Categories
News

Less is more: Activists denounce greenwashing over the future EV battery plant

When it comes to lowering emissions, these environmental activists say car culture will always stand in the way.

In the overcast afternoon of Friday, Feb. 2, environmental activists held a demonstration at the construction site of an upcoming electric vehicle battery factory, Northvolt, located in Saint-Basile-le-Grand in protest against the project.

Organized by activist coalition Rage Climatique, the group of around 50 people held up road traffic on Chemin du Richelieu as they marched and danced from the McMasterville train station to the nearby entrance of the Northvolt site. They expressed their indignation at a project they feel will result in far more ecological harm than good. Signs reading “For the environment against greenwashing” showed the group’s skepticism of this project that aims to lower the car industry’s emissions. They claim it will inevitably cause ecological damage to the local environment, and perpetuate Quebec’s culture of car reliance.

In September, the federal and Quebec governments approved a $7 billion project with Swedish company Northvolt to build a gigafactory that will manufacture electric vehicle (EV) lithium-ion batteries from start to finish in Quebec. The factory site is located in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, 30 km east of Montreal. This project is Quebec’s largest private investment in the province’s history.

Member of Rage Climatique Yolann Lamarre asked: “When we destroy the wetlands and encroach on the territories of endangered species, is this really what we call an ecological transition?”

Clad in crafted bird masks, the lively gathering blocked the way of construction workers wanting to move in and out of the grounds. The crowd cheered “L’air, la terre et les rivières ont besoin de révolutionnaires” [the air, the land and rivers need revolutionaries] while individuals distributed hot chocolate and hand warmers.

Environment studies student Benjamin Savard traveled by a bus organized by Rage Climatique to get to Saint-Basile-le-Grand from downtown Montreal. Savard protested what he feels is the government’s misuse of provincial budgets, “knowing the massive amount of funding being put into this project while our public transportation is deteriorating from lack of investment.”

The project has not been as wholeheartedly accepted by the public as it has by the CAQ government. On Jan.18, the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) and three citizens took the matter to Quebec courts to halt what they say is a project that will bring major ecological damage to the area. The CQDE argued that the battery plant’s construction will destroy the high diversity of flora and fauna unique to this wetland habitat.

“This project perpetuates a culture that prioritizes individual car reliance,” Lamarre said. “This leads to pollution from car production, mineral extraction and all the extra energy needed to do so, plus the pollution from building more dams on Indigenous land.”

On Jan. 23, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ké announced that a lawsuit has been filed to demand the federal and provincial government’s consultation with the Kahnawà:ké community  about the Northvolt battery plant.

On Jan. 26, the Quebec Superior Court rejected an injunction requested by the CQDE last month to halt construction. The Court ruled that the company’s measures to make up for the plant’s destructive nature are sufficient, like planting almost three times the amount of trees cut down and a $4.7-million investment to restore wetlands elsewhere.

The lack of consultation of the nearby communities is a major concern of Saint-Basile-le Grand resident Christine Lambert. The first time Lambert heard of Quebec’s investment in the Northvolt EV battery gigafactory was in the newspapers.

She said community consultation meetings did not take place before the project announcement and that her community feels blindsided: “We don’t know how the aqueduct will be built, we don’t know the impact on our roads, we don’t know if our schools will overflow with the arrival of workers, the impact on our clinics, on our services. We are in the dark.”

On the same day as the protest, Northvolt announced that it will create a citizen liaison committee to open a line of communication with the public in the coming weeks.

But to protesters like Savard, the issue with projects such as the Northvolt battery gigafactory is that they maintain the status quo of energy consumption instead of finding ways to decrease it. Savard said: “We’ve arrived at a point where our economy is so energy-intensive that it has passed the planet’s limits.”

Categories
Arts

Cinema Politica: Our Bodies are your Battlefields

The documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields, screened by Cinema Politica, shows the lives of trans women in Argentina fighting for their rights and to be accepted

Image from the official trailer for “Our Bodies are Your Battlefields”

Cinema Politica screened the premiere of the documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields on Monday, March 6 in the atrium of the Hall Building. Cinema Politica is a media arts non-profit which screens a selection of independent political films. The local at Concordia, active since 2004, is Cinema Politica’s longest running film showcase, attracting hundreds of people to their weekly screening throughout the semester. 

The film, written and directed by Isabelle Solas, shows the lives of trans activists Claudia and Violeta, as well as those of their compatriots, in their daily political struggle for acceptance in Argentina. Despite the reality of discrimination they face from upholders of the patriarchal society and trans-exclusionary feminists, among others, they manage to fight for political progress and form community with each other.

The films’ intimate portrayal of these women in both their activism and relationship to one another rings authentic. The different relationships these women have with their friends, families and each other demonstrates a vast diversity of trans experiences — something that is rarely shown and so often ignored. Claudia is close with her mother who supports her and her cause, whereas many other trans people were shunned or kicked out of their homes. They had to turn to sex work for survival, and have strived together for support and political activism in the community.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with two speakers, Anaïs Zeledon Montenegro and Elle Barbara, from the Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q), a project under CACTUS Montréal. ASSTT(e)Q is run by and for trans people, to help trans people in need of healthcare and social services. The program’s core funding is being cut in April and they are collecting donations.

Barbara shared how she related to the protagonists of the film since, prior to working at ASTT(e)Q, they were heavily involved in the grassroots project Taking What We Need which organized parties and fundraisers to give money to low-income trans feminine people in Montreal. This allowed Barbara to politicize transness. 

“That’s what transness was like to me, it is intrinsically political. And in that regard, I find the experiences depicted in the documentary are similar.”

Montenegro, who also has experience being on the streets, shared the importance of greeting people with love at ASTT(e)Q. 

“We’re trying to do our best at ASTT(e)Q to make people think that there’s hope. That’s what we talk about: hope.”

The Cinema Politica film screenings are always free with the possibility to contribute donations at the venue. Their funding also comes from the Canada Council for the Arts and membership  fees.

Upcoming Cinema Politica screenings can be found on their website. 

Categories
Podcasts

Concordia For Dummies: Graham Carr’s Apology Explained

Welcome to The Podcast. Cedric Gallant will produce and host this podcast alongside our Section Editors every week. The shows will rotate weekly to cover topics from each section of our newspaper!

This week’s show, Concordia for Dummies, was produced by Cedric Gallant, alongside our News Editor Lucas Marsh Tune in for future episodes of Concordia for Dummies, where we explore topics on students minds throughout the school year.

Graphic by James Fay

In this episode:

Lucas Marsh gives context on why Concordia’s President Graham Carr apologized for the University’s handling of the 1969 Black Student Protest. In addition to his historical explanation, Lucas interviewed Robert Wilkins, a photographer who was present when the fire broke out in the Hall building.

Categories
News

School strikes are back to protest against the Bay du Nord oil project

For the past two Fridays, climate activists gathered to demand the federal government to refuse the project

Since Friday, Feb. 18, the Pour le futur student-run organization of climate activists have been skipping school to march every Friday afternoon to protest against the Bay du Nord (BdN) oil project. The organization took to the streets of Montreal again on Feb. 18 to demand the federal government to refuse the project, claiming it was incompatible with Canada’s climate targets. 

The decision to go on strike for three weeks was meant to catch the attention of Steven Guilbault, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, before his deadline to approve the project on March 6. 

“We really want to put pressure on Guilbault […] to make the right decision for this project,” said Leticia Gonzalez, an organizer for Pour le futur. 

The BdN project will be developed in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, if approved. Three oil resources locations were found in the area.

The project aims to extract 300 million to 1 billion barrels of oil over 30 years from 2028 when the project is supposed to begin operation. 

Pour le futur’s goal is to create urgent action towards the current climate crisis, and they believe the BdN oil project is incompatible with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) suggestions. The IPPC’s report clarifies limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the BdN project contributes to fossil fuel emissions. 

Canada has pledged to reduce emissions by 40-45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Another of Canada’s targets is to be carbon neutral by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. 

“One of the first things we have to do is stop investing and stop allowing new oil exploitation projects,” said Shirley Barnea, spokesperson for the Pour le futur. 

“That means in 2058, we’re still going to be producing oil. The entire world is supposed to be carbon neutral by 2050, and [the project] is completely against all of that,” she added. 

Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology Andrew Parsons described a few weeks ago the BdN project as “critical” for Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy. 

A report from Statista shows that mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction accounted for 40.45 per cent of the gross domestic product (GPD) of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2020. 

Due to the pandemic affecting the demand and supply chain, production decreased at every oilfield in Newfoundland in 2021 with total oil production down 9.5 per cent. Moreover, the corresponding value of production increased by 43.4 per cent. These prices compensate for the production decline.

 “The one benefit [of this project] it’s that it’s going to help the economy. […] We think the way forward is for the government to invest in a just transition so that we can help the workers that are working in oil right now transition into something else because it doesn’t make sense to keep investing in something that’s killing the planet,” said Barnea. 

According to Equinor’s website, the project will generate about $3.5 billion in revenue for the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

“Right now, we’re focusing on BdN because it’s just such a polluting project that we really can’t afford to be building right now, but after hopefully if that’s rejected, we really want to push the government […] to deliver on a just transition that was promised in the 2019 elections,” said Barnea. 

The last demonstration against the BdN will be on March 4 at the Montreal City Hall at 1:30 pm. 

“The idea [is] to put as much as much pressure as we can on the government,” Barnea added.

Photo by Gabriel Pelland

Subjectivity in journalism

Subjectivity reinforces objective stances of journalists

Journalists are asked to remain objective in their reporting, at risk of losing credibility and blurring the truth. But if journalists are to tell the truth, how can they deliver truthful stories if they are required to remain detached from the issue they are covering?

Journalism has evolved, while still upholding a dichotomy between objectivity and subjectivity. Either the story is fair, balanced, and neutral; or engaged, one-sided and biased. There is no grey area when it comes to news reporting. There is no room for an in-between.

Newscasting would gain integrity considering subjective stances to complement objectivity. Journalistic standards of neutrality can coexist along with personal insights.

Iowa State University professor of journalism Michael Bugeja said, “Objectivity is seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it were.”

Objectivity is essential in news making. However, it has its limitations, which subjectivity can help make up for.

Hence, journalism has to rethink objectivity to make it possible for journalists to elaborate their expertise beyond detached reporting: journalists must be encouraged to embrace their biases.

In their book Reckoning: Journalism’s Limits and Possibilities, Candis Callison and Mary Lynn Young explain how objectivity has roots in social order and relations of power that privilege some conventions over others. When journalists situate themselves from within the story, they have a stronger capacity to recognize what is “really” happening.

Objectivity reinforces dominant ideals and hides marginalized realities. When journalists seek neutrality and fairness, they sometimes censure and leave out aspects of a story. It empowers specific perspectives and excludes many potential paths to explore.

Journalists’ experiences strengthen the accuracy of their stories. Carol Linnitt, co-founder of The Narwhal, interviewed Callison for the article “Who tells the story of the present”. Callison explains how facts have a history and tie with different ethics. Objective stances sometimes fail to dig deeper into those multiple truths. Journalists must look beyond the statement itself to understand its meaning. In other words, when journalists personally commit to an issue, they gain the capacity to acknowledge which perspectives to scrutinize and whose voices to uplift.

When it comes to sources, subjective awareness also reinforces journalistic language. News stories are impersonal when journalists stick to the facts for the sake of detachment and fairness. Journalists even maintain a distance from their sources to deliver “neutral” portrayals, dehumanizing the sources themselves. For news to be representative and truthful, they must engage with sources, especially when they are marginalized.

As journalists prefer the role of the observer over the participant, they fail to humanize their subjects. Andrew Sayer, social sciences scholar from Lancaster University, explains how emotions, values, and the rationale make sense only when they come together. The subjective defines an integral part of our identity and how we understand the world. Journalists can only truly depict someone or something if they associate them with other’s truths. There is an immersive element that is crucial here and does not compromise objectivity but rather complements it.

Subjectivity allows journalists to extend their stories beyond factual events, exploring various angles of a particular issue and allowing them to be more grounded in reality. News has multiple truths, and biases enable us to navigate across those various languages.

Going back to Linnitt’s piece, the interviewee, Callison, shared how claims of objectivity normalize one singular truth by using the example of the Wet’suwet’en people mobilizing against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Mainstream media outlets would name the Wet’suwet’en community “protesters.” But if they have never ceded their lands, is it fair to refer to them as such? Is it neutral to assume their behaviours? Sometimes, what we think to be objective is far from being the truth for others. Considering external realities contributes to deconstructing standardized perceptions. And yet, it requires concerns of subjectivity.

Stories need to be personified and less frigid. It is no coincidence that podcasts are so prominent these days: personal narratives contribute to connecting the audience with more emotions and agency. Storytelling enables journalists to share experiences and connect with people so they can make sense of ongoing events. In the article “Personal narrative journalism and podcasting,” Mia Lindgren, professor at Swinburne University of technology and editor for the Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, suggests how subjective discourses allow the audience to witness experiences and relate to stories. It facilitates understanding and enforces empathy.

Journalistic institutions have the power over headlines; they decide how stories will be told and whose voices will be included. Journalism shapes the way society perceives the world. Hence, journalism must revisit objective narratives to include subjective stances, so subjectivity could coexist along with impartiality among news reporting. That being said, we still have ways to go in rethinking objectivity.

Initially, objective stances were proposed to deliver quick and concise facts to the audience. It is still predominant in journalistic practices as an efficient method to get to the point easily. As Brent Cunningham, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, suggests in “Re-thinking Objectivity,” the concept also excuses “lazy reporting,” facilitates short deadlines, and protects journalists from the related consequences of stories.

But the truth is, stories are much more complex than facts and numbers. They involve multiple parties with various motives and tie back to messy backgrounds. And subjectivity enables us to dig deeper into those structures.

 

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Categories
News

Protests across Canada against RBC and Coastal GasLink

On Friday Oct 29, people across the country protested against the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in response to its investments in the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is being built on Wet’suwet’en Land.

Over 60 Montrealers gathered in front of RBCs main office in the downtown area, where black paint representing oil was thrown at the steps of the building.

Coastal GasLink is a gas pipeline in northern B.C. In 2020 the pipeline gained international awareness and protests across Canada as the Hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en stated that no pipeline will be built on their land.

The pipeline runs from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, directly through Wet’suwet’en territory. The point of conflict between Wet’suwet’en members and police is along a service road, which is the only way for construction workers to reach working on the pipeline.

A report called Banking on Climate Chaos placed RBC as the worst bank in Canada for sustainable investments, with over $160 billion invested in fossil fuels since 2016. RBC, alongside other Canadian and international banks have invested over $6.8 billion in the Coastal GasLink, according to the Understory, a climate action and forest preservation blog.

Emily Hardie, a member of Divest McGill and a speaker at the protest, said that she believes if RBC didn’t invest in Coastal GasLink, the company wouldn’t have the funds to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Wet’suwet’en territory is made up of 13 hereditary house groups. In 2020 several hereditary chiefs spoke up against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which spiked international awareness and discussion on Indigenous sovereignty.

Yet the construction of the pipeline continues. According to a CBC News article, 140 km of the pipeline has been laid, marking one-third of the project being finished.

The pipeline, “will incentivise fossil fuel companies to extract more from the land,” said Hardie, who explained that the area the pipeline is being built through Wet’suwet’en territory has potential fossil fuel deposits.

“If you choose to invest money in a project that is commiting genocide on Indigenous people, you will lose,” said Sleydo’ Molly Wickham in a video posted by the Gidimt’en Clan checkpoint.

Wickham is one of the supporting hereditary chiefs of the Cas Yikh in the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation.

RBC’s media relations refused to comment on why they invest in the Coast GasLink pipeline, instead of investing in sustainable projects.

“They’re the worst,” said Jacob Pirro, a Mcgill student who has been a member of Extinction Rebellion for two years. “What’s not profitable? Do you know what isn’t profitable: dying. I want to have children, and I want my children to have children. Most children born today will live through the worst of the climate crisis.”

Pirro said that the best way to make an impact is for people who use RBC to go to a different bank, and while most banks invest in un-sustainable projects, there are lesser evils.

The website Quit RBC, created by Extinction Rebellion, states that “RBC will finance climate destruction for as long as it can make money doing so.” Quit RBC has a step-by-step explanation on how to leave RBC and ways to pick a more sustainable bank.

“I don’t think it’s something people think about,” said Pirro, who explained that he believes most people pick a bank when they are young and never change it. “If you are with RBC, you should care, and you should switch.”

Hardie said that while it is important for people to do their part in individual changes, it is also important to remember the importance of systemic change.

The Guardian reported that 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of all global fossil fuel emission. Canadian Natural Resources Limited, one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world, ranks 67 on the list.

In a 2016 article by the Financial Post, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd is one of RBCs top energy stocks, giving investors “the best of all worlds.”

 

Photos by Lou Neveux-Pardijon

Categories
News

After a year of hardship in Haiti, the response from Haitian Montrealers has been disappointing, says one activist

Activist Frantz André is calling on politicians to encourage greater support for the Haitian community

Activists are calling on Montreal’s Haitian community and the Canadian government to take greater action to support the small nation.

From the crisis that followed the assassination of former Haitian then-president Jovenel Moïse in July, to a massive earthquake on Aug.14 that saw a wave of refugees flee to the U.S. and Mexico border seeking safety, it has been a devastating year for Haiti.

Many of the migrants from Haiti and many South American countries were living in makeshift camps near the Del Río-Ciudad Acuña International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas. With little access to food or water on the American side, asylum seekers were forced to travel to Mexico in order to obtain supplies. It was on their way back to the camp where these people encountered the U.S. border patrol.

Images of border patrol agents on horses pushing back Haitian refugees have since gone viral.

Frantz André, a Haitian activist in Montreal who has long advocated for the rights of asylum seekers, said that “The image that came to mind was that we were back to slavery times, with slaves running away from the cotton plantation.” André is a spokesperson for Solidarité Québec-Haïti, and has been a member of the Action Committee for People Without Status (CAPSS). He was nominated by Gala Dynastie for activist of the year and has received the medal of the National Assembly of Quebec.

Montreal is a city with a large Haitian community. Haiti is a former French colony with a large number of French speakers, and this connection is what makes Montreal a popular location for migrants and refugees. Now some Haitian support groups and activists, like André, are condemning the actions of the U.S. government, and are calling on greater action here in Canada.

The reason for the sudden influx of asylum seekers at the U.S. border was the decision to renew a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months by the Biden Administration. Many Haitians thought if they arrived in the States, they would be covered by the TPS. But this was not the case, as the TPS only applied to Haitians already residing in the U.S.

Many of the Haitian migrants who arrived at the border were already living in other South American countries and decided to make the journey to the U.S.

“Many decided, ‘I do not have a good life in Brazil, or Chile or whatever, I’m going to try to get in.’ Because some people do [get into the U.S.] and some people don’t,” said André.

“But when they arrived, most of them didn’t get in and thousands of them got deported to Haiti, even though some of them do not know it. Some of the kids were born in Brazil or other countries in South America.”

Solidarité Québec-Haïti is one such group that has been fighting against the mistreatment of Haitian migrants. The organization hosted a protest in front of the U.S. consulate in Montreal on Sept. 25. According to an article by the CBC news, only a few dozen people attended.

To activists like André, it’s been a disappointing reaction.

“To be honest, I’ve done two protests in the past two or three weeks and we didn’t get the response that you would have expected,” he said.

“Whatever we are doing to defend our community or defend the people back home we aren’t getting the response we used to […]  It’s almost like they have given up on the country or given up on our identity, they have given up on the suffering of our brothers. […] The response is very timid and verbal.”

Haitian people began immigrating to Montreal in the 1960s André himself arrived in 1965 and even though their numbers were smaller at that time André says “There was greater solidarity.”

André says that many Canadian-Haitian leaders have not been taking a strong enough stand.

“We don’t get much from Frantz Benjamin, Emmanuel Dubourg, Nadine Girault, Dominique Anglade and other community leaders,” said André.

Frantz Benjamin, Nadine Girault, and Dominique Anglade are all members of the National Assembly of Quebec, while Emmanual Dubourg is a member of Parliament representing Bourassa. The Concordian has reached out to these community figures, but have not yet received a comment.

In a response made to The Concordian by Peter Liang, a communications advisor with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it was stated that “Canada has a deep and long-standing commitment to Haiti, and we want to continue to strengthen our efforts to improve the lives of the Haitian people. Canada, along with other key players in the international community in Haiti has been engaging directly with the interim government and other actors, to ensure peace and stability and encourage an inclusive dialogue with all political parties and all sectors of society.”

“When I do protests they’re not there,” said André. “Those Haitians that are in politics should be talking about what’s happening and asking the Canadian government to take a strong stand, denouncing and telling the States that ‘What you’re doing is not right. We in Canada are with Haitians and what you are doing is wrong.’ We don’t hear that from Trudeau or any of my brothers and sisters who are in politics.”

Despite a disappointing reaction from the public and politicians alike in André’s eyes, he reinforces that “Getting into the protests, definitely writing to the MPs, definitely writing to Mr. Trudeau himself,” are some of the things that Haitian and non-Haitian Montrealers can do to support the nation and its people.

 

Graphic by James Fay

Categories
Opinions

It’s over, consumption: celebrity culture and climate anxiety

We’re stuck in a cycle of production and consumption, and we’re getting sick of it

Greenwashing strategies from the world’s best marketing agencies have successfully commodified the environmental justice movement. Our culture has a shopping addiction, and it’s going to kill us.

Even those of us that are self-aware about this fact can have a difficult time denying manufactured desires. We have been trained to collectively consume both media and products before we could think for ourselves. Can we really be blamed for finding it a hard habit to kick?

Capitalism pushes the belief that if we cannot consume, we should aim to produce. Our society doesn’t exactly place a great value on simply “being.” The 21st century has brought forth the first period in creative history in which artists are creating “content” rather than their own “art.” It’s created an insular experience that focuses on aesthetics and a culture of fashion “micro-trends” that develop at increasingly rapid rates. And it’s become more and more difficult to source clothing in order to keep up with these rapidly changing trends. It’s hard to tell if the emergence of fast fashion retailers like Shein are a response to the problem or the source of it. We could easily blame influencers, but under late-stage capitalism, I can’t really blame anyone for taking a shot at joining the ranks of celebrity, C-list or otherwise.

We are far too aware that there is a divide between economic classes, and with the democratization of media and a “produce or consume” mindset, it’s not surprising that more and more people are choosing to seek power by producing content in the hopes of attaining at least a modicum of fame. Celebrity, or at least influence, seems to be the go-to escape plan from the collective paralysis we feel about our climate. 

What is it about our culture and celebrities? We are fascinated by them and appalled by their existence. They’re our inspiration and the evidence of our downfall. Celebrity is the aristocracy of the postmodern world. They represent something beyond the entertainment industry, the characters they play, or the stories they write. They represent the small part of the world’s most powerful population that is public to us. Rarely do they hide their material wealth because, unlike other members of the one per cent, they do not have the luxury of keeping their finances or their lives private. They are public figures, and to us, the dazzling glamour can make it difficult to recognize them as real people.

Our relationship to fame is one in which we transform individuals into God-like figures. This process has been democratized, and average citizens and politicians can often reach the ranks of the most famous elite. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a unique example of this practice of glorification. AOC has done a lot of great work in the United States political system, but with that said, why was she at the Met Gala?

The relationship between political figures and celebrity status is a sore topic in the newly post-Trump world. Why risk violating the principles upon which you were elected just to join the ranks of the rich and famous? The Met Gala is an event designed for the most elite population in the fashion world, an industry that famously is one of the greatest drivers of climate change. Why align yourself with an industry that is exacerbating the effects of climate change, when you yourself are advocating for climate reform?

The thing is, the climate crisis we have spent our whole lives anticipating is here. It’s already happening, and we still cannot take concrete action to prevent it from getting worse. This really isn’t our fault, we were born into this mess, but our leaders don’t seem to be doing a great job either. We’re living in a state of paralysis, caught between the desire for the life we were promised and the reality facing us all.

The stability and wellbeing of our planet hinges upon either the embrace or abandoning of capitalism, therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that economic instability impacts our ability to advocate for better. Climate anxiety is our collective nihilism pushing us to take action, but we continually find ourselves with little we can do. Our collective hopelessness about systemic change has pushed us to a point of ecological nihilism.

Ecological nihilism is the acceptance of the climate crisis, and that it will be the beginning of a societal collapse. It’s the final sign that we have moved from paralysis and fear to complacency. It might feel like the end of the world, but if there’s still a chance; we can’t look to celebrities or fiction for solutions.

Last Friday, there was another climate march here in Montreal, which demonstrates that people are still coming together to demand change. Community organizers are not demanding impossible change, it is the failure of our government that refuses to take reasonable action to combat the violence of the climate crisis. We cannot depend on government approval to take action against climate change. The power remains with the people, and it isn’t time to give up yet.

 

Graphic by James Fay

Categories
Opinions

Disappointed, heartbroken, but not surprised

A Jewish Concordia student on the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue vandalism

As a Jew and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, every act of antisemitism feels personal. But this one, in particular, hits close to home.

Last Wednesday, the doors to the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue in Westmount were spray-painted with four swastikas. The suspect also brought a gasoline canister and a lighter, but was apprehended by the synagogue’s security team before the situation could escalate further.

One of the largest synagogues in Montreal, the Shaar is a hotspot for important holidays and life celebrations, and a host for many inspiring speakers. It’s the institution where people cook and deliver Meals on Wheels to 4,000 seniors annually. It’s the place where volunteers bake traditional cookies for the Purim holiday and donate the proceeds to Save a Child’s Heart, a humanitarian organization that provides medical care for children with heart problems who otherwise wouldn’t have access to treatment.

It’s devastating to process that such a horrid antisemitic incident happened to a place with such a positive impact on the entire community.

I used to attend Akiva School, the elementary school that is attached to the synagogue. In fact, the security guard who stopped the perpetrator helped me carry my backpack inside every morning as a child. I posed for my cousin’s wedding photos in front of the same doors that were tainted by hate.

At the Shaar, my grandfather watched all of his grandchildren graduate from elementary and high school — milestones that were stolen from him by the Nazis: the very people who those swastikas represent.

I am disappointed, angry, and heartbroken at this act of hate and the possible further destruction that was avoided by the security team’s quick action. But, I wish I could say that I’m surprised.

The most recently available Statistics Canada report states that 19 per cent of hate crimes targeted Jews in 2018.

In June 2019, a Jewish student was spat on and called a “nazi” at York University in Toronto.

A Dawson College bathroom was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti in October 2019.

And these are only two of the 2,207 antisemitic incidents recorded in B’nai Brith Canada’s 2019 annual audit—8.1 per cent more than the previous year.

This trend is not unique to Canada; a man wearing a Camp Auschwitz hoodie stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. A Jewish man was attacked with a spade outside a synagogue in Hamburg in October. Eleven people were shot dead in 2018 at a Pittsburgh synagogue. In 2017, white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia chanting “Jews will not replace us!” in their biggest and most brutal public assembly in decades.

This increase in hate crimes might be caused by the rise of social media and the platform it provides for hate speech. It could be tied to political unrest in the U.S. and other countries or a desire to find a scapegoat for the problems of our complicated world. Maybe it’s because the memory of the Holocaust is fading with time.

But regardless of the cause, I am outraged that these events keep occurring. I am tired of seeing my community hurt. Nonetheless, I am fuelled by this outrage to speak out against antisemitism and other forms of hatred, and I know that many others feel the same. In fact, social justice is an intrinsic part of Judaism known as “tikkun olam,” which literally means fixing the world. However, this value is something that anyone can bring into their life. And though fixing the world is a large undertaking, progress can be made in small strides and through a commitment to peace and understanding.

Complicity and silence must be replaced with education and discourse — not only about antisemitism, but about other instances of hatred and racism. I urge allies to stand beside us by following Jewish and anti-hate activists, asking questions, sharing our stories, and standing up when you hear people you know make harmful “jokes” or comments. When people come together to learn, discuss and hear one another, we can assure that while the pain won’t disappear, its cause will not be repeated.

 

Feature graphic by Lily Cowper

The Age of Slacktivism: BLM Advocacy Beyond Keyboard Crusading

Don’t deny it: whenever an atrocity like George Floyd’s death occurs, many of us flee to our social media.

We’ve been taught and told by others that change can be incited from our fingertips. We see the abundance of Black Lives Matter posts being shared and if we don’t follow the herd by doing the same, it gives off the impression that we aren’t true activists. There is a false sense of commitment to the cause, an instant gratification that comes with sharing a Martin Luther-King Jr. quote or changing our twitter handle to #BLM.

Slacktivism is the notion that people can advocate for a certain issue with minimal effort and involvement, while still believing they are making a difference. We might be locked to our couches right now, but that doesn’t mean we have to succumb to a slacktivist approach.

Sharing endless quotes, tweets and Facebook posts is like pouring a glass of water on a ravaging house fire and hoping it does something significant. It’s the bare minimum and yet, there is a certain pat-on-the-back feeling we get from doing it. Long before Floyd’s death many have abused this approach, including myself. This approach allows us to be involved in the conversation from a safe distance. Many of us want to do more, but just don’t know where to begin.

As a white anthropology student, I have been introduced to a multitude of advocacy approaches that I had never considered in the past. My own positionality has led me to seek out these approaches, knowing that while I cannot experience the pain of racism firsthand, I can use my voice to prevent these injustices from being silenced.

Last year, one of my professors launched into a 40-minute improvised lecture about how useless slacktivism is, a term many of us surprisingly hadn’t heard before. The faces around the room ranged from anger to disappointment to outright shame. “Do you really think these short-lived sentiments are going to start a revolution?” my professor asked. Sure, the act of sharing posts and signing petitions has good intentions, but it only goes so far.

In an article titled “How to take activism beyond your keyboard,” author Maggie Zhou writes, “Don’t fall into complacency and give yourself smug pats on the back … acts of allyship aren’t meant to tickle white egos.” Zhou’s article also links numerous reading materials, social media accounts worth following, and practical steps to be a proper advocate.

Awareness is unquestionably necessary, but if you’re relying on the passive act of sharing a post to absolve yourself from your white privilege and to reconcile your past faults, you’re not advocating for the right reasons. Reach out to your black friends and family, read works written by black writers, support black businesses, listen to podcasts, donate to an array of funds, educate yourself and, if you’re not sure about something, ask!

With all this in mind, I’m not saying you need to abandon your social platforms. Instead, I ask you to think beyond the means of advocacy you’ve been taught and become comfortable with. Decolonize your media, as Zhou puts it. If you can afford a music subscription or a new pair of shoes, what’s a small donation to a worthwhile cause? If you really are strapped for cash, prioritize educating yourself and others—it’s free. If you can educate even one person and enable them to re-evaluate their thoughts and reactions to the current movement, you’ve just become a catalyst for change.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Concordia statement on Black Lives and demandsfor an anti-racist pedagogy

 

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Portman gets called out for flashy cape

You may have heard Rose McGowan’s name concerning Natalie Portman’s dress choice at the Oscars this year.

McGowan, an American actress and activist, spoke out on Facebook about how she thought Portman’s cape, with the names of female directors who weren’t nominated in gold writing framing the dress, was “lip service.”

In this post, McGowan touched on many interesting points about Portman’s statement piece, alluding to the fact that Portman, being the A-lister that she is, needs to do more than just wear an expensive cape. McGowan explained that she’s not brave, and there are warriors that are taking on gender inequality everyday, and Portman shouldn’t profit off the work of these other women. Other criticism of Portman’s action are related to her directing and acting experience, implying that she has not made an impact on helping women directors grow.

According to CNN, Portman responded by saying “I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it. Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”

Then, later that week, according to The Guardian, McGowan responded with a Tweet saying “My critique should’ve been about Hollywood’s ongoing culture of silence. I realise that by critiquing someone personally, I lost sight of the bigger picture.”

So there’s a few things happening here—McGowan was mad, Portman was naive, and I’m tired.

All in all, the situation deflated quickly and anticlimactically. Yet here you are, and I’m going to talk about it anyway.

At first, reading McGowan’s post made me frustrated. Why was she so mad? Portman did a thing. It maybe wasn’t changing the world, but it was a thing. Can she calm down?

Then after thinking about it a little longer, I realized that I wasn’t being fair. McGowan’s anger is valid and important. It’s easy to dismiss angry women, and I think I do it more than I realize. There’s space for this anger in the fight for gender equality. This kind of anger moves the conversation forward. McGowan is on to something, true activism isn’t shiny and gold. It’s messy, hard and unpopular. It takes sacrifice.

It’s important for us to continue critiquing celebrities and their media coverage, because these actions affect our culture. We are in a new era of people sharing their opinions online and we are still figuring it out. It’s unprecedented.

We are expecting our celebrities to be political and wise, when many of them are just doing a job. Is it lip service? Or is it better than nothing? Who knows, but this open dialogue, although uncomfortable, is the catalyst for change. We need to move away from cancel-culture and toward conversations like these two women have shown.

Natalie Portman is allowed to wear a fancy cape and Rose McGowan is allowed to be angry about it. That’s feminism.

As for my personal opinion, I defer to Edna Mode: no capes!

Graphic by Sasha Axenova

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I’m a journalist and an activist. Deal with it

In September, the Global Climate Strike took the world by storm with approximately 7.6 million people marching for climate action.

According to its organizers, this was the biggest climate mobilization in history. People sent a clear message to their governments: they expect climate action, and they expect it now. With approximately 500,000 people striking in Montreal, this was the largest strike in the city’s history, said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

I was part of the march both as a journalist and an engaged citizen. I wonder if my objectivity could be discredited, since I personally share values with some climate activists and align myself with certain environmental movements.

Many journalists think it’s important to keep a distance from groups and movements, at the risk of losing credibility and thus the trust of readers. I’m aware that I have my own perspectives that impact the filter through which I view and describe events; and inevitably shades the, so to say, “truth.” However, I truly believe that being aware of these biases can only encourage me to be more objective and motivated to deliver the “truth.”

Objectivity is thought of as an absolute – journalists are either 100 per cent objective, or not at all. But in fact, journalists, like other human beings, are all subjective. They too, have their own interests, values, opinions and ideologies. I believe that, consciously or not, these values shape who they are, what they think and how they act as citizens as well as journalists. My personal interests are based on environmental and social issues and I believe in climate change and the need to act now. The planet is the number one subject I want to report on and I believe my interests and experiences in this field can add value to my journalism.

There is also this fantasy that journalists are independent and serve only the public. In theory, journalism is meant to deliver the truth and help the readers make their own opinion about the world, beyond the influence of any source of power, such as the government or private companies. I believe that in reality, even the most conscientious and cautious journalist can be influenced either by powerful sources or by various situations. For example, influences may come from the political views of the news organization the journalist works for.

Moreover, in my opinion, there are always two – if not more – sides to a story. The concept of “balance” can give you the impression that both sides should always be covered equally. But should they really? Journalists can sometimes give equal voice to people of unequal knowledge. For example, when covering stories linked to the constant debate on the existence of a climate urgency, journalists tend to grant equal importance to both scientists and global warming sceptics. Fearful of being seen as biased or discriminating certain opinions, they sometimes don’t help but confuse and mislead the public opinion.

Also, depending on deliberate choices concerning the materials used to depict an event or news, such as the composition of the pictures taken during a protest or the words used to describe the event, journalists can convey different sides of a story. They may do it unconsciously as they are sometimes just following news conventions, like publishing a picture showing the one violent demonstrator in a peaceful protest. It makes a more compelling photo than showing peaceful marchers, but I don’t think this depicts the actual event as it happened. I believe it is part of the journalists’ job to break barriers between people of different opinions and not only share what people do, but why they do it.

As part of my studies as well as my personal interests, I decided to join an environmental movement last July, to better understand activism and its link to journalism. Born in France, known for its revolutionary people, I had never joined any protest or any march before and had always thought protesters were very different from me. But the more I started attending protests, the more I realized how alike we were. This made me realize that there is a very powerful stereotype among the public opinion concerning activism. More and more, I could see that activism was often portrayed as violent, and activists as harmful troublemakers.

On the other hand, when I went to protests myself, I could see how peaceful they actually were and how cautious they had to be to fight against this misinterpretation commonly held in the public opinion that they’re the ones messing with the system. I believe journalists matter in this, since they have a certain influence on the public opinion.

Journalists decide what is news. Journalists are the ones to attach relative importance to news events. Readers interpret those events through the language that journalists choose to constitute their coverage. 

It’s obviously very difficult to leave my personal interests out of my work life, and I think that it’s a journalist’s responsibility to have integrity in their work. There will always be an inherent link between the authenticity of my work and my values, and it would be hypocritical to hide it. I strongly believe that if I acknowledge my personal interests, am conscious that I may have biased first reactions but am willing to try my best to deliver factual reports, I should not be considered any differently than other reporters, and I believe my knowledge of the ecological crisis can make me even better equipped to talk about such issues.

 

Photo by Britanny Clarke

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