Well it wasn’t Saturday in the Park “on the 4th of July.” Saturday November 6, 2021 however was a day to remember locally and globally, as thousands upon thousands of climate activists around the globe gathered in communities larger and smaller to make their voice heeded and heard. I was unable to join our 130+ folks on the grounds of Stuart Wood School in downtown Kamloops this past Saturday due to a prior and necessary administrative commitment. Others however did gather.
They made and heard speeches, they created and held signs with emotive messages, they encouraged one another – especially a younger generation contemplating their future with concern while trying to be hopeful (how many times have I recently heard from young adults that it may not be wise to bring children into this crazy world). Those gathered continue to advocate and work for change – real economic and environmental change – as we all watch a changing atmospheric chemistry push average global temperatures higher: as we watch sea levels rise; as we discover ice melt at both poles and in glaciers; as we experience extreme weather events in our own communities let alone elsewhere in vulnerable areas such as the South Pacific and Southeast Asia; all these indicators steadily moving us in a dangerous and possibly irreversible direction, towards possible human extinction! I first heard Jane Goodall describe the possibility of a sixth extinction in 2002 – I was gob smacked – GS no longer!).
Here in our city of 100,000 residents, there is a strong desire, even a demand for specific, tangible and accountable action. In a city where numerous (thermal) coal trains pass through daily, where pipeline expansion snakes through the heart of our city, where a strident group of yellow vest protesters complain vigorously against vaccines, renewable transition and a host of other perceived maladies, a good-sized population of folks from all walks and situations of life want something very different.
They/we want a more sustainable world, where our actions do no harm, where no one’s voice is ignored, where our relationship with the First Peoples of our land are re-imagined and corrected from the colonial injustices of history. These are all laudable and necessary ambitions. The question as always is to what extent will people sacrifice the comforts of home.
The images below illustrate our Kamloops complaint, with thanks to photographer TRU student Grace Schranz of #kamloops Global Day of #ClimateJustice #COP26GDA.
So what of Glasgow, eight hours and half a world away from Kamloops? Images and estimates of attendance abound. Those gathering and marching through the soggy streets of Glasgow on Saturday are estimated to be as high as 100,000 marchers of all ages, nationalities and life settings. One report in the Washington Post sets the scene:
Speech after speech echoed the same emotions: Anger about activists’ exclusion from negotiations. Frustration over the lack of progress after two and a half decades of meetings. Doubt that well-heeled politicians and business leaders would serve the interests of marginalized people.
Leaders rarely have the courage to lead,” said Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate. “We must demand that our leaders stop holding meaningless summits and start taking meaningful action.
In an extensive analysis of leadership appropriate for the present moment Mark Carney in his book Value(s) describes the necessary abilities of today’s leaders this way:
Purpose. Perspective. Clarity. Competence. And humility. Not all of these qualities are ever visible in any leader, certainly never at the same time. But if you keep them in mind, they will be seeds that the exercise of leadership will germinate. And their growth will benefit both you as the leader and those you lead.
Obviously active and influential participants in the COP vary in possession of these abilities. Regrettably, it still seems that many of the most influential negotiators – those who attend and those who avoid critical conversations – would benefit from re-assessment of their own motivations and values. One does wonder what makes such folks tick. Why do so many seem to look to the interests of and well-being of so few? How can they continue to ignore pleas from many including Barbados Prime Minister Mia Notley and continue along their own path of privilege and prejudice? There are times when I simply have no words! Might does make right. Power over vulnerable persons benefits no one. The truth, and the pursuit of truth will result in freedom. These values are what indigenous and settler peoples like me demand, in Kamloops, Glasgow and everywhere. Long may such protests continue. May their necessity be shorter, each and every day. Until then: