Lately we’ve been saturated with devastating news headlines of environmental and human rights crises and political corruption. The future of women’s rights, environmental integrity, immigration policies and diplomatic peacekeeping remains uncertain. Yet the simultaneous rise of protectors continues to give hope and tireless energy.
I say protectors instead of protestors because language is a reflection of our lived reality, culture and identity. For too long, various mainstream media reports have portrayed humans on the front lines as violent protestors, a minority needing to be silenced. But we are protectors. We are protecting the very fundamentals of life.
The power of protectors is clear in the association the world now has with these two words: Standing Rock – which has become synonymous with the message that water is life.
In March of last year, Chairman Archambault from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation traveled to Washington D.C, in a race for time against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. At that time, few were aware of the looming construction date slated to begin in May that would pump toxic oil through a pipeline just 1-mile from Standing Rock’s primary water source: The Missouri River. In just a matter of months, millions around the world would become engaged in their movement. Standing Rock is a testimony to the potential of protectors. And rooted within these movements are stories that inspire action through emotion.
Yes, it can feel paralyzing to scroll through a bleak news feed or alienating to read about a distant issue outside of one’s personal community. This is something I hear frequently from friends and peers. Some express frustration with not knowing where to begin, while others feel their values align with the movement but cannot find the rallying energy to join the community in action. It is in moments like these that community and storytelling become critical.
As Marshall Ganz of 350.org explains, “Emotions inform us of what we value in ourselves, in others and in the world, and enable us to express the motivational content of our values to others. Because we experience values emotionally, they are what actually move us to act. Stories allow us to express our values not as abstract principles, but as lived experience, and they have the power to move others too.”
Find energy in the story of a protector; find hope by connecting to your community and take action by living with your heart.
Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, decided to play Russian roulette when he approved the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion. The expansion would increase tanker traffic from one tanker per week to one tanker per day. Not only would the expansion and increased tanker traffic cause regional greenhouse gas emissions to go up 6.9 percent, but diluted bitumen transported through the pipeline is highly corrosive and sinks – which increases chances for a spill and making complete clean up impossible. I watched his press conference, fuming as Trudeau asked for the public’s trust because he grew up on the North Shore, appreciating BC’s environment and saying he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.
To quote Donald Trump’s infamous counselor, Kellyanne Conway, I would dub Trudeau’s statement an “alternative fact.” Immediately after his media appearance, my phone was flooded with messages from friends: Messages of indignation, seething anger, and an undying, renewed urge to prevent the Kinder Morgan pipeline from being built. Community heals. A few weeks later, on a cold night in East Hastings, 350Vancouver organized a strategic meeting to stop the pipeline. The room pulsed with the energy, creativity and collaboration as Vancouver locals gathered together. Despite having an hour-long bus ride to return home late in the night, the meeting felt equivalent to three shots of espresso.
To those who are seeking to find their cause, how to act or break down the confines of paralyzing despair and hopelessness, there are some steps you can take to make progress:
Read the rest of the summer 2017 issue and order it in print here.