Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This past Saturday, Edmonton joined the growing number of cities around the world in the Occupy movement.
It all started on Wall Street in New York last month, when a grassroots group of individuals decided that they had enough of corporations getting tax breaks, bailouts, and other economic benefits not available to the average person, laden with taxes, debt, and other financial woes for which there are no subsidies or bailouts. The "occupation" involved camping out in the financial district of the city.
Soon, other groups of activists in other cities began doing something similar, in solidarity with the Wall Street campers, but also because this sort of economic unfairness happens all over. Corporations (and the people who run them) are only 1% of the population, while the other 99% pick up the slack.
October 15 was the Canadian day of action, and Edmonton saw at least 1500 people fill Churchill Square for a rally and march. Afterwards, around 50 or so people set up camp in a park on 102 Street and Jasper Avenue, where they remain as of the time I am writing this blog post.
The Occupy movement has taken a lot of criticism on two fronts: one, that is it is leaderless and two, that there is no clear agenda of what exactly people want. To address the first issue, a movement does not necessarily have to have a leader per se. A grassroots movement is exactly that - a group. Decisions can be made by consensus or in whatever way the group decides. The Edmonton model has been run via consensus.
As for the second, there are lots of things people tossed around as demands. Does a protest necessarily have to have one thing as a resolution? My summation, when asked, is that we need a more just economy that supports everyone, instead of putting corporate interests above all else. How that should come about - now, that is something that can have many different theories. There have been a number of general assemblies where the people involved in the camp discuss their strategies for effecting social change. I have not attended any of these, so I cannot comment further.
The same can be said of the peace movement, of which I am also a part. We all agree that war is wrong - how we achieve peace is where we have different ideas. We dialogue. It's all part of the process.
Occupy Edmonton is one of the largest rallies I have attended in around six years of attending, organizing, and participating in the activist scene. Obviously, a lot of people are concerned about the way our economy runs and it is not something to mock or ignore, whether or not solutions are immediately forthcoming.
In fact, I was recently asked about immediate, concrete results coming from a local protest. My answer is that the purpose of protests like marches and rallies is not to bring about immediate results. It is to raise awareness and to speak out. Again, this is all part of the process. It is a forum for expressing ideas and to educate others. People always ask me after events, even if they did not attend but see my photos and videos online, what the issues are. This brings the chance to educate. And then they tell me their perspective, and I learn from them.
There are always activists who get defensive when questioned about their motives, particularly because we have a tendency to get ridiculed for our actions and beliefs. It is unfortunately when lines of communication get muddied, but these experiences do not change the underlying reasons for the protest in the first place.
Whether or not Occupy Edmonton (or the Occupy movement in general) will have any long-term, lasting effects remains to be seen. However, it is a large-scale, bold example of free speech and democracy in action, and for that reason alone, should be encouraged.
To view my entire photo set from the march and rally, click here. For a video play list of all of the speakers and music, click here.
And a disclaimer: I was involved in some of the organizing of the Occupy Edmonton event on October 15 and sang at the rally.
Friday, October 07, 2011
I love photographing flowers, and orchids are a particular favourite. Orchids have an incredible range of colours and their shape is sensual and compelling. Thus, I was thrilled to attend a preview of the new display in the Feature Pyramid of the Muttart Conservatory this afternoon.
Orchids: Mystery and Romance celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Orchid Species Preservation Foundation. The arrangements are colourful and unique, and feature stories and myths surrounding orchids. It runs from October 8-23. It's a short show because orchids have a short blooming season.
My favourite part of the exhibit is the rainbow made entirely of orchids. As well, there are numerous explanations of myths and stories about orchids from throughout history.
I can't imagine how many hours were spent putting this whole show together. I go to the Muttart on a regular basis, and this is definitely one of the most intricate shows I have ever seen there.
Saturday, October 01, 2011
The annual UN International Day of Peace flag-raising ceremony happened on September 21 outside of City Hall. I sang "I Only Ask of God," by Argentina singer/songwriter Leon Gieco. The rest of the program consisted of speakers, The Raging Grannies, and, of course, the raising of the flag, which says "Peace" in over 50 different languages. Here is the complete video playlist.
A few days later on September 24 was an international day of action on climate change. Moving Planet Edmonton was the local response, organized by Edmonton 350 (visit 350.org for more information). I performed "Butterflies and Rainbows," a song I wrote about the tar sands, and received one of the most interesting introductions ever at one of these sorts of rallies! Here is the playlist of all the videos from the event.