Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 152: Vancouver Podcast Festival: Podcasting Climate Change

Speakers: Paige Smith, Am Johal, Chief Patrick Michell, Julia Kidder, Eugene Kung, Grace Nosek

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Paige Smith  0:03
Hello listeners. I’m Paige Smith. Welcome to a new year of Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. We are starting 2022 with a special live event recording from the most recent Vancouver Podcast Festival. Our host, Am Johal, was invited to curate and moderate a panel discussion on ‘Podcasting Climate Change’, inviting special guests to speak to how podcasting might be able to shift the mainstream conversation on climate. In this recording, you’ll hear Am in conversation with Chief Patrick Michell, Julia Kidder, Eugene Kung and Grace Nosek as they share ideas about how to resist despair and have media coverage that centres climate justice, Indigenous sovereignty, and de-colonizing media. I hope you enjoy the conversation.

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Am Johal  0:56
Hello, welcome to this special edition of Below the Radar. We're a podcast based out of Simon Fraser University. It's wonderful to be participating with the Vancouver Podcasting Festival. I just wanted to begin by recognizing we’re coming to you from the territories of the Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people. Really excited to get into the conversation today on podcasting climate change. How do we talk about the climate emergency in ways that move us away from despair and disaster coverage? How can podcast shift the conversation, in ways the mainstream media cannot or refuses to do so? And how do we talk about climate justice, Indigenous sovereignty and decolonizing the media? Before I introduce our guests who are going to help us get into this conversation, just want to give a special thanks to the Vancouver Public Library. They've been an important part of ensuring there's free programs each year in the Vancouver Podcasting Festival. And VPL's Inspiration Lab is taking part in the Vancouver Podcast Festival each year, offering free courses on podcast creation, and Inspiration Lab at Central Library is dedicated to digital creativity, collaboration and storytelling. They offer free workshops and have equipment, software and spaces, for creating all kinds of digital projects all of which are free to use with your library card. So thank you to the Vancouver Podcast Festival and the Vancouver Public Library. Today joining us are four special guests it's gonna be wonderful to be in conversation with them. Chief Patrick Michell is of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band, lives in BC's Fraser Canyon all his life, and has worked with his community to establish foundational stability in air, water, food and shelter with supporting resilient systems. Julia Kidder is also with us, who's an interdisciplinary artists communication specialist researcher and currently a PhD student at UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. And Eugene Kung is a staff lawyer with West Coast environmental law working on tar sands, pipelines, and tankers. And Grace Nosek is the founder and student director of the UBC climate hub, as well as a doctoral student at UBC. So welcome to all of our guests. And we're going to kick things off first of all with Chief Patrick Michelle. So please join me in welcoming Chief Patrick.

Chief Patrick Michell  3:20
[Speaking in Nlakapamchin] …Am, and of course, the Vancouver Pod Festival. [Continues speaking in Nlakapamchin] I quickly just said, thank the Creator for this day. And of course, the event organizers, and introduce myself and my traditional name as [Nlakapamchin name] or also known as Chief Patrick. And T'eqt''aqtn'mux is the traditional community name of Kanaka Bar Indian Band. How do we talk about climate change in a new way? I don't know about you guys. But the first thing I had to do with Am, was I said, what the hell is a podcast? Well, I still don't really know what it is. But I guess we're doing one right now. So welcome. I guess it's a new way to talk about climate change that I never heard of before. I can tell you guys this though, for Kanaka Bar Indian Band and myself in 1990, we started observing climate change or something. Weird things are happening in the ecosystems. The water levels were starting to change, the ecosystems were starting to shift, the salmon were becoming less and less than in the river, berries were not — there was a lot of stuff. And with awareness, we didn't know what was going on. But we figured it out damn fast. When a 12-year-old child speaks in Rio, we listened.  Severn Suzuki spoke in Rio in 1992. 

Chief Patrick Michell  4:42
That's how long we've been talking about climate change. What's changed? Alright, so let's just say that since 1992, June 30, to 2021, the Kanaka Bar has been issuing the warning signs about climate change, much like the rest of the speakers that are coming up. We're are of a few people who are aware that climate change is real, that we should probably be doing something about it. And that's an important part of the conversation. Because every time we say no to something, we get trolled. Apparently, that is a sign that you're doing a good job. I don't know about you, but it really hurts. It's so bloody obvious. Look out your frickin window. Don't sit there and say it's not happening. But more importantly than how do we get away from that conversation that's based in anger, and fist shaking, and maybe signs? So we've been using common sense and reason since 1990. And we've made some progress. So we do presentations. And the first document I want to refer to is a presentation from November 5 of 2019. I call it — that document, and the accompanying document, I call it the courage of Minister Heyman. Because he had the courage to give a Chief a live microphone without a mute button or a bleep button. I'm going to do better today on podcasting, although I understand that you can say a few expletives every now and then. So I'm looking forward to Grace and Julia, take it away. But also Kanaka Bar has a website. So the two documents is on our website. So this is from 2019, I spoke in front of the premier and his cabinet, and all the chiefs of British Columbia. Look at that document, I couldn't be more explicit. This is what's happening. This is what we're experiencing, and it's going to get worse, you should probably stop doing what you're doing, and start investing in your tomorrow. Because you never know when a heat dome will come in, or an atmospheric river will come in. We can't say for sure whether it's — I don't know, tonight in Prince Rupert? How about November 15 in Kanaka Bar? We can't really predict the weather. Climate changes impacts are producing extreme weather events which feature heat, wind, rain, and freeze. These are your four demons, I call them the climate change wolves. They’re going to come across your infrastructure that you built in 1940, and are going to tear it apart. I call them straw homes and infrastructure. They're going to come across your stick homes and infrastructure and you're gonna tear them apart. Then why the hell aren't we building brick? The products are there to build a resilient BC in Canada, but we're not. But I shall — I'm going too far ahead, I only got 10 minutes. And I know Am, you guys can't see Am, but maybe you can. He's going to start doing this stupid — [tapping on watch gesture] I usually stick to my time frame. So please have a look at the November 5th documents, because our BC government has. Then I want to fast forward really quick to a presentation I did to the engineers and geoscientists of British Columbia. Our impacts, what you do the land you do yourself, is producing cumulative effects, which is producing climate change, which is unleashing the climate change wolves. Okay, the extreme weather events — which again produce impacts. As we speak, the railroads are here with hundreds of pieces of machinery fixing their rail lines, but there's still no plan for my roads. I don't understand that. How — I believe there is some old guy down in the United States who says “it's the economy stupid,” right? So I kinda quote a lot of people, sometimes I don't know who they are. For example, there's this other guy down in United States who says “we're the first generation of people who are experiencing climate change impacts, and we're the last generation to do something about it. So we should probably do something about it.” Anyway, as always, I digress. Kanaka Bar, so any introduction — Kanaka Bar has established air, water, food and shelter security. Yes, we have. We've been investing in resiliency for a hell of a long time. While Lytton was burning — so Kanaka Bar is located 18 kilometers south of Lytton. While Lytton was burning, while BC was burning there was a state of emergency. At one point on a Friday night, the rabbits got out into the goddamn cabbage. When you invested in security and certainty, you're going to be okay. Yes, there's a shitstorm going on in the watersheds. But as long as you've taken care of your centres, you'll be okay. We were completely surrounded by wildfires. And if that's the worst thing that Kanaka Bar can say, holy cow. And we don't want — our hearts are breaking, for the people of Merritt right now, or in Abbotsford and in Chilliwack. Our hearts are devastated, because the governments — the very people we put into power didn't stop doing what they were doing. COP26, fast forward to COP26. Okay? Justin Trudeau says “Lytton, was a town in British Columbia. And I said a town because on June 30th it burnt down.” Well, I was pissed off. On June 30th., at four o'clock my wife texted me and said, "our solar panels have generated 30,000 kilowatts of electricity, our five ACs have consumed 18,000 kilowatts of electricity." And then she sent me a text of four thermometers reading 53 degrees. We were not 49.6°. We had been at accessive 50 degrees, for almost four weeks. It's called extreme heat. We hadn't had rain in eight weeks. And now we had this incredible convection wind, everything that was said, you're going to be experiencing disaster. And [what was] Canada’s response was? Businesses as goddamn usual.A damn bitumen train rolled by, because Canada's hot spot needs more bitumen. Then a lumber train went by, and that son of a bitch is on fire at 2:30. And then the last train through Lytton at 4:30 was a coal train. Coal, because Lytton, Canada's hotspot needs more coal. There was no restrictions on transportation. Canada allowed the railroads to operate as business as usual, while the rest of us regulated by the province couldn't even cook a hot dog. Alright, so business as usual for Canada. 

Chief Patrick Michell  4:42
And it happened, somehow a fire started on CNR’s Right of Way and within 20 minutes I lost my home. Not angry about it, don't cry over spilt milk. But it's now been over what 130, 140 days — I used to keep tracking a little sticky how many days it's been. I've managed to move my family we lived in a six bedroom, two bathroom house, as an intra-generational home.  My mother in law, my wife, myself, my kids and my grandkids, and my nephew. There was eight or nine of us living there. I was still at work when I got a text at five o'clock. "Honey, come home." "One of the grandkids had pooped." "Honey, somebody just sent me Lyttons' on fire." "Honey, our reserves' on fire." And then I lost touch with her. I got into the goddamn car. I was working, and I pull up towards Lytton and I found my wife on the side of the road crying. She only had a dress on. All three grandchildren were naked. The dogs were barking, we couldn't find the cats. My eight month pregnant daughter — she was in contractions. Nobody was speaking. I just got into Kanaka Bar, I rushed to town. I hoped that I could save my house. But it did not. So I've been in full blown responsible now since June 30th, 2021. Now talk about kicking a goddamn guy when he's down. How about losing the highways that we escaped on? Now we have the rain, heat, rain, right? Wind, freeze. Look out your window, is climate change real? Now we're podcasting it, now that means there may be one or two people out there [acknowledge climate change] — because for the most part, I look at my YouTube videos, sometimes we can have almost 57 people checking out Kanaka Bar. Nobody seems to give a rat's ass about climate change. But we do. We're here talking about it because we're demanding action by our federal provincial governments. You've got to break the status quo. I didn't - I don't tweet, but Greenpeace does. So Am can certainly share the Greenpeace tweet that was done. There's also A Life at 50 Degrees, that's where my wife and daughter speak. British Columbians are suffering, Canadians are suffering. Canadians are also dying. And yet we continue to frack the tar sands. And yet we continue to export LNG. And yet we continue to build — tripling our fossil fuel exports. How can Trudeau stand at COP26 and say, to the world, "we got this, don't look at the fact that I'm tripling fossil fuels. We're not responsible for downstream emissions." So rather than keeping the fossil fuels in the ground, we're tripling our fossil fuel extraction and export. Alrighty, so I'll leave it at this though is that Kanaka Bar Indian Band — we are against TMX, we articulated to Canada. Why? I don't know if the letters are out there, but you can certainly go on YouTube. That's the one that's got 57 views, why Kanaka Bar is opposed to a pipeline — one, the ecosystems can't handle it, and two, it's inconsistent with a global existential crisis. So we said no. Guess what? The Indigenous peoples of Canada have said yes. And the Indigenous people of Canada have said no. And then DRIPA which binds BC, when the state will get the free prior informed consent of the Indigenous peoples, before the issue of land and resource uses. We said no, and we're getting it anyway. So what that means is DRIPA in Canada, and a buck 95 will get me an extra large double-double from Tim Hortons if I can get there. Now I know Eugene is a lawyer, and I know Grace is doing lawyer type things. The way I want to end my presentation about climate change is - if you make the investments today, you'll be okay tomorrow. You have to build resiliency and sustainability. But that comes at the expense of one thing, profits. But if Canada can't say no to pipelines, and if BC can't say no to things like Site C — ask me. Eight thousand years my ancestors managed the land and resources for our children and grandchildren. And in 150 years we're facing a global existential crisis. If you don't have the heart and the mind and the balls, then recognize my inherent title, the ability to say yes, and the ability to say no. Because Kanaka Bar Indian Band has given a free prior informed — no, we're getting it anyway. So I will end with this statement and I'll leave Grace and Eugene, or you guys to look it up. Let justice prevaile though the heavens may fall. If you can't say no, I will. Thanks, Am.

Am Johal  16:02
Chief Patrick Michell, thank you so much for leading us off. I just can't even imagine the hardship your community has gone through. And in surrounding communities that are continuing to face these challenges and Merritt in the Fraser Valley and many other places. As you said, the freezing weather is coming as well. So this certainly isn't the end of it. Next, I'm going to ask Julia to share some thoughts. Welcome, Julia.

Julia Kidder  16:31
Hi Am, thanks for having us here. And Chief Patrick, for sharing your words, I mean, you're a really tough act to follow in so many ways, but just describing these cascading colonial cumulative effects — business as usual, and climate emergency induced traumas that are just going to keep happening in — with shorter periods between them. And, when I hear you talk Chief Patrick, it's like you're saying, you don't want your community's voice to be misrepresented or tokenized. Like, with Justin Trudeau name dropping Lytton during his statement at COP,  when he's still very much committed to building the trans mountain pipeline through Indigenous territories where it doesn't have consent. And I feel like the value of these types of conversations, where we can hear somebody like you who has had this experience directly, and also had to face this kind of this — the blank stares, when you're screaming at decision makers to listen to what's happening in your community. There is a value in these types of conversations where you can actually speak from the heart, and you can speak honestly, with directness, without somebody trying to act as an interpreter for what you're trying to say. So I just want to say thank you so much for opening it up with all of that insight. And yeah, I feel like I spent the last few years living in Ashcroft, which is just half an hour drive north from Lytton, up the Thompson River. In a place that's just as hot and is just as inundated by trains and industry — and actually are places like super close, it's like 250-300 meters from the Ashcroft train terminal. And which is the second largest train terminal — inland train terminal in Canada. It's massive, and I was there during the heat dome, when it's 50 degrees, 51 degrees or whatever. Like we're seeing different things on our home meteorological centers, than the weather stations are reporting. And you can hear the trains like screeching by, and our electricity had gone, and because we didn't have any air conditioning, things were kind of screwed up. And I was there, I actually suffered a minor brain injury because I had been up there kind of on my own, trying to figure things out during this heat dome — just simply from getting too hot. Like our brains are getting too hot, our brains are getting cooked in this type of heat. And in those moments, I remember feeling this like super desperation, and just kind of like bubbling rage inside of me. That was just — it's similar to what you described Chief Patrick, this like — I feel like I'm like screaming into this empty void going like, “can anybody hear me? I'm on fire. I can't think, I think something's happening here.” And then after Lytton burnt down, it was just like, “okay, we're so connected — we’re so connected somebody who's like a privileged white person, like I am, is protected from these intense impacts. But we are so connected.” You know, the climate crisis is connecting us and so is this industry negligence, where you have CN and CP continuing to operate. Like it's madness. I'm not going to — I'm going to try not to swear. Even though I know it's hard not to. There's so much to say like, I'm also half Norwegian — I'm half Canadian and half Norwegian. And so I'm from these two like major oil exporting, techno, extractionist countries — I almost said companies, which was just like Justin Trudeau’s little blunder the other day. 

Julia Kidder  20:55
I am just appalled by what happens when these decision makers, these guys who are in charge — they're coming out of COP. And you hear the Norwegian delegation and you hear the Canadian delegation, and you know that they're there and they're okay with the fact that the largest group of delegates actually joined the conference are coming from the fossil fuel industry. And you've got almost half a billion dollars spent on security for the events or — yeah, with Canada's opening comments where he's talking about Lytton, as if he's got this relationship where he knows that it would be wrong to build a pipeline in this climate emergency, and the effect and the impact that that has just had on a place like Lytton. So yeah, we're dealing with all of this absolute mania — and its just like the COP, you know, we went from COP, which what felt ridiculous — I just feel like it was maddening and made me feel, like kind of brought up that bubbling rage that I felt during the heat dome. And these are the people who have sort of like the fate of the world in their hands. But they're eating farmed salmon and shit, and they're saying things like they're going to plant a gazillion trees, but meanwhile we got Horgan cutting down all the last stands of old growth in Fairy Creek. And none of this makes any sense. And then this week, we're dealing with this whole other set of heavy climate colonial circumstances. And we had these deadly floods in Merritt and Abbotsford, and you think about “Okay, well, what was Abbotsford before it was like in the center of all of this agricultural land?” Oh, it was Sumas Lake, and it was drained 100 years ago by settlers because they needed to convert it to agricultural land. And then you think about okay, but Site C, and the intentions of Site C to flood actual agricultural land in the Peace River Valley in the most expensive infrastructural project that BC has ever had, to build this massive hydro dam that's going to provide energy for the provinces’ LNG projects. Which are going to further drive climate change. So I know that we're here to talk about how, how podcasting can kind of make us feel less crazed. Or how we can have these conversations in a way that isn't all doom and gloom, but sometimes we have to also tap into some of that, like, there's some humor, at least, and seeing the ironies of all of these decision makers and talking heads telling us that they're taking climate change seriously, when they're so obviously not. Just in addition, lastly,I won’t go on, because it's hard not to ramble. But also just thinking about what's going on where you have the provinces in a state of emergency because of flooding, and the provincial government thinks that this is some appropriate time to have Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan land defenders be illegally and violently arrested by special RCMP paramilitary units. But they're telling us that we have to ration fuel. It's like, were you guys considering how much fuel you might be using in this extensive, violent operation? And yeah, so I don't know. Some humor is called for for sure. But I don't know if it's never going to be possible to not sit with some of this doom and gloom and seriousness that these crises — these all-encompassing crises, and then you do have these hopeful elements that pop up, where communities are actually working together and for themselves. And when we can be introduced to each other and hear the different approaches we're taking to try and break down some of these massive structures. I think I'm going over time, I don't want to get the axe either so, I'll send it back to you Am.

Am Johal  24:12
Thank you so much Julia, for sharing your thoughts. Next, I'm going to ask Eugene to share his perspective.

Eugene Kung  24:20
Thanks Am. And thank you to Chief Patrick and to Julia, for your remarks and to the organizers for inviting us to have this conversation. I'm a big fan of podcasts, I listen to podcasts a lot, but primarily I listen to things aren't related to my work. I listened to a lot of food and cooking podcasts and other comedy podcasts. As really an escape but also as a way to kind of counter the balance of kind of what we talked about earlier — the role of the media, you know, I have to make comments to the media as part of my job as a staff lawyer at West Coast working on trans mountain. And one of the skills that I've had to develop in that role is to kind of speak in quippy soundbites, things that will match the format of a 30 second summary of an issue for talking about climate change, that is incredibly complex — that has a lot of factors that are systemic, that go beyond any individual actions. And so I really appreciate the format here, being able to get into some deeper conversations, some bigger pieces, to tell the stories in a way that they need to be told, rather than just to try and summarize what's going on in a moment in a 10 second clip. So I really appreciate that. And I think, you know, a few things I wanted to touch on, I mentioned that I work with West Coast environmental law, and I just spent the better part of the last eight years working to oppose the trans mountain pipeline. Which we've been hearing about already, I've been really privileged and lucky to do so in service of, and working alongside the Tsleil-Waututh nation, based here in Vancouver. And really, for me, that enables me to hold and to try and find the hope that we're talking about, which goes beyond again, just individual actions, but kind of to look at these broader and systemic things that are causing climate change. And those are a few things I want to just touch on in the time I have here. So we've heard already, and I'm sure many of us are starting to make the connections between colonization and climate change. And in particular, this notion of dominion over the land, that is one of the founding ideologies of Canada, and I've kind of the Western world, especially civilizations. I was looking at the other day at my grandfather's Head Tax paper, and on the titles it says the Dominion of Canada, right? It’s built right into these documents. And this idea, of course, that humans are separate from the natural world, that it’s here just as a resource for us to extract and to exploit, and that type of thinking results in looking at a forest for example, and saying the only value, or the way to measure the value of that forest is how many board feet of timber you can extract from it. Rather than trying to understand the inherent value of that place altogether. And that of course plays into this liberal thinking about climate, and part of the challenge — part of the scale of this challenge that we're trying to confront right now and face is the reality that we have built this civilization, this structure on a fallacy of cheap energy. And that energy, in particular oil and gas and fossil fuels, like coal, was measured or was captured within our economic system, only by the cost of extraction without really coming to terms or thinking about the impacts and the broader cost of society. In economic terms, they call it externalities, right? It's hard to measure, we just want to measure it, and now a barrel of oil, it costs this much, and that's what we set. So, with this fallacy of cheap energy, we then built an entire society that depended on this essentially wrong cost that we captured. 

Eugene Kung  30:03
And to add to that, we now live in an economic system that is dependent on growth. That growth since about World War II has been increasingly dependent on consumption, consumption of goods, the production of goods, which have also kind of added to this level of — or added to this fallacy of cheap energy. And then, in recent times or not that recent, but in the last 20-30 years, that growth has been fueled primarily by debt to credit. And so it's no wonder that we are approaching the limits of these things, its not a huge surprise. And it's — I get that it feels very challenging to try and shift it, because it almost feels like the air we breathe, and it's just everywhere and its hard to change. But in reality all of these things are based on assumptions that we've kind of all agreed upon, or at least we've all accepted as a society. And that the shifts and the changes that are needed are there right before our eyes, I take a lot of lessons that I've learned a lot in particular from working with Indigenous communities,from learning stories and worldviews that are — that challenge, or that are in opposition to the kind of neoliberal extractionist worldview. And it doesn't, it can be at the same time a radical shift, but also a very subtle shift. You know, just one example. You know, if we talk about how these things are embedded in our legal systems, and legal structures, the pursuit of profit as the like, sole purpose of commercial entity, like a corporation, where you could actually as a shareholder sue a company if they're not maximizing their profit. And both how we conceive a profit and what it looks like — but also, where we kind of place it in the priorities, does make a difference in terms of decisions we make. And I feel very confident that if we had a different way to look at this, if we approached our decisions with a different worldview, a different story about what our relationship is with the natural world, we would not be seeing things like Site C, and Trans Mountain, and Coastal Gaslink, being forced down the throats of Indigenous peoples. In spite of the climate crisis that we're now facing. One other thought I just want to touch on before I pass the mic here is, I work in the environmental nonprofit sector. And I've been working on climate change, and thinking about climate change, basically, since the Kyoto Protocol in the 90s. And, one of the things that at the time, I think a lot of environmental organizations thought was, “we just need to tell people the truth, and it will set them free. Once they're educated about the reality of climate change, it will set them free.” And here we are, 30 years later. And only now because of things are literally hitting people in the face, you know, in terms of the realities that we're now confronting — are we starting to see some action, and it's not too late. But certainly, it's a lot harder now. And I think part of the lesson that I kind of take away from that time, and that that kind of incorrect assumption that just knowledge would set people free, is the importance of storytelling and narratives. I think, Grace is going to talk a little bit about that as well. But I do I just want to really point out that, you know, in this Coronavirus epidemic that we're now facing, I think it's very clear that it's not just about giving people the facts and letting that set them free. It's really also about the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are, what we are, but also to be aware of of how those stories are being manipulated by people in power. And so with that, I will pass the mic. And thank you for your time.

Am Johal  33:23
Thank you so much, Eugene, I think you make such a great point. You know, the science was basically determined in the 70s. And by the time we got to political discussions to, you know, real change hitting the ground, we're still waiting for it. Thank you for your remarks. And I'm gonna pass it over to Grace now. Welcome, Grace.

Grace Nosek  34:40
Am thank you so much. Thanks, everyone who's spoken before me, and to the organizers. Oh, man, there's so much I want to say, I like know the social science of why the truth doesn't set you free. But I'm going to start with some other things. First, I just wanted to say to you Patrick, I was lucky enough to get to hear you speak yesterday, as well. And you gave me a lot of hope in talking about putting people and community above profit and how you've managed to house everyone, and make sure that they have their basic needs met, and how you have really entrenched resiliency in your community. And so it's modeling that future in the present is so powerful. And so I really do encourage everyone to check out the example and see that we can do this. So that brought me a lot of hope. And I'm just grateful for your work. And yeah, I love podcasting as well. I have my own podcast, Planet Potluck, which is kind of a terrible pun that we all have something to bring to the table in the climate fight. But I study, I'm on year seven or eight now of studying the fossil fuel industry's propaganda campaign around climate change. And it is so deep and so invisible. It's so frustrating to me because well intentioned groups do not even know that they're re-trenching fossil fuel industry talking points. They are the master storytellers of our time. And what's even more frustrating is somehow they've convinced everyone else to focus on recycling. And you know, what they're driving and what these things — while they invest billions, trillions of dollars in marketing, in ideas, in stories, in relationship building. And then, of course, in political action. So with for me, it's so important to know who to actually hold accountable, because there is so much rage. But when I just throw it at the wall without being like, actually, these are really the deep people behind this. And I want to hold them accountable. And it's unreal. You know, every carbon tax proposed at a state level in the US has been trounced by fossil fuel industry money, while the fossil fuel industry publicly says that they support a carbon tax. They're saying the same thing now. And they are of course, working behind the scenes to undermine that. That's just one of — I have hundreds of examples in my thesis, which you can find some of them on my website, if you're interested in that research. But one of the scariest is that they go to children, we're talking like five years old, and they start just putting in their minds that they need to be dependent on fossil fuels, that we don't want to regulate markets. And they've done that so explicitly. They know that they need to bring children into the fight, because they're the future consumers. And so that's why I think podcasting is like really one of our greatest weapons against, you know, climate inaction, because it is all stories that you might have with your friends. These kind of compromise conversations, raw, vulnerable, you're telling your own personal stories. And the other thing is, there's like a billion podcasts like, you guys have all heard that joke, what is it called when three men get together? A podcast. And they all have, like a different focus. And the social science says that what we need, is that someone in each community tells their community how their values align with climate change. So in theory, we have these like billions of communities covered, that if you could start introducing in your sports, in your car. I just went on to like a wellbeing podcast to talk about, like radical climate justice. And I will come on any of your podcasts on any topic to do that. And I think that's what's so cool about podcasts. And for the rest of my answer, I'm going to try and model by using personal storytelling, why I think podcasting can be so powerful. So I'll tell you a little personal story of my own, I was catastrophically injured in university. Really, on the brink of death from something that didn't need to be that way, the first emergency room that I went to, didn't believe me, because they thought I was a hysterical woman. And by the time I went back to an emergency room, 36 hours, I was really, I was dying. 

Grace Nosek  39:18
And I have told this story a bit on your podcast actually Am, and in my own podcast, but that's begun something that, you know, has changed my life completely. I — your body does not recover from something like that. And also doctors were really confused about why it had happened in the first place. And so, you know, here I was my entire ability to move through the world shifted, changed. And then I saw doctor after doctor, and each one kept saying to me, like, “I don't know what this is, but it's really bad. And it's probably going to get worse.” And so I was, you know, I was 20 years old. And I thought essentially, that I was on a path towards, if not dying young, than essentially just continuing to have my body break down because I was losing — the loss of different limbs, different functions, like I was just kind of on this downhill path. And so I had this sense of catastrophe, right? Of bodily catastrophe, in my mind. And so when everything happened, it was doubly painful, because something horrible and painful would happen, but also I was looking at it through this lens of bodily catastrophe that the doctors had given me. And so not only was I experiencing the physical pain, I had this emotional, just anguish, that this was it — that I was going downhill, that I was never gonna get better, and I didn't make plans. You know, I didn't build that futurity in my life. I just was trying to make it through. And then so slowly. So slowly, over the last decade, different doctors and more holistic folks started being like, “I don't know what it is, but we're going to treat the pain. And I don't think it's as bad as whatever that doctor said to you. I think that there's hope.” And so we started — I started spiraling in a positive direction. And then once I realized that there might be hope, and that I could be in less pain, and I could get more function out of my body. I tried to do that, right? When, of course, before when the doctors were like, “I'm sorry, this is over for you.” I wasn't going to try. And they said, I would never be able to move my foot in certain ways. And so for me that story, that metaphor is why I think it's so important, particularly to give young people some sense of resiliency, of futurity. Because if they see every crisis, as this is the end, and there's no future for me, then they'll probably feel it the way that I did. Which is really like, the psychological toll of that is overwhelming. And now, I'm moving in ways the surgeons never thought I'd be able to. I never thought I would play any sports again. I was told I was not going to be able to do these specific things. And now my body is starting to. And so I bring that experience, to climate change. I have this sense like, if I continue to imagine a futurity and a possibility, it changes the way that I interact with each ensuing event. Also, I know that the fossil fuel industry is very specifically seeding doomism, and apocalyptic language, and has been doing so for the last 20 years at least. Because it's one of the most powerful ways to make good people who care a lot sit out of the fight. It's super, super paralyzing. So without having like a toxic positivity about climate change, I also don't appreciate some of these particularly male writers, writing these exclamatory "it's all over the world is burning, like, why haven't we recognized [this]?" And I think part of the reason why that annoys me is because communities on the front line will always fight, they always have, they always will. They give their body, their time, their money, their energy. The people who I see using hopelessness as a way out of action are often middle class, and white. And it lets them feel good that "oh, there's nothing I can do about it anyway." And there's a leaked document, Greenpeace actually found this. In 2018, some fossil fuel industry lobbying groups, were trying to water down the clean fuel standard in Canada, which they successfully did. And part of their messaging was we need the public to understand that fighting climate change is a losing battle. Because again, if you think it's a loss, if you think it's going to go down anyway, why change your present? Why sacrifice in the present? Why try to do these things? So I think I'll end there. But yeah, I have lots more I could talk about.

Am Johal  44:06
Thank you so much, Grace. We have a few minutes to get into a conversation. And one of the things I wanted to pull out of something that you all sort of talked about in one way or another is that to some degree, you know, we ought to be angry about what's happening. And anger can be really cathartic. But anger can also lead us down, you know, as you say, Grace, that kind of immobility. And on the other hand, it's also important in activism and social — we need to sustain movements, we need positive stories, imaginative stories. And so how do we deal with both our anger and our desire to be affirmative to tell different stories? So that's one of the questions I want to put to any of you who would like to jump in here. Go ahead. Go ahead. Chief Patrick Michell.

Chief Patrick Michell  45:02
Certainly, I mean, emotion is always welcome. Because the opposite of emotion is just numbness. And I'm seeing a lot of that. And the thing here is with anger, use it to motivate yourself. With fear, don't let it paralyze you. Let it motivate yourself. I read somewhere in a book. I used to have nine, nine bookshelves for the books, but one of the things I read was that if you don't have a reason to live, why live? And I have 22 reasons to get up in the morning. And the youngest of six. [speaking to grandaughter] Stick your head in. This is Serena, she just decided to feed me because she found out I was on a podcast. I have six kids and 16 grandchildren. I get up every morning because it's their future that I'm setting up. I'm prepared to give up everything today for my children and my grandchildren tomorrow. So that's my motivation. If you don't have a reason to live, why live? There's your despair. There's your sadness, there's your anger, there's your resentment, there's your apathy. Or you can be like me, eternal flame of optimism, who gets up every morning. Why? Even despite everybody pissing on me, because there's 22 reasons to get up. And I'm 56 years old, and I am not stopping.

Am Johal  46:22
Thank you. Grace, Julia, or Eugene, did you want to jump in on this question of how we kind of reconcile our feelings around the intensity of climate change? You know, both the anger and the desire to be affirmative?

Julia Kidder  46:38
Just to touch on something Grace said, as well as Chief Patrick, but there's something about envisioning this future that you actually want to live in, and that you want the people that you love, to live in. And to not think that, you know, talking about climate change, and the biodiversity crisis, and these these huge overwhelming existential crises — that we can't talk about the things like love, and that we can't have joy, and that we can't come together in like a joyful way, and learn so much from all of these different approaches, from communities or from individuals who've had to face really, really difficult challenges down in their lives. And I think we forget that, so we do that, you know — we leave the emotions at the door. And then we talk about the serious things that we need to do in order to address climate change, and how much isn't being done, and the systemic changes that are needed. And thinking about what Eugene talked about, we have this fallacy that comes with living in a modern neoliberal market economy that tells us something that's just not true. And we know, and we can feel that it's not true. And, and there's something about kind of, you know, going “Hey, wait a second, this is totally unreal.” This is like, this is the fallacy that has been made up in order to continue to control and extract and this cycle of domination and violence that needs to exist for these really powerful structures to keep, you know, profiting or keep having themselves be the sort of centre players that dictate all of the next steps and the climate crisis. Like, there's so much, there's actually like a joy and a huge sense of understanding the ironies that people are just speaking about. I think that we have to remember that our emotions are central to inventing that future that we want to see. So that we can bring as many people into that future as possible. And podcasting, or any way that conversations can be had that's outside of this kind of framework where your talking points are predetermined is — it represents some hope, I think so. So this is just like, I think this is really major. And I'd love to hear [from] whoever else.

Am Johal  49:16
Yeah go ahead Eugene.

Eugene King 49:18
Yeah, I've got — that we've kind of come here because there's something I've been thinking about and something I still need to do a lot of unlearning around. Which is the recognition that as a species, as an animal, we are primarily emotional, rather than this fallacy that kind of came out of modernity, the enlightenment, and that was embedded within colonization and used to justify, you know, the kind of colonial project. That somehow we went from humans are animals who have the capacity to reason. And in fact, that's one of the things that allows us to do a lot of the things that we do, to this notion that humans are beings that are rational by default. Coming back to you know, this — the earlier discussion on economics, that's the first assumption of the study of economics, is that humans are rational actors who will maximize their utility. When in reality, I think we can all recognize the fallacy of that. And so when we built these systems in a way that puts reason and logic as the only valid way of being, the only valid way of recognizing, it’s no wonder when we face these massive crises. That, you know, the limits of that way of thinking are what's part of what's getting in our way now. And like I said, I have still a lot of unlearning to do on that, I was embedded deeply in patriarchy as well. And the kind of — this way that we think about and value ways of being, but it's certainly a big piece of it. And what I’ll just end on, in this piece for me is like, it's okay to feel angry, it's okay. It's actually really important to grieve these moments, so that you can get on and do that work. And rather than just pretending that everything's okay, and that everything's fine, kind of like that internet meme. So thanks.

Am Johal  51:14
Go ahead Grace.

Grace Nosek  51:16
Yeah, I mean, coming off if there are more pressing questions. But, so I spend a ton of time in high schools. And if you're out there, you're a teacher or a student, and you'd like we have a really amazing climate storytelling course that we run for free. In Metro Vancouver called the Youth Climate Ambassador Program at the Climate Hub's website. So you can request that. But part of that came from the fact that I was speaking to tens of thousands of students, and no one had ever given them a hopeful story ever. And that was my experience with climate as well. You know, whatever the leaders are saying in the fossil fuel industry, that's not what the young people are listening to. Like the fake fossil fuel industry ad saying that, like — they're seeing like, flood, fire, hurricane, they're people being really afraid and guilty. And so we always start the space of any event, just asking them how they feel. Like how do you feel about climate change? Because we know and like, they're doing amazing work on this burnout — Emily Nagoski. That the only way out of an emotion is through it, like you have to lean into it, to process your stress response cycle. And then move on from that. But yeah, I feel it's a real moral prerogative to model a sense of futurity for these young people. And again, that's not how I would show up in a space with boomers or in like the board. But for me, it is all about audience. Like, if I'm speaking at a climate event, I'm probably speaking to people who are already scared or feel despair. If I am speaking in another space, then I'll modulate my tone for them. But to have someone say not only that there is a future, but that you are important to that future, that you matter to it, that you can change. It's like, unreal to see how students bloom when they're given it in that framework. And then they can take that beyond climate change to all these other issues that of course, come together in climate change. And I like mostly, I think of my role in climate change as a hype woman. Like step into your power, you matter, you matter, you matter. And so that's kind of what I think is like really important and interesting and thinking about spaces that people might want to be in who aren't already in the movement. Like how could we attract them into those spaces or go to their spaces?

Am Johal  53:41
Thanks. We're going to be going till about 10 after today, a little bit overtime, I've been given the green light by the organizers here. We have a question from the audience. Can podcast more effectively convey emotions and model effective uses of rage and radical hope in a way other mediums can't? And as more low barrier, do it yourself technology, can podcasts effectively countered the fossil fuel messaging? Or will podcasters be drowned out by the PR abilities of these companies? So Grace? Maybe I'll get you to jump in on this one as someone who works on these questions and has a podcast.

Grace Nosek  54:18
Sure, and this is what I love is because yes, the fossil fuel industry has so much money. But we have the truth. And it's true that the truth doesn't always matter. But truth, love, a protection for your children and your grandchildren. Those things do matter. And so sometimes I joke like, I don't have the fossil fuel industries' billions, but I do have my rescue pup, peanut butter, and the will to fight. And you can reach so many people in that way. I'm really, really leaning into this, like grassroots, empowering people, even if they're just going to tell a story to like 10 people, their community of 10 people, that's amazing, that is perfect. Or if you can get those 10 people to vote or to divest from their bank. That kind of micro organizing viral democracy on climate is incredible. But what we need to be orienting away from is that like, the fossil fuel industry is really trying to make us feel guilty, to recycle, to think about our own carbon footprint. I have so many stories, it's so wild, like this is the deepest conspiracy ever. And so coming back to that and saying actually my power is as a community member. And if there's just one thing you're going to do, it's I would say support land defenders and support frontline defenders. And a report was just released that Indigenous led resistance to fossil fuel industry extraction projects has blocked or delayed 25% of North America's emissions. greenhouse gas emissions, that's unreal. And that's very different from what you're going to get from recycling, which, unfortunately turns out to be a fossil fuel industry propaganda scheme. That they've been doing for the last 30 years because they make $400 billion in profit from producing single use plastics. So I would never shame anyone for feeling like that's the action, but we really need to start this conversation around civic engagement, and voting, and that this is not that hard. And we can do it in community and we can make that beautiful and also that climate is not all sacrifice. That actually, I am one of the happiest, most joyful people because in doing climate work, I'm meeting the best and most empathic, most passionate people and we are leaning together in friendship into creative projects and against an existential threat. So I think podcasting can tell all this.

Am Johal  56:56
Yeah, I was gonna jump in with a question around, you know, Amitav Ghosh, the writer wrote a book a few years ago called The Great Derangement. And he talked about this, you know, giant existential crisis, like climate change, and why weren't writers and artists and others jumping into these questions in an aesthetic sense? And, of course, many are, but I think he was sort of trying to raise the larger stakes of it. And I'm wondering if any of you could sort of speak to, you know, what are the affirmative stories you get excited about? When we're talking about climate change? You know, is it the arts, is it something else? But what are the insights, inspiring stories for you that you think ought to be told?

Grace Nosek  57:39
Chief Patrick, can you tell the story that you just put in the chat?

Chief Patrick Michell  57:44
Alright, thank you so much. On October 15th, the Lytonn evacuees were hurting, they're hurting bad. Nine people have passed. And there's two more suns setting as we speak. These are people have been displaced. They didn't die and Lytonn, they died elsewhere. So that's what we talked about. And it didn't matter what the died of or how, what mattered is they didn't die in their home. That's displacement. Disperse-ment is the fact is the last person who died was in Alberta. She had bought a house in Alberta to get away from this, and she died as she was moving in. And then you talk about the sadness. But then, where then is the hope? And what happens is we gathered on October 15th. And we banged the drum, and we laughed, and we cried, and we shared, and we healed. Because we believed, we believed in each other. And at our request, CNR stopped one train, one train, and the engineer probably thought were going to kick his ass. Instead, Serena lean into the frame, took off her shirt and hat and gave it to her, because it was not the engineers that caused the fire. It was not the trains that caused the fire. It was climate change. We are all Canadians, and we're all suffering. True leadership requires us to have the courage to stop the status quo and find the way forward. I know the only time I was ever stopped in my tracks was the first time I heard Greta Thunberg. Because my grandson is autistic and he speaks in a certain pattern. And I heard her speak. And that clarity and conciseness that is one person I stopped. “Catastrophic change to prevent catastrophic change.” No, I don't think she's like argueing "What are you stupid?" Right? I think there's a difference. They both have an accent but I wasn't quite sure. I'm just saying her is — find your inspiration. The final words on October 15, it is the action of a few that is destroying the world for the many. And it is the act of a few, that will save the world for many. The most incredible people I know are named Am, Grace, Eugene, DOXA, Julia. It is your actions that give hope and inspiration to the very people who are out there. I don't know how many people are listening to this. But I believe in what we can achieve together. Because that's what optimism is. Each and every one of you have fought this fight and you will get up like me tomorrow morning, because you don't have six kids and if you don't have 16 grandchildren, snag a niece or nephew, grab little Susie down the street — watch out for that stranger danger crap. Grab cousin Bob's sister Lucy off of Facebook, find your reason to live and take care of business baby. Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Elvis Presley.

Am Johal 1:00:51
Thank you so much Chief Patrick Michell . We're winding down here. So I'm going to let each of you close up. If you have any thoughts to close with, why don't we start with grace?

Grace Nosek  1:01:04
I feel like I'm taking too much space in this. But I just said that, that inspires me so much. And that's the thing, as long as folks are on the front lines, giving truly, truly their bodies, their limbs, you know, their livelihoods to protecting the clean air and clean water for the rest of us, like I will keep up getting up and doing this work. Which is comparatively just, you know, totally different. It's much easier to do. But I guess one thing I might challenge the audience, is I think we live in a real scarcity economy. Like, for good reason, right? We don't have social safety nets, I'm from the US, we don't have any social safety nets, debt is enormous. And so everyone in their brain is like, if I don't do well on this, and maybe this will happen, and I won't be able to pay my mortgage, or this might happen, and I might get sick, and then this will happen. And I have such deep empathy for that there, there is a reason we feel that way. But also, I think it allows even people in quite powerful institutional positions to rationalize not taking risks. And so I would think, if you can think about really, whether you have a risk that you can take to stand up to change the system, because it is going to take those with, with privilege, any kind of privilege in the system, risking some of that privilege, risking some of that power. And so I try to do that, knowing that those on the frontline are risking so much more than I am like, what what do I have the ability to kind of check? And it's so powerful then when you start seeing, you know, anyone in any kind of leadership position in any community taking a risk. And, and I want to acknowledge that that's hard. And still ask folks to think about which ones they can do.

Am Johal  1:03:05
Yeah thank you, Grace. Julia?

Julia Kidder 1:03:06
I mean, now I'm just thinking about, like, you know, there's a diversity of tactics as well. And showing up for people that work — I guess, it's like, you have to put the — you've got to put the groundwork in to reconnect. I think we've all been, like, you know, of course, with COVID. But before COVID, you know, we're kind of in this time, we're used to kind of being separated from each other and from each other's experiences. And I think about, like what was happening in the heat dome, in the Lower Mainland. You know, you had like, hundreds and hundreds of people dying unnecessarily, simply because they didn't have anybody coming and checking on them. Right. And, and so we have this, like this opportunity right now to reconnect with, you know, with communities — with what we think communities are, with our neighborhoods with just by like, acknowledging people, as you walk by them, and sending out, you know — there are all of these different ways. And then supporting frontline defense and, you know, practicing if you have privilege, you know, like I do. Finding ways to consistently practice and offer mutual aid. In a way that, you know, you can actually — it's not going to be you know. If it's like I don't get a coffee or two in a month, but I can like offer somebody something else. And it might be different every month, if it's money or if it's like actual maybe it's labour, maybe I just need to go help my friend paint her apartment. I don't know, there's like, there's a bunch of different ways that we can show up for each other,  and do it in a way that's really keeping in mind who are most — more disproportionately affected by this crisis, these multiple crises. And I think that I just want to, you know, end on like — hearing from Chief Patrick and hearing how he is waking up every single morning for his kids and his grandkids, and his wider community. It's like this is a practice that we have to we actually have to practice it, and we have to get we have to train ourselves to like, you know, when we wake up — after maybe after we've had a cup of coffee or something or whatever it is you need to do — wash, put some put some water on your face, listen to some loud music, but get like — feel encouraged. Feel it, feel like a lot. This is actually like there are a lot of exciting possibilities and opportunities, in dealing with these crises together and doing it so that we're not going into this like, you know, abyss of despair. So I yeah, anyways, I don't know. Who knows. We'll see what happens.

Am Johal  1:06:03
Thank you. Thank you, Julia. Eugene?

Eugene Kung  1:06:05
Yeah, so much going on. And thanks to all the other panels, I've actually got a lot of inspiration just from this conversation alone. A couple points I wanted to chat about. One, I think within the environmental movement, there was a period of time where the sector kind of advanced this notion that the environment was a separate issue in order to get it on the political agenda. And I think that there are inherent limits that if not already been passed, are quickly approaching to that type of thinking, especially as it relates to climate. Climate change is not an environmental issue alone. It is directly related as we've heard, to health, to the economy, to these broader structures that we live within. And I think that is a shift that needs to happen. And I think it's something that within the environmental sector, but more broadly, all of us need to embed those values into our everyday decisions. Whether we understand them or think about them as environmentally focused or not. Just on this piece around hope, and I often get asked this, when I'm speaking publicly, you know, where do I find hope? Where you get hope? With all these things. I'll paraphrase something I heard from Alexandria Ocasio Cortes, who herself was paraphrasing from Mariame Kaba, which says, “hope is a discipline, it's a practice, it's not something that you find, you know, looking around, and you got to just kind of search for it and then you find it. You have to be it, you have to create it, through our actions and through practice.” It's like muscle memory, like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. So instead of asking, where do we find hope? How do you be hope? How do you show up and live in a way that you want others to also be? And those kind of fractal nature of our society in the way that we relate to others directly around us spreads out like ripples. And for me, that's not something I'm able to do all the time, certainly, but it's something that I sure aspire towards.

Am Johal  1:08:08
Thank you so much. Again, I'm going to give the last word to Chief Patrick Michell. He wonderfully kicked us off. So over to you.

Chief Patrick Michell 1:08:16
That is really hard to follow up, Eugene, how do you be hope? I don't know. I'm a caveman in these modern times. I smell, I look, I act. And I don't know there's one more, but am I? Hope can be infectious, as can be optimistic. I don't know if optimism is infectious. But look at the people who are benefiting from my “Hey, I'm going to get up and say or do things. Yes, I'm going to have a cup of coffee today. I won't swear, that's usually good till about seven.” Right? But you know what? I don't say that. I'll say the 100 words that will build up other people. I won't say the one, that is a conscious power of choice. The Creator gave us two things, life and choice. On October 21st, we broke ground on our affordable housing. On October 21st, we cut the ribbon on a brand new community center that is open for the entire public 24/7, where the lights stay on in a power outage. It stays cool in the summer during a power outage. It stays warm in winter during a power outage, and most import\antly. Come check your Facebook, because the communications are also stayed on. It is all scalable, all replicable. If you want what Kanaka Bar has go on our website, right click and steal, it's called information is power. Right? And we gave it away for free. The secret to Kanaka Bar success is we decided, and then we do. If it's right we live with it, if it's wrong, we've learned from it. The secret is quit talking, start doing. It's time for action. COP26. No more talking. Watch the Arnie video. Thank you guys so much.

Am Johal  1:10:11
Thank you so much to everyone. It's been wonderful to be in conversation with you Chief Patrick Michell, Grace Nosek, Julia Kidder, Eugene Kung. And thank you so much to the Vancouver Podcast Festival and the Vancouver Public Library for helping to pull this together. Have a great evening everyone.

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Paige Smith  1:10:34
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Thanks for listening to this special collaboration with the Vancouver Podcast Festival. I invite you to head to the links in the show notes to learn more about this fantastic panel of speakers, and to explore the work they are each creating. We also want to thank DOXA and the Podcast Fest in general, for creating this space for this discussion and for generously sharing this audio footage with us. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next time on Below the Radar

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Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
January 04, 2022

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