Reconciliation, Racism & Climate Change

On the heels of the Wet'suwet'en blockades of Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline, the deaths of George Floyd in the US along with Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi in Canada, have brought the suppressed conversation of racism roaring to the forefront.
A recent article by Hop Hopkins eloquently and heartbreakingly describes the relationship between climate change and racism. In it he says,

You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.

He describes the sacrifice zones that, with the blessing of the US government, allow big industry to use them as their dumping grounds and toxic extractive activities. In BC, we have several examples of sacrifice zones and sacrificed peoples and most of them are located in indigenous communities, the most recent being Wet’suwet’en territories.

In February 2019, the BC Government tabled legislation implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This legislation is intended to include free, prior and informed consent, recognizing Indigenous peoples’ rights, interests and voices. It is to include early, deep and meaningful involvement of Indigenous peoples on matters that affect their peoples, communities and territories.

Solidarity Rally, Sechelt BC. Photo credits: Martin Nichols

Implementing UNDRIP is a good step forward, however until the real history of colonization is broadly acknowledged, respected and understood as the genocide it was, it is doubtful that extractive industries exploiting First Nations territories will respect the intent of the UNDRIP legislation and cease to treat BC First Nations communities as disposable lands and peoples. Furthermore, until political parties discontinue their internal relationships with big industry lobbyists, they too will continue to give less weight to indigenous rights over their lands and peoples, as we have recently witnessed with the approval of the Site C Dam, the massive $6B tax payer subsidy package for the failed LNG Fracking industry and the support for the Coastal Gaslink fracked gas pipeline in the Wet'suwet'en territory.

As most BC Green Party members know, our Party is governed by six core principles:

  • Participatory Democracy: Working to create proportionally elected governments that represent and engage citizens.
  • Sustainability: Using natural resources wisely to protect the rights and needs of future generations.
  • Social Justice: Acknowledging that all humans have a fundamental right to health, wellbeing, and freedom.
  • Respect for Diversity: Protecting and valuing all cultures and individuals while conserving variety in the natural world.
  • Ecological Wisdom: Learning to live within the physical and biological limits of our Earth and to protect its life-giving nature.
  • Non-Violence: Safeguarding people’s security and freedom through cooperation and consensus building.

 

Many of these principles are in line with the ancient wisdom and cultural practices of our indigenous brothers and sisters. The climate crisis has not disappeared as we have been dealing with COVID-19. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must restructure our relationships with this planet and with each other. Our reemergence must include and embrace the ancient principles and values of the indigenous peoples. In fact, our very survival may depend on this knowledge and wisdom.