On the Road to Climate Justice with Carrie Saxifrage - Voices from the Frontlines

by: Sara on 04/02/2015

Carrie Saxifrage, author of The Big Swim, Coming Ashore in a World Adrift has hit the road on her cross-country book tour by Greyhound bus. Her first stop was last night at Chapters in Kamloops.

In this compelling and unusual memoir, Carrie seeks out the places where science meets self-discovery. She explores significant subjects such as sustainable forestry, nature-centered philosophy and First nations culture to discover that the greatest adventure is learning to align how you live with what you love.

Carrie is going to be blogging from the road to share the ups and downs of the modern-day book tour with the added element of keeping her carbon footprint low. In her first blog from the road, Carrie shares the importance of support from local environmental organizations-like 350.org -to the success of the tour and highlights how climate change has touched and mobilized the communities she visits.

And yes, I am the marketing coordinator with the "elf genes" Carrie mentions... I prefer to think of them as pixie genes as I would rather "dance in the moonlight to the sounds of frogs and crickets" than "sit upon the breast of a sleeper and give him bad dreams"...but either way the magic of Carrie's stories will enchant and delight humans of all shapes and sizes. Click here to see when she will be in a city near you.

electric car

Gisela in her electric Smart Car

In my book proposal to New Society, I wrote that I wanted to promote The Big Swim across Canada – by bus. Sara, New Society’s marketer for The Big Swim, warned me this might not be so easy. She’s slight, with long thick hair, perhaps due to elf genes. “Book stores will only host readings if you can help build an audience,” she told me. “Even well-known authors read to empty chairs.”

In December, I looked up the Greyhound web site for towns in which the bus stops and then environmental groups in those towns. 350.org shows its chapters on a convenient map and Kamloops had one. I decided to start there and found Gisela Ruckert, who tirelessly replied to my questions and promoted my reading at the Kamloops Chapters Bookstore through her networks.

Today I sat in her kitchen overlooking the Thompson River. She’s a bit younger than me, with crisply trimmed silver hair, glasses and blue jeans. “There’s no bad view in Kamloops,” she said. Rain clouds slanted over the sagebrush hills across the river.

Gisela became aware of climate change after to moving from South America to Kamloops in 2000, and began eagerly reading English newspapers again. She became increasinly concerned by the climate news. She found others in Kamloops – an accountant, a retired judge, a physiotherapist, a teacher – who felt the same way.

“We had a great feeling of hopefulness leading toward 2008,” Gisela told me. “We did 350.org events in Kamloops, candlelight vigils and rallies. It felt like building a movement.”

Then the 2008 recession hit and everyone stopped talking about climate change. “All that hope and solidarity


Carrie and Peter Pagnotta, Manager of Kamloops Chapters

not only dropped off the national agenda,” Gislea said, “it dropped off individuals’ agendas. People didn’t think the time was right; that the economy came first.”

The Kinder Morgan pipeline goes through Kamloops. The twinning (“More like tripling of capacity,” Gisela commented), gained the support of Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar and the City Council after KM agreed to route the pipeline through the protected Lac Du Bois Grasslands instead of digging up backyards, and then gave the city $750,000.

Kamloops 350 now focuses on proportional representation. After two federal elections, it had become clear that the lack of proportional representation was a primary obstacle to government action. “Polls show that three quarters of Canadians support governments setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions even if it means higher energy prices,” Gisela told me. “But that’s not reflected in government priorities. Thirty-nine percent of the vote should get 39% of the seats, not the entire federal policy.”

Kamloops 350 supports Fairvote.ca and Leadnow.ca. “We give presentations on renewing democracy through cooperation. It’s well received. It feels like we’ve found our feet again. People are talking more about climate change again. We’re on an upsurge.”





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