How to be a Friend to the Climate Justice movement as a spoken word artist in canada (and beyond)

A lot has happened this summer. I have decided to start blogging again. Here we go!

I attended the Powershift conference in Victoria over the past weekend. Both as a facilitator and as a participant. I don’t think I am the same person that walked into the conference on Friday as I am today.

The two things I was most taken by were the intersections of how so many “movements” and “isms” are deeply related to the destruction of the planet as well as the sheer number of people who are working for change. Looking around the rooms, I was thankful to witness each and every person I did. I know I will see you out there on the streets, in your cities, at events and I will know I am in the company of people who are choosing to think differently and work to alter the status quo. I am ever so thankful, grateful and deeply honoured to work with you.

I got to thinking last night about the things that I could do to harness some of the energy and things I learned over the weekend. Obviously poems and stories are already being built in my mind, but I wanted to push something forward. I decided that maybe I could help spoken word artists consider what they are doing in their work, their lives and their minds to not enable the further destruction of all of us. There is a lot. Most spoken word artists are already working to share ideas and spread information. All of it is connected to our continued healthy survival as a species. I could only hope that some of you will use this as a guide, find even just one small idea in it and choose to alter the landscape you live in.

Here it is

How to be a Friend to the Climate Justice movement as a spoken word artist in Canada (and beyond).

1. Recognize and accept that it is not a RIGHT.

It is an honour, a power, a privilege and a responsibility to call yourself an artist. You did not create the spoken word. It has existed since we grew a bone to hold our tongues in place (possibly longer), and it is part of every community the world over. Honour the indigenous and ancestral pathways that have led you to doing this work.

2. Recognize that movements intersect

Passion is at the base of many art forms, especially spoken word. Recognize that your political passion intersects with so many others. Know that the climate justice movement sees anything that keeps us apart or promotes a culture of violence as contributing to the degradation of our environments. Learn something about how YOUR political passion intersects with the climate justice movement.

3. Recognize where your funding is coming from

Canadian resource extraction companies are doing some of the most devastating damage to environments (including people and cultures) at home and worldwide. You don’t have to reject funding from large corporate entities or governmental bodies. However,  do your research (follow the money) and be transparent about what their relationship is to big oil and industry that pollutes and/or destroys your community or other communities around the world. Then, make your own decision as to whether or not you would be willing to stand up on stage and before your poems, say the names of these corporations. If not, consider where else you could obtain funding.

4. Recognize that touring is a disgusting waste of resources & make it both worth it, and lower your environmental impacts

It is important to share the word, to workshop, to engage people in different places with ideas that are shaped by your place. It comes with a massive cost. Here are some ideas to help you tour in a more climate friendly way. What ideas do you have?

4.1 Consider how you travel – rideshares, carpooling, trains, public transportation, cycling and walking are all very good ways to move small or long distances. If you are driving, pack your car/van whatever, full of people. Pay attention to how many flights you take a year and what company you fly with. If there is a more low impact option, make the sacrifice and take it.

4.2 Consider how FAR you are traveling between shows- plan small tours and travel small distances. Condense dates and places into small areas for trips to be possible by a fuel friendly transport option.

4.3 Perform and workshop in RURAL places and/or on reserve –  It might take a little more work, and a little more fuel, but experiencing the places and people which are most affected by resource extraction industries is one of the best ways to bear witness to what is actually going on. Workshops might also help people to find their voices on political passions that they never knew they had.

Addition to above *Perform and workshop for people living in lower income communities. Tithe your time to people who may not be able to afford the cover charge or be able to get to your show.*

4.4 Shop & eat local – ok, so maybe you are halfway around the world already… At least support local economies when you get there! Locally brewed beer, farmer’s markets, locally roasted coffee, and locally owned businesses abound. Don’t expect to eat the food you like at home… think ecologically, try something new. Overall, ask questions, ie: What is the local option? ie: I desperately need blah blah Do I have to go to the shopper’s drug mart? is there a locally owned pharmacy?

4.5 Recognize that hotels are wasteful and often owned by corporations connected to big oil and industry – stay at a hostel, stay with a billet and/or at the very least, ask for the most environmentally locally owned hotel that you can get.

4.6 Buy things second hand – *note: I bought a new suitcase last spring on tour. even though it is quality and it’ll last me a long time, it made me feel sick doing it.* however, I DID check every single thrift store I could FIRST. Find them. there is at least one in any place and they often support local initiatives for GOOD.

4.6 Help other spoken word artists who are touring to accomplish a lighter load. Offer them more shows in a smaller distance from one another. Offer them safe spaces to cook & to sleep, carpool options, information about travel and local options, space to be creative and space to ask questions.

4.7 Resist bottled water – many conferences, festivals, and events offer performers bottled water. Bottled water is most often coming from places where that water is being taken from the ground and not compensated for (ie: British Columbia). It is also being bottled by companies who OWN and control much of the global south’s water resources (ie: Nestle, Pepsi, Coke). Consider whether you would like to be an accidental advertising spokesperson for their company. Take a reusable water bottle or ask for a glass at the venue.

5. Take ACTION

So, you read an article about the Enbridge pipeline OR you read an article about the displacement of people due to drought and/or flooding in South East Asia OR you read an article about drilling in the Arctic OR you just really don’t like Tarsands and now you are revved up to write a poem, or get involved and take it out there into the world!! some thoughts on THAT-

 5.1 RESEARCH- yes! take these things to the stage, but get your facts straight. Do a little more reading, talk to someone you know that might know more about it, go to the LIBRARY or ask the oracle (ie: google). There is so much education to be had. A little research goes a long way. Misinformation does not help ANY cause EVER.

5.2 Link up – Someone, somewhere in your community agrees with you. Find out what is going on in your community and join in on what is already happening.

5.3 Offer your skills – as a workshop facilitator, public speaker, moderator, crowd handler, email, document, letter, manifesto writer etc…

5.4 Use your stage time- Talk about what is happening in YOUR community OR even just to make a small comment about something like “how the industrialized corporate oil economy is destroying and undermining our governments and all of our human rights to clean water…” for instance.

5.5 Be brave, be bold – you are already braver than all the people on the planet who make public speaking one of the most common human fears out there. Recognize your power and use it…

I am certain there are more things to add.


Anything ELSE? What ELSE?

send me an email and I will add things!

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