My Future Sold to the Highest Bidder

Social Movements create real change

By: Kaleigh McGregor-Bales

A few days ago, I arrived in Durban, South Africa for COP 17. Being pretty grumpy from the 36 hours of travelling, I could easily complain about the lack of stable internet the cockroaches and the terrible weather (I thought I left Halifax?).

The reality is though; I am incredibly privileged to be here and I am not here without sacrifice. At one time I would not have been allowed to go school to get the skills I need, or get a job to pay my expenses. It is because my grandmother’s generation struggled for women’s rights that I am here. I can attend school and have opportunities such as this because of those who came together and worked for a common goal, against the incredible weight the status quo holds, to win these rights for future generations.

I would not be here or doing this work if it were not for the struggles and sacrifices of others. It is also important to recognize that I live and study on Mi’kmaq territory. The genocide perpetrated by my ancestors against the inhabitants of Turtle Island is also a part of my past. It is colonialism that has caused and continues to cause the massive devastating impacts of the climate crisis.

When I was a kid I was a big daydreamer and often I’d dream about my future. I dreamt about going to university or college, falling in love, getting a great job and having children. I dreamt of having two kids who would play in the woods and lake like I did, who would be fortunate enough to go to school like I did and who would grow up healthy and happy.

As I grew up I began to realize that my future and my kids’ future wasn’t going to be like I dreamt. As the forests where I played were paved over, as more and more ‘smog days’ give children respiratory problems and as I realized that the resources in other countries that my consumer culture relies on are dwindling. I also realized that the cost of education is becoming increasingly unaffordable. And most recently, realized that next year when I graduate I am unlikely to  find a job in my field of study.

What was more difficult to  figure out was why this was happening? Eventually I realized that my future has been sold off to the highest bidder: the fossil fuel industry.

Oil companies are the biggest funder of our current government. Our government has not only retracted Canada’s internationally legally binding emissions reductions commitments but is lobbying to reduce commitments in other countries. Our government is subsidizing the Tar Sands and supporting pipelines that will lock us into a fossil fuel future leading to climate catastrophe. Simply, our government is working for polluters not for the people of Canada.

This shook  my basic assumptions about my country. Didn’t I live in a democracy by and for the people? Wasn’t the government supposed to act in our best interests to preserve our future?

My future, our future, are being stolen from us. Would I stand there and knowingly watch someone steal my bike or my laptop? No, I wouldn’t. I’d stop them. So how can I stand there and watch my future be stolen from me? I can’t.

Fighting climate injustice is really scary but when I think back to the struggles of my grandmother’s generation who won the right to vote and made great progress towards gender equality I have hope. And when I think to the struggles of other oppressed people who fought for rights against the status quo. Women were ridiculed for demanding the right to vote. People thought it was impossible, even absurd that slavery would ever end. Yet, the power of people coming together to change things that at one time seemed impossible gives me hope and strength. To draw inspiration and courage, I look to the struggles of indigenous people in Canada who are fighting for their right to their land, their health, their sovereignty and rights.

After all that has been won through people’s struggles, I cannot stand by while the rights we have fought for in Canada are being compromised by our current government. I cannot stand by while the genocide against the Indigenous people of Canada continues, while the carbon colonialism stretches across the planet, causing death and irreversible damage.

So that is why I am here. I really really truly thank all those who struggled and sacrificed so that I could be here today. And I know with courage, resilience and strategy we will win our future back.

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