Why 'Slacktivism' Matters

This is a guest post by Tania Lown-Hecht from the Outdoor Alliance.

In the last decade, social media has transformed how people relate to each other and the rest of the world. For people who experienced their adolescence before the Internet, this digital world can sometimes seem like a simulacrum of the “real thing.” Most of us have heard complaints about “slacktivism” on our social media feeds, the phenomenon where people post about advocacy issues they care about on social media.

Critics of slacktivism believe that social media posts amount to little more than making the poster feel briefly good about him or herself. While I initially bristled at the idea that social media advocacy could be effective, over the past year I’ve fallen in line with my millennial brethren. Here are five pieces of evidence that “slacktivism” is anything but slacking — and that we should all be using this low-investment, high-yield form of engagement to get what we want from policymakers.

The Case for Hope after Harper

This article originally appeared on Alternatives Journal.

What is it about activists that they can’t even be optimistic for one day after a whole decade?” 

The disgust and disappointment on my 16 year olds face is somewhat heartbreaking as he pours cereal the morning after the Canadian election and surfs the comments on my Facebook page. I can only shake my head sadly and agree with him. 

Wouldn’t it be great to be fueled by hope instead of fear as the late Jack Layton urged us in his letter to the nation? For just a minute could we not take a deep breath and focus on all the things that we know will now change?

My sons have never known a Canada that was not under Stephen Harper's thumb. For the last decade they have listened to their parents shock and outrage over the weakening of our environmental laws, the lack of transparency, the erosion of democracy, the muzzling of scientists, the attack on environmental groups, the disregard for Canada’s constitution.

Along the way we tried to keep hope alive. We painted a picture for them of a Canada that valued evidence based policy. A Canada that led on the world stage to create critical international agreements like the Montreal Protocol. We talked about how lucky we are to live in a democracy and how important it was for us to participate, to organize and to vote. 

Together we watched the election results come in from coast to coast and I watched the hope and optimism on my sons face as he listened to Justin Trudeau’s acceptance speech. “Sunny ways!” We all yelled, half-hysterical and grinning ear to ear. “To the end of the Harper Era!” We cheered as we raised a glass in jubilant toast. 

Our exuberance made the next mornings conversation all that more painful. “Is he really no different?” “Why can’t people ever be hopeful?”

Why not indeed. 

Voting Should Be About Values That Make Canada Great

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

When my grandparents arrived from Japan in the early 1900s, Canada was far less tolerant than it is today. Women and minorities couldn’t vote, nor could Indigenous people who had lived here from time immemorial. In 1942, the government took away my Canadian-born family’s property and rights and sent us to an internment camp in the B.C. Interior simply because of our ancestry.

Canada has come a long way in my lifetime. Women can vote, as can Asians, other minorities and Indigenous people. Homosexuality is no longer a crime punishable by imprisonment, as it was until 1969. We’ve learned to take better care of each other through rational social programs like universal health care, welfare and unemployment insurance, and a culture of tolerance for the many people from diverse backgrounds who contribute so much to our peace and prosperity — many of whom came here as refugees or immigrants seeking better lives.

Because of my family background and all I’ve witnessed, I take democracy and voting seriously. That’s why I’m dismayed to see the current federal election descend into a divisive discourse that reminds me of all we’ve worked to overcome.

Harperism and the Decline of Altruism in Canada

Over the past year we have seen a growing body of public opinion critiquing varied aspects of what is now termed ‘Harperism,’ for many a vexing and disturbing approach to Canadian governance.

My own criticism of the syndrome is increasingly annoying to my wife. ‘Your anger about Harperism seems to have deep emotional roots; it’s bigger than just — you need to dig deeper to discover its real cause.’

Well, I have. A key aid to my political exploration has been E. O. Wilson’s 2012 book, The Social Conquest of the Earth. The dust jacket commentary refers to it as the ‘summa work’ of his legendary career as an ecologist. Wilson is the living heir to Darwin, and a Professor Emeritus at Harvard.

He aids my political critique of Harperism in his rational analysis of eusociality — the most advanced level of social organization. Eusociality manifests as our collective ability as Homo sapiens, brought about by the evolutionary process of group selection, to empathize, to be compassionate, and perhaps most important, to be altruistic.

After reading Wilson, I was able to define my angst: I think the current Conservative government is presiding over a diminution, even a dismantling of eusociality in its many unique Canadian contexts. Simply put, we are diminishing state-wide altruism.

Silencing Scientists Threatens Evidence-based Decision Making

    This is a guest post by Michael Rennie, assistant professor at Lakehead University and former research scientists with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. This piece originally appeared on the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression website.

    Decision makers need information to help them make decisions. And those decisions can be best evaluated when all the facts are in. But who supplies “the facts,” and how can we trust that they are unbiased?

The traditional role of government scientists has been to provide those “facts”; as a former government scientist, it was part of my job to provide unbiased advice to decision makers in forming policy. This has become more difficult given recent legislative changes and budget cuts, as well as a shift in emphasis away from basic science and towards advancing the intellectual property interests of private industry.

These changes have made both the “doing” of government science and the communication of scientific findings from government scientists to the public far more challenging than they need to be.

Objectivity is the cornerstone of scientific investigation. Scientists seek answers to how the world works by co

Trust, Social Licence and Spin: A Tale of Two Countries

When B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett visited Southeast Alaska this summer, his aim was to calm critics of the province’s aggressive push to build at least 10 mines in northwest British Columbia, close to the Alaska border.

I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said at a Juneau news conference. “There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that.”

What led to Minister Bennett taking such a conciliatory tone? An unprecedented outpouring of concern from a powerful alliance of Alaskan politicians, tribes, fishing organizations and environmental groups perturbed by the modern-day gold rush alongside vital transboundary salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

Indeed, long-held perceptions of Canada as a country with strict environmental standards and B.C. as a province that values natural beauty have taken a near-fatal beating in Southeast Alaska, where many now regard Canadians as bad neighbours unilaterally making decisions that could threaten the region’s two major economic drivers — tourism and fishing.

Alaskans emphasize they are not against resource extraction, provided there are adequate environmental and financial safeguards, but believe Canada’s record — most recently illustrated by the Mount Polley mine tailings dam collapse — shows that B.C.’s regulations are not strong enough to protect downstream communities.

Canada’s Election is a Painful Race to the Middle

The latest leaders debate was an unwatchable mess that resembled a malfunctioning Chuck E Cheese animatronic puppet show. But what made it truly sad was that the three men competing to lead our country had a verbal pissing match over who could build climate-torching pipelines the fastest. It epitomized the race to the middle that this campaign has become. Just look at a graph of how party popularity has changed over the year. It looks like snakes in a feeding frenzy.

It was a helpful reminder that voting is important, but not enough. Leadership isn’t going to come from the top down on climate. And that leadership vacuum is what the newly released Leap Manifesto is meant to fill. But it’s been fascinating to watch the media react to this thing by dusting off their cold war rhetoric. “Know who else has manifestos? The Reds. Know who else leaps? Chairman Mao. And frogs…”

It's Time to Talk About a New Vision for the Canadian Economy

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

The federal leaders’ debate on the economy focused on important issues — jobs, deficits, infrastructure spending, pipelines, climate change — but no one talked about a different vision for Canada’s economy.

What if we challenged our leaders to answer the dilemma posed by American journalist Charles Bowden: “Imagine the problem is that we cannot imagine a future where we possess less but are more”?

Not being able to even imagine an economy without continual growth is a profound failure.

A better economic vision would support the right of all Canadians to live in a healthy environment, with access to clean air and water and healthy food. It would respect planetary boundaries and provide the moral imperative to decrease growing income disparities.

Climate Summit Marks Attitude Shift in Alberta

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips

This article is authored by Binnu Jeyakumar and originally appeared on the Pembina Institute's blog.

The days of denial are over,” said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, kicking off the 2015 Alberta Climate Summit held last week in Edmonton. She was sending a message that Alberta’s attitude and commitments around climate change are changing.

The summit focused on exploring viable options for progress on climate change, with the participation of stakeholders from across the spectrum. More than 300 people filled the room, representing the oil and gas industry, the electricity sector, First Nations, unions, environmental groups, municipalities and the provincial government. The excitement was palpable as participants discussed both the reasons to take action and the opportunities now available.

The summit explored policy solutions in several areas, including carbon pricing, renewable electricity and energy efficiency. If you want more context on climate policy in Alberta, Pembina’s backgrounder from August is worth a look.

Dasiqox Headwaters in Tsilhqot’in Territory Threatened by Amarc Mine Exploration

This is a guest column by Russell Myers Ross, Chief of Yunesit’in Government, and lead organizer in the development of the Dasiqox Tribal Park, supported by the Friends of Nemaiah Valley.

Amarc Resources (TSX-V: AHR) will commence drilling this week at a site inside the Dasiqox Tribal Park in central British Columbia — despite not having the consent of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

The drilling, located in a high-altitude, ecologically sensitive area, is scheduled to start without the consent of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and Yunesit’in Government — two Tsilhqot’in First Nation communities that have launched a land-based project called “Nexwagwez?an,” meaning “There for us” in the Tsilhqot’in language. Nexwagwez?an, or the Dasiqox Tribal Park, was announced on Oct. 4, 2014, and consultation remains ongoing.

Amarc, a B.C.-based mineral exploration company, is focused on developing one site in particular for a copper mine. Amarc says the IKE site is located in “the heartland of the province’s producing porphyry copper mines.” 

It just so happens that this exploration site is also located at the Dasiqox headwaters — at the heart of the Tsilhqot’in’s traditional and ancestral territory. The IKE site’s glacial waterways feed into the Dasiqox (Taseko) salmon-bearing river.   


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