Resisting through living (welcome to PBGC).

Like the good little clichéd activist that I am: I’ve got some bad news.

When it comes to natural resources, Canada is an insatiable monster. Sure, we’re not the only ones, but we are among the worst offenders. Stay with me: we’ve got to wade through the shit-storm of our current crisis in order to get to the good news (and there is good news). Canada currently ranks as having the eighth largest per-capita ecological footprint in the world and though countries like the United States and Australia have higher footprints, it’s important to keep in mind that, well, out of the 27 “richest countries” in the world, Canada ranked dead last for environmental protection. In other words, while Canada may not be the absolute worst for consuming and exploiting natural resources, we are for protecting whatever environment is left over post-exploitation. To put this into perspective: if the rest of the planet consumed the amount of natural resources that we do here in Canada, the universe would have to create another 3-4 Earths. I feel like this bears repeating: Three. To. Four. Earths. For better or worse we only have one. And, though I’ve put this into a context of the environment, let me be very clear: the way we treat the Earth is a reflection of how we treat each other. Environmental exploitation is deeply linked with social inequality – the so-called, “isms,” and in particular: colonialism, racism, sexism and classism. For me, as someone who systematically benefits from at least two of those aforementioned “isms,” the environment seemed like as good a context as any to understand and then challenge the prevailing social issues in Canada. But, as anyone who has thought deeply about what it means to challenge the “isms” and the system that foster them will know: it’s complicated, and its roots are deep.

Canada has been structured this way from the beginning; from the monopoly of the Hudson-Bay Company of centuries-past to transnational energy corporations of the present, Canada has been built – literally, economically and politically – on a foundation of genocide and environmental degradation. History shows a legacy of such incredible violence that it bruises our ears to simply hear let alone acknowledge the past. Talking (and listening!) about Canada’s history is a necessary component to fostering social change within it now (and we here at PBGC include blogging as part of that dialogue), but we also believe that it must coincide with real-world action. This is precisely because history is a living, organic thing: we are making history with every second that passes us by. We are the future’s history. So, while dialogue will facilitate these changes by providing us with the necessary tools, we have to walk the proverbial walk. And here’s the good news: there are a lot of folks who are doing just that.

There are those who are adopting productive, community-oriented lifestyles; who have begun (re)developing alternatives and solutions to unsustainable practices; who are (re)learning, and undergoing the decolonization process; and, there are those who are ready to (re)depend on others and to be dependable in return. We are seeing this sort of mentality in the art collectives who are using creative practices to foster social practices; business and restaurant owners who seek local, organic alternatives; free-markets and free-schools that foster economical alternatives to capitalist systems; cities that pledge to be bike friendly or car-free; countries that run on renewable-resources; seed/kitchen/tool libraries that foster independence and DIY culture; free DIY bike clinics and coops that promote healthy, sustainable transportation alternatives, and many, many more.

Together, groups and individuals are creating sustained, alternative living practices that provide a glimpse of what could be (and, in some cases, is already). Framing social issues in the context of the environment makes sense to me. After all, resources (including land) fuelled European colonialism and now Canadian mining imperialism. The division of labour; the compartmentalizing of gender roles; the waging of wars; the massing of indentured/slave labour and much, much more can be traced to Canada’s colonial legacy.  As you will hopefully come to see, the stories and interviews that Nicole, myself, and our guests will share with you intend to shed light on how folks are hoping to challenge this legacy. So, with that, I say to you: welcome to PBGC!

Stay tuned for photo-essays, interviews, and stories about the very people who incorporate learning with action.

Next post on PBGC: February 26th. Details forthcoming!

2 Responses to “Resisting through living (welcome to PBGC).”
  1. K fran says:

    Hi folks. I like the idea of this blog,but I would also ask you to challenge your own notions of “agency” and “actions” as being free within a capitalist system–i feel like there are a lot of assumptions in this section, even though it is short. I would ask you to ask how some countries “choose” to be car-free, and how others, trapped in capitalism are stuck producing the raw materials for those cars… how people “choose” to eat healthy and others don’t have the time or resources to even think about it. Remember that our choices are always restricted, and that, although I do appreciate the work and rich experiences that may come out of this project, I feel like there are a lot of assumptions wrapped up in the whole de-ismizing process… sometimes collective action can be successful at resisting, and sometimes that collective action is extremely constrained or limited by your SES, gender, etc.etc.etc. So yes, let’s celebrate individual and collective success acts but lets also think of ways of making more political and broader changes— what are some policies? what are some concrete conditions and thus concrete results? those things are also important in making broad-based life changes that make some of these things you are talking about more possible.

    • meghanmi says:

      Yes! K Fran, thanks for pointing this out. And I think this is exactly what we’re hoping to explore, by doing interviews and profiles (as opposed to preaching about an imagined utopia that only the dominant-political group(s) have access to). I am hoping that through this sort of dialogue, we can talk about the structures that are in place that influence, and sometimes restrict the “choices” individuals have. For example, the ability to participate in collective action is in and of itself a privilege that many people living within the political borders of Canada are prevented from doing for a whole variety of reasons (legal persecution, poverty, racism/sexism within social movements, etc). Choice is absolutely relative, and we’re not saying that changing lifestyles is going to be the end of social inequality, but it might help connect individuals and groups who are experiencing the same or similar injustices. The goal of PBGC, if we’re successful, is to make visible the exact phenomenon I think you’re addressing, whether it’s harmful changes in immigration laws, corporate control over food distribution and growth, problematic discourses within movements, inadequate childcare support, physically inaccessible transportation, etc by people/groups who are attempting to challenge these factors on an every-day level. Each story, interview, profile we collaborate on will be situated within a broader colonial-capitalist context. And as such, we hope that each post will highlight a variety of experiences within this context. Also: the blog is not a replacement for the studies, actions, and jobs that we are a part of. It’s just one way we’re attempting to hold ourselves accountable to the systems we challenge (and the people we challenge them with), as well as the many ways we are complicit in perpetuating.

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