No radicals here Mr. Oliver… just the status quo…

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – Buckminster Fuller

James and I have been living in a very very tiny house for two months now. In lieu of finding winter tires for our sweet little van, we have also not been driving (save one brilliant, sunny +10 day last month).

Part of what is happening is that we are inherently quite poor and making it by on being savvy and responsible with what limited income we have. Being performers means that we make the bulk of our income on the road performing. And as performers we each do really well on tour. However, the no winter tires really hinders the ability to get on the road.

But something bigger is hindering us from touring in our own vehicle these days. Or driving period. That is all the talk about the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to  northern BC where we live, as well as the Transcanada pipeline from Alberta, where I grew up to Texas where I have much family (lo and behold, both my grandfathers worked in oil and gas). So we made a clear choice not to drive and instead exhaust (haha) our options and challenge ourselves to a life dependant on public transportation in the north.

When I took my very first “real” job with Greenpeace Canada in the basement of the old YMCA in Calgary Alberta my grandma told me that I better not ever try to get a job with the government because they’d see that I had worked for a “radical environmental organization” and I might be in trouble. I was seventeen and rather liked the idea of being a radical. I’m now a lot more than seventeen but consider myself to still have fairly radical viewpoints on many topics that range from ideas like only allowing the top 10% to continue in university studies, or recycling everything and ceasing the manufacture of new materials just to see how long we could go.

People get uneasy when we tell them we’ve been walking everywhere (in the winter!!??). People get confused when we tell them we’ve been taking public transit to Smithers for groceries, and around the hazeltons to places like the library, or for James to go make sushi at the local coffee shop every Friday morning. People have been more desperate to find us tires than they have been to consider what effective public transit would look like in our tiny tiny region.

People are confused:

They always think we’re taking the greyhound. People who have lived here for their entire lives question us about the public transit like we made it up, like it’s a special service… like it is only for “first nations people” nope it’s BC transit and it’s $4 to take a tiny, direct, one hour shuttle to the main st of Smithers from the main st. here (two days a week). However, the bus only runs in town at weird times and Gary, who drives the bus, says ticket sales rarely, if ever, cover the cost of the diesel for the day. They have a whole other bus they could run between communities, but don’t because the first one is hardly ever full.

So I am confused:

Why is it that we live in an economically deprived area with thousands of people who vehemently oppose a pipeline through our communities, and stand up for all the missing women on this our highway of tears and we can’t get it together to have a functional public transit system?

How does it work that we can’t see the root of things that need to shift?

Last week, commentary from Joe Oliver and the ethical Oil puppets stated (and has been reiterated numerous times) that anyone opposed to the pipeline are puppets and radical talking heads of radical environmental orgs. I don’t think that’s true at all and not because it’s not fair to call a bunch of people who care about things and oppose the government’s viewpoints radicals… it’s because it isn’t true, they aren’t radicals.

The word radical comes from the etymology of the word radix which means “root”. A radical is someone who works for drastic change. Drastic because it comes from the roots (otherwise known as the life source of the thing itself) and changes the entire makeup of it’s being.

I know very few people who are actually doing this and therefore, I don’t think it is fair in the name of all the great and profound radical people of our time and times past to call some letter writers and protesters radicals when they leave the pipeline hearings and get into their single occupancy vehicles and drive home with all their neighbours pulling into their driveways at the same time.

The reason we don’t see the roots is because we’re really good at being really busy looking to answer our own questions and fly to somewhere warm in the winter months, or back and forth to vancouver for “conferences” and busy driving the biggest and best 4X4/AWD so we can live 40km from town and still get there safely and so we don’t have to take the bus with “poor people.”  I know many people here who will fight to the death to keep Shell out of the sacred headwaters and Enbridge off our land and will still drive their trucks to Smithers every weekend to shop (sometimes with two vehicles) with the money they made in mining, or through family members who go away to the tarsands to work, and then they’ll pull the.. yeah, but everybody’s gotta have a job…

I don’t buy the working class hero shit… give me a profoundly banal, hypocritical and bullshit break people.

When I used to canvass for both Greenpeace and the Wilderness committee people used to ask me if I got paid, and I said yes, of course… nobody would suffer this abuse for free. If we weren’t so busy effing up the planet those organizations and jobs wouldn’t exist.

I know people need jobs and the mines and the tarsands AND environmental organizations are employing, but at what point do we actually start to shift the roots and rattle the tree and create new sources of income for our communities,  cease to see money as the be all of surviving and living healthy sustainable lives…or start recognizing the lost income potential from things we don’t see (like the thousands and thousands of people who come through here every year for tourism, for instance).

It seems the most radical thing happening in this community might very well be a couple of young, able-bodied white folks taking public transit, or some lovely friends of ours who are building an electric truck or the seventh day adventist farm out toward Kitwangaa, or a few other folks we know who are tinkering with alternative energy sources and the possibilities of horse buggies…

Those are the radicals Joe, and I would be worried if I were you. If we actually made the changes that we few know are possible, enmasse.. we’d be selling Jam instead of the bushes to make it, and yeah, I think it’d be fair to say we would then be radicals and we would also oppose the government and their stupid pipe dreams of sending all of our natural resources away so we can buy it back from China in the form of plastics so we can all continue to live in the boring lie of industrialism and unlimited growth. but maybe the government would shift and speak for it’s citizens the way a true democracy would.

There are better answers. We know the answers. They require a lot of fearlessness and leadership on the part of few who are willing to step forward and make those changes before the infrastructure is there to help them if they stumble. And THAT is scary!

Walking to the local organic bakery in -20 weather is not scary.

not at all… It is actually ten blocks of freedom every time I do it.

ps. In case you are wondering, I have had jobs working for the BC government, and do currently, technically work for the federal government right now… it’s called a canada council arts grant. Put that in your piano and play it Mr. Harper.


pps. James and I are looking at what it will take to tour to all of our sweet northern communities on the train. Let us know if you can help!

7 responses to “No radicals here Mr. Oliver… just the status quo…”

  1. Keep fighting the good fight. Maybe you’ll spark others to do the same. You are pretty fun to hang out with on the bus.

    If you get a few others to go with you, you could run a whole book club meeting in the hour it takes to get to Smithers or something like that.

    • It’s true! we could even have “radical” underground meetings (where we read books!) where no one will ever find us because they don’t even know it exists! Thanks so much!

  2. Books on the Bus! Love it Chris! If everyone brought a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate and the bus driver says ok, WOW! a coffee shop with a $4 cover charge, warm and cozy, scenery on the way!
    Magpie! Lots to think about! You always give me many different ways to look at an issue. Thank-you!

  3. I second the book club bus idea with a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee to share. First book you should read is Memories of running by Ron McClarty about a cycling life journey. I also second the beauty of winter walking. When we first moved here everyone pitied me and thought I didn’t know how to drive…Our town is so small, every distance is a maximum 15 minute walk but for me it is a daily dose of sanity.