30 September 2018

On Becoming a Political Person

My husband and I are at the Green Party of Canada biannual convention this weekend in Vancouver. Some lovely friends convinced us to come, and our shared hotel room has been like a grownup's slumber party. ;-) 

One of the nicest things about attending this convention has been running into dear old friends from the environmental movement who, like us, have found their political tribe in the Greens. Loved your new music video, The Gasoline Breakup Song, Franke and Billiam James! "Sound Activism" ... fabulous! And Dr. Warren Bell, it was good to reconnect after years of watching your continued online activism and involvement with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. (My hubby, Dr. Peter Carter, was a founding director of CAPE in the mid-1990s.)


I'm going home psyched up to help people understand proportional representation (PR) so that they vote "YES" in my province's upcoming referendum on PR. Our first-past-the-post system puts all the power in the hands of one party, even if they have less than 50% of the votes. See Fair Vote Canada.

Elizabeth May's speech at Saturday night's banquet (the most vegetarian banquet I've ever attended!) was, in turns, quite moving and very rousing. What got the most resounding applause? When talking about the climate crisis, she said:
"The Green Party doesn't want to be a one issue party but if the one issue is survival then there is only one issue."
— Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada
Another highlight for me was the Saturday morning keynote address by Caroline Lucas, a British politician who in 2010 was elected the Green Party's first Member of Parliament. She said several things that resonated for me, for example: "You can't just bolt the environment onto business as usual." Exactly! We need a transformation in how we "do business." (You can watch her half-hour speech here, from 3:00 to 31:44 — https://www.facebook.com/GreenPartyofCanada/videos/1825623187581859/.)

It's been interesting for me to observe my reactions at this political party convention. I'm proud to say that I helped Elizabeth May get elected twice now — she's my federal Member of Parliament — but it simply meant putting her bumper sticker on my little car and manning a Saturday table at the shopping centre in my tiny community before the election. I wasn't "involved in politics." It was something Caroline Lucas said that reminded me to be watching the political machinations this weekend:
"Complacency is a more dangerous enemy than denial."
— Caroline Lucas
And what I witnessed was a kinder, gentler political "beast" than I knew possible. Mind you, check out this refreshing UN address by New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, about her government's determination to focus on kindness. Kindness! Imagine that. (I've started her speech near the end, but it's worth listening to the whole thing.)

Don't get me wrong, the Green Party members in attendance at this convention got plenty excited at times and were generous with their standing ovations. They are certainly not a staid bunch. But the feeling here is that if they can't achieve their goals and still be decent people, then their goals aren't worth achieving. Souls are not for sale in the Green Party. People don't have to sell out any part of their beliefs or ideals. (Although my friendly amendment to a proposed policy to make it more ecologically literate in its wording — "people and other animals" instead of "animals and people" — was not accepted via the consensus process (too many red cards), which I'll admit was a bummer for this newbie. Our language choices can have a transformative effect, but some people either don't realize that, or are more comfortable with status quo — i.e., biblical — understandings of our species. But the consensus process worked to keep things rolling along ... and I can always try again another time.) 

Anyway, I just wanted to share my #GreenConv18 experiences with you. I hope that wherever you live and with whatever time you have available, you can contribute to making our political systems kinder, gentler, more ethical, and perhaps a tad more ecologically literate. 

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?