The First “LEAPing Beyond” I: Why These Workshops? Advocate, 12/07/2016

This Saturday, I hosted the first in what will be a series of workshops on ecological values and policy. They’re part of my role as Vice-President of my riding association for the New Democratic Party. 

At our convention this Spring, we decided to discuss the LEAP Manifesto, Naomi Klein’s set of principles for building a civilization free of fossil fuels. This discussion has a few inescapable problems to deal with, though.

One is that a kind of schism has opened up in the New Democratic Party because of LEAP, at least in wider public perception and the media clickbait surrounding our Edmonton convention. 

An image of the Alberta oil sands from the air. From the
CBC Nature of Things documentary, "The Tipping
Basically, the NDP is torn. There’s a grassroots environmentally-minded membership that generally agrees with its call to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as possible and tear down their extraction infrastructure. And there’s the government of Alberta, which is NDP, led by Rachel Notley, a prominent member of one of our party’s political dynasties.*

* As is Avi Lewis, the less important member of the Klein-Lewis duo. Klein is the philosopher of the group. Lewis is her cameraman.

That's why we voted for a discussion instead of an outright adoption. Well, because of that and the second inescapable problem of LEAP and the NDP. Most of the basic principles in LEAP are in the NDP policy book already. 

All the calls for renewable energy and drastic emissions cuts are there – we just didn’t put a timeline on it or call it a manifesto. Or make a big deal about it across our media channels. We've normalized the politics and policies of a renewable energy transition already. 

There’s a larger philosophical issue here too. The problem with manifestos, as my esteemed colleague in blogging has put it, is that they’re inherently reactionary documents. LEAP sets out a vision for the future, but does so from a perspective of rage at the current world. 

Not that the current world isn’t worth raging at, for obvious reasons. But LEAP is simply a statement – this is wrong, it must be fixed, here is how we must do it, this is what the world must look like at the end. It isn’t even 2000 words long. It's a demand. A fist hitting the table. 

To make it actionable, we have to talk through it. We have to figure out how to put these values and demands into practice in our everyday lives. 

Klein's conception of energy democracy is, for me, the
most philosophically interesting part of the entire LEAP
Manifesto. It's a concept that reminds me of some of
Antonio Negri's new theories of the commons.
Which brings me to the last problem with the LEAP Manifesto: It’s only about emissions. Yes, it talks about the intersectionality of a whole host of environmental issues with emissions reduction – pollution, transit solutions, poverty and inequality, affordable housing with sustainable energy use, a glimmer of a truly radical conception of energy democracy.

But after the scream of rage, the ball is in our court to do something about it. That's where my workshops come in, and that’s why they’re called “LEAPing Beyond.”**

** Is it still too much? I still feel like it might be too much. Hey, Dynamic, let me know if it’s too much.

We have to deal with environmental and ecological problems, intersectionally. Because they all intersect. That was the first lesson we took away from the first workshop last Saturday. We can’t reduce emissions without also overhauling energy infrastructure, boosting our public transit network’s capacity and convenience (inside our cities and among them), or changing our city’s entire relationship with housing and home-building.

And since I’ve already rambled so much for my prologue, I guess I’ll dig in to the actual issues and policy ideas we discussed tomorrow. . . . To be continued

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