Energy East Is Dead: Now What?

Environmental Activism Requires a Multifaceted Approach

  • Graphic Aiden Locke

This week we celebrate an important victory: the death of the Energy East pipeline.

But this is only a step on the long road to a world free of dirty energy. The reality is, we need to pick up the pace.

A “biological annihilation” is the key term scientists use when warning of the sixth mass extinction. The difference with this particular extinction is that it would be the first time it was clearly set off by a specific species—humans.

The truth is that sustainability is the only way for humanity to have a future—and the only way to live in harmony with each other and the planet is to recognize the connections in our collective struggles.

Our climate justice efforts should stop being framed as being motivated by the need to save the Earth. In reality, we need to save ourselves.

We need to care for the Earth enough so that it will let us—and hopefully the many other species on this Earth, some that are very close to extinction—live for a bit longer. Or else, to quote George Carlin, “The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

After my years of environmental science studies I’ve come to the conclusion that pillaging the earth of its oil, gas, minerals and other supposed bounty is an injustice of epic proportions. But it would be very naïve to not connect this to other injustices put upon the whole of the planet’s biodiversity—including every group that is marginalized within humanity.

It’s become clear that groups and organizations should be involved in identifying the links that connect all of the causes to be fought for: First Nations people, scientists, academics, social activists, economists, union representatives, migrant justice activists, and so on.

Here in Montreal, we have already seen meekish advancements in the fight for the environment, as well as for marginalized groups. UNDRIP (the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) has been endorsed by the city council and the symbolic addition of a white pine, an Iroquois symbol, to the city flag was made. Renewable energy is being promoted and slowly implemented in transport, the now cancelled Energy East pipeline was opposed by Montreal and surrounding mayors. Local farmers and DIY urban agriculturalists are emerging and are supported by a comeback in the popularity of local farmer’s markets, immigrants are being received in large numbers, and new hospitals are finally opening.

These are all great achievements, on the surface. Yet all of them lack true ambition and fail to address the root issues of the problems.
UNDRIP should be fully implemented to finally give rights to the original stakeholders of the land, on top of a steeper shift to renewables, there should be mass investment in an efficient public transport system. Also in active transport, the light-rail system should be put to strenuous environmental tests.

Local food initiatives, that reduce carbon output and promote healthy eating options over the whole island should be developed. Other existing pipeline projects should be rejected because of their environmental impacts and social injustice implications, not just because they don’t deliver wealth to our locale.

Immigrants should be welcomed as the climate refugees they are, more investment should be put into proactive caregiving and caretaking than large centers that only promote curing the symptoms and not the cause. All these things are tied into the climate crisis, and must be part of the solution.

The current crisis seems to have climate change at its center, but to come to terms with this crisis, a link must be made to all the other crises that led to this point:

  • A toxic values system that makes people celebrate their individuality more than their communality. The push for people to take personal actions, such as recycling or buying a hybrid car as the only means of changing, giving a false sense of accomplishment and keeping the bigger idea of working together, at the same time as on ourselves, to change the systems that run our lives.
  • * The finding of happiness in things rather than relationships, leading to rampant consumerism. The people lining up and taking pride in purchasing an iPhone more than they do any of the connections to people around them.
  • * The dissociation from others’ issues due to not seeing how it may affect us or our livelihood. An example of this can be seen in those who view the rejection of the Dakota Access Pipeline by the Standing Rock movement as a stance against prosperity and not an upholding of the rights to one of the necessities of life: water.
  • * Industrialized agriculture that promotes artificial solutions, which lead to a destruction of ecosystems, some not even fully understood. The nitrogen runoff from American monocultures creating harmful algal blooms in the ocean.
  • * Governments that justify cuts to social programs by saying that their budget is unbalanced, while giving subsidies to extractive corporations. The Quebec government’s’ recent austerity (pardon me, “stringency”) measures that cut education, health and social services budgets while giving a 15 year tax-break to mining industries.
  • * Indigenous peoples who still fight for sovereignty on whatever small patch of land has been left for them. Here in the land we call Oka, the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke are fighting against land fraud (causing land dispossession) committed by Canada, Quebec, Oka, and the Seminar of St. Sulpice.
  • * People of colour who find themselves denied housing, jobs or just trying to live in the world, LGBTQ+ the same—even more if they find themselves being an immigrant or a combination. Right here in Quebec, we have an unfortunate example since the provincial government, unlike other provinces, still has not changed the law to allow trans migrants to change their gender marker and name.

All these problems seem to be growing more by the year, even as many groups and organizations try to bring awareness to their causes. But when one looks at these many issues, links can be made to what ties it all together: a system that is based on exploitation, extraction and endless growth. This is why simply changing every fuel car to electric and stopping all use of fossil fuels can’t be enough.

To stop the abuse of the planet and each other, there must be an approach to offer radical solutions across the board. Instead of always fighting in separate quarters to stop the things that are unwanted, why not find a consensus in our intersectional agendas, so that we may rally for something that will bring every struggle closer to reaching a positive outcome.

We have seen examples of this for the Women’s March on Washington, where intersectionality made the march about gender, but also racial and economic justice. Also borne from the recent U.S. elections, the Indivisible movement, which seeks to form local groups in each congressional district and seek out the voices of those most affected by the Trump agenda.

In keeping with open communication, communities should not bicker over a ranking of the issues, there should be plenty of space given to the distinct groups so they may retain their particularities through the process. Clearly linking common economic, social and environmental values into a collaborative vision will give us strength.

Let us celebrate the defeat of the Energy East pipeline, but also use it as a point of convergence. This commentary is a raised “bat signal” for all those not fond of our species embracing extinction. A call to work together, to advance instead of lose together.

_The writer of this article is affiliated with Leap Montreal. For more information on their organization, visit https://theleap.org/sign-the-leap-manifesto/

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