“I want a future! All I want is a future!” the young protestor cried out as police physically removed her from the logging road. The place was Clayoquot Sound, BC, and the year was 1993. It would be another ten years before Greta Thunberg’s birth, and a quarter of a century before her Fridays for Future movement would galvanize a whole new generation. As I watched the scene unfold in the documentary “Fury for the Sound” again recently, I was reminded of all the young Gretas (and their allies) who stood up to be counted in what was then the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. That struggle – to protect some of the last remaining intact temperate rainforests on the planet – continues today, even as forests in BC no longer store carbon, but emit it.
I was moved by a photo of Dr. David Suzuki gently shaking Greta’s hand at the Sept. 27th climate strike in Montreal. His daughter, climate activist Severn Suzuki, had made an impassioned presentation of her own to the United Nations 27 years earlier. The elder environmental activist joined us at Clayoquot Summer in support of the blockades, having already declared the 1990s “The Turn Around Decade.”
We certainly had the science to unite behind back then. In late ’92 the first World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, signed by about 1,700 of the world’s scientists, and a majority of the Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences, began in no uncertain terms: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” And the women’s movement provided a useful framework for recognizing the patriarchal underpinnings of planetary destruction. A lesser known fact about the 1993 activists’ base camp in Clayoquot Sound (set up in a clearcut) was that it was influenced by an ecofeminist perspective that recognized violence against indigenous peoples, other women and marginalized communities, animals and ecosystems as intersecting oppressions. Not only did it offer non-violence training for people of all ages ready to put their own bodies on the frontline for environmental justice, but the camp kitchen deliberately served animal product-free meals all summer long to thousands of activists who arrived from around the world. It was a communal effort, and we were very well fed!
Nearly thirty years later, one apropos sign at our three thousand strong student-led Comox Valley climate strike read: “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this sh*t!” While Greta is being lauded for her bold leadership around climate action, and admired for her commitment to traveling only by the most ecologically responsible means available to her, her choice to embrace veganism for both animals and the environment is rarely noted in the media. It seems that how we feed ourselves is still a topic considered as deeply personal as any other form of bodily autonomy, in spite of the reality that animal agribusiness contributes as much or more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined.
Although it’s very good news that those of us with the privilege of choice can also greatly reduce animal suffering and even benefit our own health by shifting to a 100% plant-based diet, when mainstream journalists do acknowledge these connections, the tone is frequently apologetic. It’s as if we should pat ourselves on the back for practising Meat Free Mondays, and not worry about the other six days of the week we’re still contributing unnecessarily to extremely serious problems. Greta is ahead of the curve (and as her newly vegan dad has said, it is indeed a very steep curve downwards that we need to encourage to stay below a 1.5 C temperature rise.) So it comes as no surprise when climate collapse deniers, determined to discredit Thunberg’s efforts, are also prone to exclaiming that they have no intentions of ever giving up meat or any other animal products. The sense of entitlement that comes with believing animals and the rest of the natural world exist first and foremost to satiate our socially conditioned appetites is predicated upon a disconnect deeply ingrained over centuries by the dogma of human centrism and its direct offshoot, capitalism.
Perhaps it is Greta’s unfettered refusal, even inability, to ‘compartmentalize’ the issues that has so many of us utterly captivated by her clarity. But one needn’t have an extraordinary ‘super power’ to see how personal choices and system change are linked. We need only see the world through a lens that recognizes all life on earth as connected and interdependent, and act on our conscience to defend it every way we can. There are, thankfully, countless other young activists equally deserving of our attention and support who understand that this is not an ‘either/or’ situation. They too, are leading the way forward. ‘The power of one,’ has always preceded the collective might of mass resistance to business as usual.
Amazing Brussel Sprouts (with thanks to Pat McGilvray for the inspiration)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron, if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat, add sesame seeds and toast for about 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Don’t walk away and leave them…keep stirring with a spatula to prevent them from burning. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and onions to hot pan and cook until caramelized – soft and nicely browned around the edges. Remove onions and set aside. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to hot pan and add Brussels sprouts, placing them face down. Cook for 5-7 minutes, and when Brussels sprouts are beautifully caramelized, turn over and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Add onions back to pan to heat up, stirring to mix with Brussels sprouts.
Season with toasted sesame seeds and coarse sea salt. These baby cabbages make a delicious accompaniment to baked yams, or other fall favourite veggies. Enjoy!