Going into university, I was a pretty right wing guy studying politics and economics. A course in Aboriginal Canadian politics introduced me to European colonization of the Americas. Back then, I did not know many people who were thinking about colonization. Our Aboriginal professor walked into class late, wearing a hoodie. He was late because he had been detained when he entered the building by security who demanded, “What are you doing here buddy?” That was pretty much racism, eh. His class was different than any other class. We sat in a circle and learned about the clan system. I acquired a new perspective about how Aboriginal people continue to be exploited and held down. I dug behind the surface and had to reconsider why Aboriginal people are so poor. My simplistic view that Aboriginal people choose to live in poverty didn’t stand up any more. I began to understand my privilege – my advantages. I began to realize that social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand and this challenged my old ways of thinking, which had conveniently compartmentalized these issues.
That class on Aboriginal politics was a turning point in my life because it exposed flaws in the capitalist political system in which everything is up for sale. There are certain things money can’t buy. You can’t monetize a human life – someone’s health – the air. The capitalist system is supposed to be a true civilization, yet only the wealthy benefit. A system that causes so much pollution and pain seems like a degraded civilization. I began to see the incongruence between neoliberal politics and life. To participate in that system is to contribute to its exploitation. I was on the wrong team!
After leaving university, I continued to evolve toward a position that values both equality and the environment. This may sound silly but it is interesting and compelling.
Changing to an ecocentric worldview is difficult because money plays such a large role in our lives. The more I saw and understood that the political economy was morally wrong – that it hurt people and degraded the environment – the more depressed and angry I became. I don’t think that the solutions to the current ecological problems can be found in capitalism. It took about five years to detach from political economics. I have no faith in a system based on infinite growth and expansion; it is simply not sustainable. One way or another, I believe that the capitalist system will collapse and that it will not be an organic evolution. We are heading toward a post-capitalist era.
I changed teams. My goals changed. Now I focus on family and friends, my community and nature around me. I am part of nature, so I try to live harmoniously with it. I try to reduce our family’s ecological footprint through the five R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, renew, and respect for the earth. I network with like-minded people in my community through the local Transition Network where I promote bikes as alternatives to cars, and reusing as a way of reducing consumption. I keep on learning toward a resilient, earth-centred way of life by reading books, watching videos & documentaries, gardening and walking the trail along the river. Being in nature lets me experience how all things are related.
Becoming a parent changed my perspective. Now I try to live by the Aboriginal teaching about leaving enough for the next seven generations. I want my children and grandchildren to be able to swim in Lake Winnipeg, but it is becoming so polluted that they may not be able to swim in the lake, as I did. My children and grandchildren may not enjoy the things I enjoyed because of the decisions made by my generation. They won’t have the option of swimming in Lake Winnipeg if we continue to use it as a toxic waste dump. ‘The next seven generations’ – that is my ethic; it holds spiritual meaning for me.