table, and really embracing them and many already understanding them and practicing them in their own lives … To me, it represents what is truly a time of reconciliation,” he says. “Whether this government wants to recognize that or not, Canada’s going through its own process of reconciling 400 years of genocidal policies.”

“We live in a predator economy, a linear economy, and we need to live in something that is cyclical, …that is feminine,” continues Thomas-Muller.  “I think the time of that white patriarchy, of that patriarchical linear pathway … that time is coming to an end.  I see it when I look at the faces of each and every one of these young people here.  They want something different.”

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Topics: Indigenous
1210 words


Usurp the Language, Control the Cultural Mind

When I read pieces like this I am taken aback by the lack of clarity in the use of terminology,  the lack of actual reasearch into the topics, ideas and institutions at play and the mixing of issues/ideas with no clear connection in reality.  I love that you have that 'fact checked' icon, its very reassuring, especially since no citations exist in this article outside the opinoins of some Powershift enthusiasts and some first nations peoples. 

What does environmentalism or the 'environmental movement' mean?  Is their a concise and unified idea behind it? Where did it come from?  Who are its ideological predecessors?  Did these historical people have motives and plans for the future?  Did they write books or do interviews?  What did they say or imply with their language?  These are extremely important pieces of information in composing the much larger picture of reality and yet they are all questions that the 'climate change/environmental movement' seem to gloss over and/or ignore.   I would relate it to viewing a cube from straight on one side.  You get a 2D view of a 3D object.  If you just shifted your point of view slightly you might notice its other dimensions and structure that you didn't know existed, stretching back into history, containing vital information (grammar) needed in order to perform the function of logic, the art of non-contradictory identification.  Identification of that which seeks to control us.

The vast majority of environmentalists arguing that human beings are causing the world to warm, nievely believe that there is some link between CO2 and actual pollution, as if one of the life giving gases on this planet, a foundation of life on earth was going to also be the down fall of life on earth.  Was this really thought through?  They uncritically repeat the expousings of Al Gore and David Suzuki, who intentionally distort the truth and give unfact checked data.  Those of us who have taken the time to actually fact check the UN, IPCC, Al Gore, et. al, have found straight up lies, manipulation of the scientific peer review process and falsification of data in order to 'convince' the public that their agenda is a valid one.  The agenda is depopulation.  The agenda is disenpowerment.  The agenda is dependence on the system.  The agenda is subservience of the individual to the collective.  The agenda is control of your body and property via the control of mind.

Is there a connection between Climate Change, Climate Justice and first nations people?  We can see they are negitively affected by large monoploistic industry and governments of all shapes, sizes and ideologies, but the words they use and the ideas those words communicate sound like they want to blame all non-minority peoples aka white men for the dirty behavior of monopolistic corporations sanctioned by the canadian government.  I as a white man in the world who respects the property, opinions, cultures and personal choices of other individuals, regardless of creed or color, take offence to the assertion put forth in this article.  I will point out that feminism also has a range, as it is an -ism.  Some advocate equality, and others advocate genocide based on gender.  Your place in that range has a serious affect on the message you put across.  I ask that you reflect on the message that this and many of your other articles puts forth.

I beg each and every one of you to fact check the ideas which you hold so dear against the realty which we see unfolding.  Confirm that the words and ideas you're using conform to a realistic picture of reality so as to communicate clearly and cogently with others, to avoid confusion and misrepresentation.  When a movements ideas and basic language are corrupted, they become confused, obedient worker bees for whoever is controlling the narative. The movement to protect human health, was hijacked by the UN in 1992 in Rio, and Power Shift 2012 is celebrating Rio+20, a gathering of the same groups with the same ideas.  The ones who convinced 180 countries to sign onto UN Agenda 21.  Which by the way is active in most communities in the western world, sometimes willingly and sometimes covertly.  They dont' use the word Agenda 21, because it has recieved some negitive conotations over the years.  They use more cuddly language, and its different in every community.  Something like "Our future 2050" or "Looking forward 2025".  ICLIE is an important center for deceminating this UN agenda to communities.  they use what is called the delphie technique to subvert individual ideas and direct public meetings in the direction they choose and away from directions that engender actual public input into a conversation.  If the conversation can be steered, the hegelian dialectic will be most effective.  That being, identify a problem which cannot be causally defined.  Link that problem to a cause that can be ostensably solved with a solution you have already planned.  Use the forum of community action to present your pre planned solution and the delphie technique to direct each and every community into the solution you want, whether it solves the problem or not.  Problem, Reaction, Solution.  Thesis, Synthesis, Antithesis.

Corbett Report Radio: UN Agenda 21 Exposed with Rosa Koire

The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend With John Taylor Gatto, Hour 1 + commentary

The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend With John Taylor Gatto, Hour 2 + commentary

The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend With John Taylor Gatto, Hour 3 + commentary

The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend With John Taylor Gatto, Hour 4 + commentary

The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend With John Taylor Gatto, Hour 5 + commentary

The idea of Climate Justice is premissed on the idea that the climate is being negatively affected by industry, and that industry and industry alone are to blame.  And while we can say that industry is polluting our environment with hormone mimics, poisons, heavy metals, and toxic effluent, I cannot say that i have seen any evidence that CO2 is the cause of what the media and alarmists of all colors and stripes refer to as anthropogenic global warming or as it has now been rebranded (since there has been no warming, even with the IPCC data, in 16 years) as climate change. 

The idea that ecosystems are solid state entities, that do not and cannot evolve is a misguided and misinformed idea.  But the suggestion that the forcing, pollution-wise, of these ecosystem changes, is human beings is a valid and extremely important observation.  One that has been manipulated by those who believe in the ideas of the Darwins/Galton/Wedgwood/Huxley family line, along with Malthus, the club of rome, the world wildlife fund, and many others misguided racist, eugenisists with the agenda of depopulation of the 'imbicles', and 'useless eaters'.



Remeber that:
"In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome.The real enemy then, is humanity itself.” - The Club of Rome, First Global Revolutions. 

What is capitalism?  Is the answer actually a range of ideas as is every -ism, open to interpretation, based on your own view of reality and the grammar/logic through which you view it? Is the current crony/monoplistic/plutocratic capitalistic politics the same as a free market and does the wording of this article lump the two together unfairly?  Is there a distinction to be made here? Is this just part of an arguement that boxes your mind into an ideological dicotomy, a one or the other, socialist or capitalist choice?  Does that ideological limitation on choice best serve the intersts of individuals and communities or those who dictate to individuals and communities and who have a monoploistic advantages in seaking socialist tendencies in a society?  Is this box constructed for you/us?  Were you/we precoditioned through compulsory education, media propaganda and social control to have these bias' towards such ideas?  Have you asked the questions who, what, when, where, why and how of both the socialist and capitalist ideologies world wide?  How about other ideologies?  How about no state at all, isn't that a capitalistic free market as well?  Everything has a spectrum, just because you can't or refuse to see the spectrum doesn't mean its not there.  What is the difference between Monopolistic government protected Capitalism and Socialism?  Is there a difference?

See the light, get out of your box, especially since its a cube and not a square.


Exactly What Does The

Exactly What Does The ‘"Free’" In Free Market Mean?

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