I attended the showing of a new film on climate change at the University of Winnipeg in November 2018 as part of the Cinematheque Gimme Some Truth documentary film festival. The film was called Beyond Climate Change and was directed by Ian Mauro of the University of Winnipeg and narrated by David Suzuki. Cinematography was by Len Peterson. The showing was followed by a discussion between Mauro and Suzuki during which Suzuki delivered a stirring address that all the ingredients of a lively religious Revival. I called it a secular revival.
The film was preceded by an important message by First Nation elder Dave Courchene of Manitoba. He emphasized some important matters. I will paraphrase his remarks since it was impossible to make an accurate word-for-word transcription. He said that climate change was a direct consequence of our moral failure to follow our moral obligation to moderate our consumption and protect the earth. Our consumptive society, he said, is based on fear, greed, anxiety, stress, discontent, and ultimately genocide. Those were unsettling words. He said, “We are a species out of control.” This attitude comes from looking at the earth as a non-living entity. “We need a change of heart to survive as a species,” he quietly but powerful said. We must remember, as aboriginals have always preached, “What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves.” This of course follows from the fundamental premise of many indigenous people that we are fundamentally connected to the earth; we are not separate and apart from it. We have to renew the spirit—i.e. we need to awaken our deep feeling of kinship and affinity with each other and the earth itself. I have already blogged about how this is in my opinion a deeply religions notion.
Courchene added, “We need to disengage with a life that is not in alignment with the earth and aboriginals have an important role to play in this process. They can help the rest of us do this.”
Early in the film Suzuki quoted from American poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder. He was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Petr Kopecký called him “the Poet laureate of Deep Ecology”. Snyder, according to Suzuki said that the two most important words were “Stay Put.” I think he meant that we should resist being removed from the place we call home. We should stay connected to it. That is our base for all we do. We should not sell that home to anyone for money. That is what the first nations of British Columbia are doing when they refuse to sell rights to oil and gas companies to build a pipeline over their land to the Pacific Ocean.
Suzuki pointed out that “climate change is the critical—the existential issue of our times. The science has been in for 30 years. We know that the problems our children and grand children face will be immense.”
If you think this is alarmist or bat shit crazy here is what the World Health Organization had to say. Climate change is “the greatest threat to global health in the 21stcentury.” “Climate change is a global emergency.” But it is not all bad news. The policies that we must adopt have demonstrable health benefits beside the climate benefits! However our Canadian government that held such promise when the newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada was committed to the Paris agreement on climate change, has been disappointing. Committing billions to supporting the purchase of a pipeline for bitumen without adequately assessing its effects on health or the environment is a big step in the wrong direction. As Tim K. Takaro and Jennifer Miller said, “Our government must invest in solutions to, not the causes of, climate change.”
The film emphasized what we already know, particularly after this horrific year that brought us record wild fires, spectacular storms, and brutal heat waves, and that is that extreme weather events will relentlessly plague us and we had better get ready for that. This is not how things are supposed to be, but this how they are. As Suzuki said, “the entire planet is at risk because humans have become so powerful that we are actually impacting the water, the air, the soil in a way that no other species has ever done.”
Albertans are very upset that BC and some indigenous nations are objecting to their project to bring liquefied natural gas and oil to the Pacific coast through the province of British Columbia and over indigenous land. But what do they think gives them the absolute right to bring a project to the land of others without their consent? Just because such projects produce a lot of money? As one indigenous leader said in the film, “Fundamentally there are just some projects that Canadians, and indigenous peoples, and British Columbians have the right to say no to.” As another leader said, “It is not just about corporate quarterly profits.” Another indigenous leader said, “I don’t feel comfortable pushing this off to my children.” These leaders summed up the issue precisely. Albertans by and large don’t understand this. Each of us has to take responsibility for this issue. We all have to do our part.
I liked many things about the film. For example, I liked the sign held high by one of the protesters: All you need is less. That is what we always forget and this is the problem. We always want more. I loved another sign, “Live gently upon the earth.”
I liked the scene in the film where a young aboriginal boy made a sensational jump when he drove his bike into the wall of a sandbox filled with a big mattress. The photographer caught him in midflight as he lifted off after hitting the board “flying” through the air completely horizontal, with a massive grin on his face and a bright gleam in his eye. The boy was obviously confident that he would hit the mattress. He knew he was resilient. He had hope.
I loved the comments about British Columbia and Vancouver in the film designed to explain to us why many of them opposed pipelines into their bay up the coast. I did not know it, but Vancouver is the major city with the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emission in North America. This has been achieved at the same time that Vancouver has undergone significant growth: 27 per cent increase in population and 18 per cent increase in jobs. They are justifiably proud of that. Why would they want to lose that? I wonder how much of this achievement is the consequence of their carbon tax?
Suzuki was interviewed for his views a number of times in the film. He was clearly sad that although fishing had always been a very important part of his life from the time he was 4 years old, he could not fish in the streams outside of Vancouver anymore. He could not bring his grand children to those streams. That is a pity. Not only that, it is important. It is not all about money. As one indigenous leader said, “you can’t eat money.”
I won’t say that I learned a lot new from the film, but it did inspire. The talk that followed did more than that. Suzuki in particular was in fine form. His speech was powerful. It was a secular revival. My kind of revival.