Imagination: The missing puzzle piece in the fight for environmental justice
Via Résister et fleurir
We are all united against a common threat to life on earth, the climate disaster. However, where our opinions tend to diverge is on the extent of this threat and the possible solutions.
I used to believe that although humongous a monster, the climate emergency, could be fixed, repaired easily, if only our governments took effective action and our industries converted to green energy. However, instead of feeling empowered by this belief, I was in despair. I felt powerless in the face of it all, unable to force the government to take the radical and fast changes we need to survive. Thus, I gave up on resisting because if everything was going to shit either way, I thought that I might as well make the best of the “good years” we have left. I know that some of you share these beliefs, but trust me, there is hope. And this article will present you that hope and an alternative reality.
As Patricia Romano, a Dawson humanities professor and the Co-Founder of the Creative Collective for Change, says, climate change is not an easy fix issue, “it is the issue at the core of every societal wrong and it challenges power structures” worldwide in an unprecedented, profound way. Indeed, the answer to climate change is much more radical than the mainstream media makes it out to be. Climate change isn’t just about a shift in energy resources. It is an end to war, to exploitation, and to human and corporate greed. “Fixing” climate change would mean changing all our practices and structures, putting an end to the centralization of power, of elites, of globalization, and undertaking a major redistribution of wealth. And although this sounds scarier than the first problem/solution, this presents us with a more hopeful path. It means that society may be reborn. It means that we may leave behind this sedentary existence of powerlessness, stress, and anxiety, and move towards a world where we are all equally important regardless of our ethnicity, gender, and social class, a world where our happiness and well-being is more important than our productivity and usefulness. It also means that we, the people, have the power to turn things around, that we don’t have to wait on the government to act. We will build this world from the ground up, whether they want it or not.
Sadly, this second vision is less popular and preached for.
Overall, the movement is going in the right direction and has some of the key components of any successful non-violent movement, such as challenging and disrupting power, forcing politicians and top CEOs to act. Nonetheless, as a whole, the movement is lacking some more open-mindedness and imagination. Rarely do we try to understand the other, facilitate dialogue. In Canada this is very clear with our treatment and demonization of Alberta. It is indeed true that oil extraction and pipelines are dangerous and pollutive, yet they currently are the main economic tool for Albertans to survive and provide for themselves and their families. There are solutions out there, viable green energy markets to make up for the lost jobs in the region, but to even begin discussing and adopting these measures, we must first understand each other’s beliefs and everyday realities. Above all, we must dare to dream, to craft an inspiring vision that goes beyond our existing social norms.
Through the previous three, four decades, “we’ve lost the vision of what an ecological world would look like.” When most of us think of a green world or a green city, we think of glass buildings, clear, smogless skies, electric trains, some trees, thrifting and coffees in mugs instead of plastic cups. Yet how is that reality visionary? It remains entrapped in the claws of capitalism. Our new world would still mean buying, buying, and buying even more. Our new world would still mean conforming to a society that relies on exploiting its population to function. It would still mean anxiety, depression, low-energy, and it would still mean imported goods, from India, China, and Mexico, where our kin would remain violently oppressed and exploited.
As Sheila Watt Cloutier, an Indigenous advocate and Nobel peace prize nominee expresses, our only way forward is “to lead from a position of strength, not victimhood” and to reimagine the world, “inspire others as constant pillars of strength.” Although it’s difficult, let’s leap forward. Let’s dream and imagine together a vision that will capture the hearts of elders, established professional adults, and youth alike. One that young, tired, and sometimes depressed teenagers and young adults such as we can believe, can sacrifice in the name of, sacrifice our momentary pleasures, our potential future careers, and our lives for. For a dream that will come true.