Solar Flares: It’s a Calling

Recently I have started half-joking that all of my pre-activist careers, skills, and talents were basically training me up for this task. I am, or was, a playwright and director–jobs which, let’s face it, didn’t provide much recompense or security or even renown. But if I hadn’t spent 25 years of my life writing plays, I couldn’t write letters or articles or press releases. And if I didn’t self-produce theatre, I would never have the confidence to “produce” a protest rally.

There are other examples, from research skills and public speaking (15 years of teaching) to dealing calmly with people screaming in my face (15 years of retail). I can even cite my lack of anxiety over the prospect of being arrested upon my (hardly altruistic) weed habit — back when marijuana was illegal. See? Armchair activism can work!

But there remain a handful of skills that don’t come easily to me, and whose application I’ve put off for as long as I could. But in the wake of May 24’s March for the Earth, and with another XR action coming right up, I realized there was one task I could put off no longer.

It was time to pick up the phone.

Now, I don’t hate cold calling as much as some people, but it’s my least favourite medium for networking. I prefer face-to-face meetings, where I can gauge reactions based on body language and nuance. Or failing that, I’d rather compose an email than rehearse a phone spiel. But some topics — or favours — require an intermediary touch. And besides, in my wisdom, I’d collected protestors’ phone numbers (not email addresses) after the march. So how else was I to give them the good news?

And it is good news, sort of. CBRM City Council voted on the three demands we issued at the march — to publish an update on climate action since 2014, to strike a climate advocacy committee, and to provide monthly updates — and the motion was approved unanimously! You can watch a video of it here (on the right-hand side, click on agenda item 7.2 to skip to the right spot).

So, why my half-heartedness? I really could not have asked for more. And yet… before the vote, Mayor Clarke equivocated about the motion’s efficacy: “It’s actually for staff to come back with a report or a position paper on the matter,” but “it doesn’t mean that those items necessarily get done.”

I wanted protestors who participated in the march to know that their efforts were recognized through due process. And I wanted to qualify the Mayor’s qualifiers — rather than let people simply watch the video themselves and share my discouragement, I sought to emphasize that due process on its own won’t solve the crisis — but in combination with ongoing civil pressure, we can move the conversation forward.

And I knew the best way to get that across was through phone conversations.

So this week, in addition to my other work, I’ve been making my way down the list of numbers: thanking people for marching with me, bringing them up to date, inviting them to the TrashMob on June 11, and urging them to offer their own ideas and plans for action.

And it’s awkward. But also, strangely and surprisingly, it’s fulfilling. Many of the 150 protesters are still unknowns for me, but after chatting with them for a few minutes, I feel like I know them, and vice versa. Many of them, especially the older ones, seem genuinely touched that I would call to follow up with them personally. The youth are a bit more cautious (“I never knew my phone could do… this??“), but no less articulate when I ask for their thoughts.

I’m not sure whether my cold calling will boost our numbers for the TrashMob, but it has drawn a few more people to CBXR’s Facebook page, which makes it easier for them to join in future conversations. Unless, unlike me, they really like talking on the phone… in which case, well, now they’ve got my number.

My Week in the Anthropocene:

  • Most of my other efforts this week have been directed towards next Tuesday’s TrashMob and to a Green New Deal Town Hall I’m facilitating at the end of the month. The latter will hopefully lure some of those policymakers with promises of “green economy” facts.
  • In aid of the TrashMob, my friend Lloyd created a terrific flyer with ocean-borne plastic facts. And I created my most successful petition yet: over 350 signatures so far for “CBRM Ban Single-Use Plastics by 2020.”
  • There’s also Bear Witness, my choose-your-own-adventure polar bear experience. Having already applied to stage BW at Lumière, I also applied this week for Nocturne, Halifax’s art-at-night festival. And I wrote a lot — or mostly collected my scattered writings, to see if they add up to an entire play (Which they do! Or they would, if they made any sense. Working on that next).

Solar Flares in a Warming World:

  • There is gathering momentum worldwide in the youth-led legal fight against climate inaction. This case in the US charges the government with violating the constitutional rights of youth by perpetuating systems that contribute to climate breakdown. There’s a similar case brewing in Quebec.
  • CBC’s reliable “What on Earth?” series has an article this week about efforts to convert organic waste into biogas energy. That’s a two-birds, one-stone solution (with apologies to all avian endangered species).
  • The world’s largest offshore wind farm is up and running, providing power to 287,000 homes in the UK — that’s more than twice the production rate of any other.
  • And three cheers for LEGO, an unlikely front-runner in the corporate renewables race. Last month, the multinantional company announced that they are now running on 100% renewable energy, three years ahead of their previously announced schedule. They also unveiled an appropriately green kit: a fully functional wind turbine build from biodegradable, plant-based bricks. (I’d request one for Father’s Day, except it would need to be shipped from off-island. Oh well…)

If You Only Read Hear One Thing About the Environment This Week:

  • I’ve been listening to some terrific podcasts about the climate crisis. The Green Majority is a Toronto-based community radio broadcast that’s also available on iTunes. There’s also Outrage and Optimism — great name, informed and influential hosts, and an incredible rogue’s gallery of interviewees.
  • And if you’re not feeling very optimistic… well, I hear ya. I have also been considering the philosophy of Joanna Macy, a Shambhala Buddhist who faces the prospect of a dark future unflinchingly, and finds beauty there. (Her speech begins around 6:15 on this video).

That’s it for this week. Stay strong! Shine bright!

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