As part of my visit to Vancouver last week I got to attend a good old fashioned hippie dippie anti-oil pipeline rally that was really outstanding and even kinda moving. It’s great to see people are still able to step away from their keyboards and actually assemble in public. Plus Bill McKibben is awesome.
SHOW STOPPER. She’s half 11 year old, half Joan Baez reborn. We had to leave before Ta’Kaiya Blaney sang, but everyone who was there talked about her performance for the next two days, making me worry they were over-hyping it. But when I finally saw this video, I could see they weren’t — she’s truly amazing.
GOOD OLD FASHIONED PUBLIC PROTEST
I was in Vancouver last week to speak to the wonderful folks at Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, and University of Victoria. I think I get more out of the visits than do the people who actually invite me. Each one is like a tutorial that ends up with my iPhone being packed full of new things to read and films to watch and interesting quotes and all sorts of other things.
For this visit, my host Anne Salomon (who gave a tremendous talk last November at the WWF 50th anniversary symposium I took part in) led me down to the Vancouver Public Library in the light rain. The night before we had dinner with SFU economics professor Mark Jaccard who is a major veteran in the struggle to keep Canada carbon conscious and keep the oil companies in check. He was slated to speak for 3 minutes at the big rally and was nervous having never done such a thing before.
I gave him a bunch of advice, to the best of my communications ability, but in the end, I think I probably just scrambled his brain at the last minute. He ended up doing fine, but only with the second half of his talk — not with the first half, which was the part I had offered advice on.
SFU economics professor Mark Jaccard (you can faintly see him just to the right of the orange sign in the center — in brown jacket holding papers) fires the crowd up, recovering from a stumbling start, but then working towards an excellent crescendo.
BILL MCKIBBEN – Mister 350 himself slipped across the border to fire up the crowd. His comments were very blunt and very good as he simply told them you cannot trust the oil companies — no two ways about it. Bravo.
A STAR IS BORN
Actually, Mark’s “performance” made me think of the classic scene of Barbra Streisand in the old movie, “A Star is Born” where she makes her singing debut, starting nervously, fumbling for the words as the crowd starts to boo her, but then she finds her groove and by the end is kicking ass with the audience going wild.
Same thing happened for Mark. He began by saying, “I’ve got some good news and bad news — the bad news is I’m a professor and you have to listen to me. The good news is they’re only letting me have three minutes.” There were scattered chuckles, then his next few lines were kinda boring and made you think, “ugh, he really is a professor.”
But then halfway through he shifted gears with the fairly shocking statement that, “I can see what the future holds, and am afraid its looking like violent protest is going to be inevitable.” Which was a rather non-professorial thing to say. And woke up the crowd as he transitioned into sort of mob-speak, changing from full sentences into short, punchy phrases that began to evoke cheers of “oh yeah!” and “you got it!” which continued to build and by the end he had the entire crowd chanting and cheering for him. Which was awesome!
BILL MCKIBBEN ROCKS
Best of all was Bill McKibben. In my WWF talk last fall I railed against the overly cerebral orientation of the climate movement. He’s cultivated the one strongly more visceral element with his 350.org movement. They put on the impressive Tar Sands demonstration in D.C. last fall (which I stumbled into), and he was inspiring again at this rally.
But then we had to go because I had a talk to give at SFU, so we couldn’t stay for Takaiya, but probably just as well as I probably would have gotten all emotional. I can only take so much of rallies like that without getting nostalgic for the 60’s and 70’s. Regardless, it was a great sight to see.