When Two Worlds Collide- Participating in a People’s Assembly in Charlottetown…from Mexico

Written by: Lena Phillips

My blog entry yesterday focussed on elevating the importance of Canada’s East Coast as a climate affected region. Integral to being able to do this is engaging East Coasters themselves and empowering them to make positive change for their communities. Growing up on PEI, environmental action was not a major part of Island culture. Sure, there were existing institutions and activities such as national and provincial parks, hunting, and camping that Islanders took part in quite regularly; the Fisheries, Agriculture and Tourism industries are the largest on PEI, all of which are very much reliant on the Island’s natural environment. But the link between these and how they were impacting the environment was vague. My high school was the largest school on the Island and environmental groups and activities were way under the radar (if they existed at all). 

Fortunately, I’m starting to think that the Island mentality is shifting, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I found out recently that there was going to be a People’s Assembly on Climate Justice in Charlottetown! In fact, it happened tonight and myself and Emilie Novaczek (a fellow Islander on the CYD) were able to Skype into the conversation from Klimaforum (the alternative conference happening alongside the UN Negotiations- about an hour outside of Cancun in the middle of a large, forested area. Check out their website). I was elated to see something so progressive and so important happening back home. Climate change is already affecting the East Coast in major ways both environmentally and economically (see my previous blog post for more details). Emilie and I joined the conversation about an hour or so into the Assembly. We contributed to the discussion by speaking to the importance of having Klimaforum as an alternative space parallel to the UN climate negotiations. We were also able to answer questions about the power dynamics between countries like Canada and the developing world and how that manifests at the UN meetings. It was a pretty cool way to connect with those back home, particularly since both parties were participating in alternative meeting forums.

If PEI is going to effectively respond at the local level, community members are going to have to see climate change not only as an environmental or economic issue, but as a moral issue. Having a People’s Assembly is an inspiring start to this transition. Way to go PEI! You stand as an example for other small communities in Canada’s East Coast and beyond.

For more information on People’s Assemblies in Canada, click here.

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