Cybernaut 

Get involved

The North American work ethic that makes it impossible to find time to fix a home-cooked meal, much less protest a new nuclear plant or government decision, has put a damper on activism in recent years. Only college students seem to have the time to line the pickets, and for whatever reason – maybe it’s the nose rings – nobody wants to take these young people seriously.

Activism is indulged as just another phase in human development, an awkward stage between puberty and adulthood – one day they’ll graduate, get a job, and start paying taxes, most people think, and then they’ll grow out of it. Social consciences fade. Riot Grrrls turn into soccer moms, progressives evolve into conservatives, idealists burn out – or so we are told.

The condescending way the Bush government and the major networks treated anti-war activists in the months leading up to the Iraq war is evidence of this. He dismissed the protesters – nearly a million strong in some cities, with numbers greater than the country had ever seen before, including during the Vietnam War – as a focus group.

Despite these attitudes, activism lives. Despite irresponsible attempts by Fox News and others to discredit the anti-war protesters as a bunch of naïve traitors, it wasn’t a fringe group that took to the streets last March – there were businessmen, mothers, fathers, teachers, veterans, students, professionals, tradespeople, union representatives, and more.

If anything, the ranks of activists are getting stronger these days, and it’s largely thanks to the Internet. Now it’s a breeze to sign petitions, take polls, send out newsletters, compile mailings lists, write letters to corporations and members of government, and get the word out about upcoming events and rallies.

And although the mainstream media is slow to acknowledge the size or importance of modern day activism – follow the money for an explanation of why – the independent and alternative media is flourishing online.

The traditional news boundaries also no longer apply. I can register my opinions on events happening around the world just as easily I can protest what’s happening in my own backyard.

Here are a few sites to keep in mind.

www.gov.bc.ca – The government of B.C. Web site is a fascinating resource. While it is a vehicle of government, it also plays by the rules, allowing public commentary on government policies before they become law. Online letter writing campaigns to MLAs and Ministries has helped to prevent the Coquihalla Highway from becoming a tolled private roadway, and have slowed the government plans to introduce the Working Forest legislation. Through this page you can access all Ministries and Ministers, find your MLA’s office, and comment on everything from changes to liquor laws to land tenure applications. Take some time to explore, familiarizing yourself with the site so you know where to go.

www.handsoffhydro.com / www.citizensforpublicpower.com – Both Hands Off Hydro and Citizens for Public Power are tracking government attempts to sell off, deregulate, or otherwise privatize the generation and distribution of power in B.C. and the rest of Canada. Although this kind of privatization is mandated under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the public is overwhelmingly against privatization because they feel prices and the environment are better protected by the government than free enterprise. There is some evidence from past privatization attempts to support this opinion, in the delivery of power and other utilities, including water.

www.wildernesscommittee.org – The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is one of the most vocal and successful activist organizations in the province, with the ability to mobilize protestors at the drop of a hat. They also track opportunities for dissent, letting the public know about open houses, and deadlines for public submissions.

Other strong organizations include the David Suzuki Foundation (www.davidsuzuki.org) and the Sierra Club of B.C. (http://bc.sierraclub.ca).

www.candians.org – The Council of Canadians is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan national group that organizes campaigns at the federal and provincial level on behalf of ordinary citizens. There are chapters across the country, including 30 in B.C. The closest is located in Squamish.

Recent campaigns include: keeping Canadian water and water utilities in public hands; keeping hydro in public hands; pulling out of NAFTA; keeping health care system intact; putting an end to genetically engineered foods until long-term studies can be concluded; and protecting the world’s fresh water from trade and privatization. It’s a busy group, with regular newsletters and calls to action.

www.whistler.ca – Activism, like charity, starts at home, and our elected council is not immune to public opinion. Under the Contact Us section of our municipal Web site, you can find phone, fax and e-mail information for all members of council.

www.bcfacts.org – BCFacts.org was created and maintained by more than a dozen B.C. non-government organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and the Sierra Club. The site focuses mainly on environmental issues, collecting information from a variety of sources, including government, to critique provincial and local governments, corporations, and the other usual suspects.

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