The movement to create an ambitious plan to save the planet from climate change and re-tool our economy has come to the Kootenays.
About 40 residents of the Slocan met on May 29 to talk about the Green New Deal, and more meetings are planned for major centres in the Kootenays.
“This is an opportunity to take some action,” says Jessica Bamford, who helped organize the Slocan Valley meeting.
Other scheduled meetings are June 4 in Rossland and June 5 in Nelson.
The Green New Deal is a concept that came out of the United States, and has slowly been growing in Canada.
It envisions “rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity, meet the demands of the multiple crises we face, and create over a million jobs in the process,” according to a website by a Canadian group pushing for the Green New Deal in this country.
The organization wants to see fundamental change in the economy in respect to the environment, while “leaving no one behind.”
The Green New Deal would also see Canada (and other nations) fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international and national commitments to aboriginal people.
Support for the concept is growing, with Canadian public service unions, as well as environmental, poverty rights, and Indigenous groups endorsing the idea. It’s also got a lot of A-list Canadian celebrities, including William Shatner, Dr. David Suzuki, k.d. lang, Naomi Klein and Neil Young putting their names behind it.
Bamford says she’s attracted by the movement’s non-partisan, nationwide, inclusive nature that’s trying to look at things differently.
“There’s a lot of great things happening out there too, but it doesn’t seem like it’s quite enough,” says Bamford, who’s a facilitator and co-founder of Four Nations Coalition of Indigenous Medicines, a Kootenay-based business that teaches and practices Indigenous medicine traditions.
“There’s got to be a more structured way for people just to be heard. So I love the fact they are just inviting people to get their ideas out there to share their needs in this way.”
And she says it’s time we looked to other cultures for knowledge of the world.
“There’s teachings and perspectives and ways of being that have been in existence for thousands of years, and that knowledge and wisdom is really needed at this time in our history,” she says. “The concept that ‘everything-impacts-everything-else’ is not new. We have Indigenous societies that were incredibly functional and had high populations, but they managed resources in a phenomenal way with little impact, if any, to the lands they lived on.”
The idea of the movement is that it’s grassroots: that’s why people coming to the community meetings are asked to go through an exercise that encourages them to share their thoughts and ideas, and the things they want to see (or don’t want to see) in government policy surrounding climate issues.
“But not that exclusively,” notes Bamford. “It’s also about how we can create new jobs in these circumstances for people; how can we mitigate the housing crisis, as well. It’s not only about the climate crisis, it’s about generally turning the situation we are in around, so it’s more workable for everyone.”
People’s comments are set down at these meetings, being held across Canada, and the national organization will compile them to create a massive database.
They’ll take the information to federal politicians, First Nations, and other leaders for comment and action.
Bamford says she can’t comment on how a Green New Deal might work in the Slocan Valley, or Kootenays, or the larger country. For her, it’s as much a learning process, and she just wants to help bring new ideas forward.
“I have a two year old, and you think what is going on in our world? We have to do something about this, and we don’t have time to sit around and wait anymore,” she says. “We can’t just wait for politicians to deal with this. What is happening now is not effective for dealing with this crisis.”
Bamford says getting involved in the Green New Deal is helping her cope with her own climate concerns.
“You say you’re not going to buy any more plastic, things like that,” she says. “But at some point it’s just not enough. We have to do more, and we have to do better. We can’t let this continue.
“It’s a beautiful vision, a beautiful dream, and it brings me hope that so many people are gathering to talk about this and bring it to the forefront of people’s minds.
“And that’s the first step we have to take.”