Rebel without a Change

I’ve been quiet, friends, but not idle. Some days it’s still hard to get out of bed and face the enormity of my self-imposed climate crusade. But thanks in part to an infinitely patient and supportive family, and also to the power of Western medicine, I’m now mostly depression-free and back on track to save the planet.

(Climate Crusader Tip #1: I encourage you to describe your own simple environmental actions as “saving the planet” sincerely and non-hyperbolically. It sometimes sounds ironic, but it still feels good.)

This past week was an especially exciting one for this little green boat-rocker. First, I attended a climate talk at CBU called “Dumb Ways to Die,” featuring a Skype visit from author Bill McKibben, the founder of McKibben’s arrival was somewhat delayed due to a time-zone mixup, but once we got him, he had loads of powerful things to say:

  • Billionaires and plutocrats get rich because they have a chokehold on a limited, non-renewable resource.
  • Renewable energy, however, is democratizable. Some people will get rich, but wealth is unlikely to get concentrated to the same extent. That means green power can solve our climate crisis AND our economic crisis at the same time.
  • But Canada needs to step up. We have 0.05% of the world’s population, yet extracting and burning the Alberta tar sands would result in 30% of the planet’s tolerable reserve of greenhouse gases (that is, the amount of emissions we can handle before exceeding +2° C.

Two days after I heard Bill speak, I got to lead my own climate dialogue at my second Climate Café. Like the first one in November, this was a small, modest affair. But this time the conversation felt more driven towards actionable projects — specifically, in my case, building on something McKibben mentioned:

  • Since November 2018, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has been striking from school, one day every week, to raise awareness about global warming.
  • In response, students around the world are organizing strike marches. Why not in Cape Breton?

With a few accomplices, I’ve taken some steps towards organizing students. Right now, I suspect the best route involves visiting schools as CBU envoys, then encouraging the students to self-organize for a strike in April or May.

This weekend, I put those plans on hold long enough to visit Halifax, where I met with several theatre professionals to chat about reducing our discipline’s carbon footprint — or, in some cases, educating others about how low-carbon we already are. It was especially refreshing to discover that there are other directors, actors, and playwrights thinking the same sort of thoughts as I am — and that’s only one town over! It’s ambitious, but I wonder if I’m capable of reaching further out, to create a network of environmentally conscious theatre types around the world?

Reducing the carbon footprint of theatre production isn’t going to save the world on its own. But artists have a platform that most citizens don’t, so I believe it’s incumbent upon us to use it to promote positive change. I have already been accused of being “preachy” since adopting this view, but that label doesn’t sting as much as I thought it might. Anyway, “preachy” is only “preachy” if you’re preaching to the choir — otherwise, it’s “teachy.”

I got taught a bit in Halifax, too, when I attended a short workshop on non-violent resistance (subtitle: “how to get politely arrested”). The workshop was sponsored by Extinction Rebellion, a group that has already made waves in HRM by marching and blocking traffic to protest the government’s lack of climate action. It was great to meet others who care deeply about the cause, and to learn what techniques might be useful if/when my commitment to climate reform rubs the establishment the wrong way.

I mean… I don’t want to get arrested, obviously. But I also really don’t want my kid to grow up in a world lacking food, and clean water, and infrastructure to protect her from heat, disease, or war. I’m no longer depressed about the fact that we have fewer than 12 years left to hit the brakes on that future… but I am determined. It’s good to know I’m not alone in that respect.


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