Above: Cathedral Grove via cathedralgrove.eu
By contributor Chantelle Spicer
Last week I was going through my typical morning routine of making coffee in the creeping light of dawn while listening to CBC Radio, when my precarious balance of hope was shaken. This hope for a healthy earth and society I hold is like a fluttery candle—despite the growing sense of urgency surrounding climate change and its associated disasters, I hope we might somehow come to the realization that the planet and our fellow human neighbours are important and loved. That change will happen. My hope teeters between great relief when something good happens and wild devastation when something bad happens. It is a delicate balance, like a high-wire circus act that I have very little training for. Sometimes I play off my fears real cool and resigned—“I have always just been waiting for the world to end and I will just enjoy it until then” kind of attitude–while inside, my candle sputters in the darkness.
The news that shook me this week was a fairly low-key story on Canada’s sovereign rights over the Arctic and the exploration for subsurface minerals. This has been an ongoing, under-reported story over the past few years that most people have heard as background noise in their life or not at all. For me, that morning, I heard it loud and clear–despite the precedent setting agreements in Paris and shouts for climate justice, Canada and other countries are reaching out oil-seeking tendrils into fragile ecosystems, and governments are making agreements with companies about the fate of traditional territories. As the CBC reporter calmly discussed “Arctic leadership” and potential resources in this unexplored area, I had to sit down on the kitchen floor to take it in a wave of “how did we get here?!” It seems absurd to me that the thinning of the Arctic ice sheets should work as an economic benefit to anyone—that somewhere, someone is celebrating this new access to exploitation.
This came amid an unrelenting week of news which left me reeling—approval of the LNG pipeline, approval by some First Nations groups of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, ongoing Donald Trump news, and to top it all off, climate scientists stating we have hit the tipping point of 400ppm and may never return. How to deal with my flickering flame in the face of this emotional devastation? I honestly have no idea, but it is still, miraculously, burning. Perhaps it hasn’t all sunk in yet, or perhaps my mind cannot even comprehend the magnitude of the news. Maybe I do not even want to. I need this hope to exist. So despite this anger, disappointment, grief, dread, and disillusionment, my compass swings back to its true north.
Maybe hope exists in the small things, in the seemingly insignificant victories that don’t even make the news but have to be dug out of my Facebook feed, vignettes from my daily life, or obscure web journals. One of these came from Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance who reported on the BC municipal leaders calling on the provincial government to protect the Island’s remaining old growth forests. Another is a group of young artists from Edmonton who write letters of love and support to the young people of Attawapiskat. On the home front, hope comes from seeing the community support of local farmers at markets, taking personal actions to protect wild bee populations or taking extra steps to love little patches of the earth through organic gardening. I also find great relief in hearing people talk about not just appreciation for nature, but a deep respect for the earth, seeing people find or follow their path not towards society’s standards of success, but towards their love of life.
Sometimes I wonder if what I do is enough. I am not a front lines type of person—I do not attend most rallies or protests, or offer myself up for arrest for the greater good. I do not take grand actions, make moving documentaries, or start organizations that are pitted against the government. I have respect for those that do, such as the thousands who stand at Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock (see p. 11) but this is not my path. I make my own declarations and take actions on a more personal level by: writing to you, not buying things in packaging, riding the bus or my bike, contributing small bits of time or money to conservation groups I believe in, and taking part in our local community. Despite these actions, there is a criticizing voice in my head that whispers, “this is not enough…your actions do not matter”.
It is hard to know if what you are doing is the right thing, or good enough, especially in the face of something as big as the torrent of news over the past week. The universe and corporate powers—both of which feel vast and unconquerable—have their own interests and seem to strike out at random at the things you hold most dear. It is easy to feel small. What is important, I have learned, is to give credit to those small things and to the communities who support them, and to give credit to yourself for the efforts you make. Breath deep in the moments when the beauty of the world is around you. Remember there are elders who pray for love and the earth with each step they take—and join them.
Bad news will continue to come in many forms, reaching out from faraway places into our homes and minds—and there is no stopping it. We have control over little but our own personal reactions to it; so, when the time comes, know what brings you hope and keeps your candle aflame. Hold fast to all of the small joys that find their way into your life and ally yourselves with people who share your love, for they are your teachers and those who learn from you in equal measure. Above all, embrace all the feelings that come for they all teach us a lesson.