Essay on the recent Parkland Institute Conference

I have been working on more pieces like this as a way to practice essay writing and express my critical thinking. It took me a ridiculously long time to write, and I personally think this piece would maybe get a 60% if graded, so I have a lot of practice ahead of me! Thanks for being gentle in the comment section (wink).

I recently attended the Parkland Institute Conference online. The sessions were spread across three days, with a few “Workshops” scattered within. I mostly found the workshops useless, or rather, the name was inaccurate to the content presented. The sessions were themselves inspiring and informative. The speakers and topics as follows:

  • Dr Pam Palmater, Working Together to Save Our Peoples and the Planet
  • Jim Stanford, Changing Work for Good After Covid
  • Kate Raworth & Ben Geselbracht, Doughnut Economies for Thriving Communities
  • Alicia Elliott, Why We Should All be Activists: What Haudenosaunee Philosophy Can Teach us About Our Responsibility to the Earth

There were a few common themes running through the four sessions, which is unsurprising and just goes to show that they chose their session topics and presenters wisely! The first that really stood out for me is the respect for Indigenous knowledge. And the requirement that we (white, settlers, Global North, etc.) must go back to that in order to find our best way forward. This is linked directly to colonization and de-colonization work we must be doing in ourselves and our communities. In her presentation on Doughnut Economies, Kate Raworth spoke on how Indigenous groups organize themselves, and asked the question “can westerners learn to understand again”. I often think that we have lost so much thanks to our racism and colonialism, how can we even begin to quantify that. Alicia Elliott spoke about how “progress” created the mess we are in (progress mixed with white supremacy). I cheered when Dr. Pam Palmater exclaimed “what about jobs?! As if jobs trump lives, as if jobs trump having a planet!” These two Indigenous women were a powerful and steadying open and close to the Conference. A lof of my personal anti-racism, anti-fascist, anti-white supremacy work and learning lately has been link to the land. This stems from my Not Ladylike Community and recent trips to the mountains and other parts of our province. I instinctively know that we must respect and return to Indigenous knowledge and ways of being in community with the land, but I am still learning what that will look like and the work it will take. Both Alicia and Dr Palmater spoke to that in significant ways. “The land is part of the Haudenosaunee so they protect the lands as they care for themselves,” says Alicia, ever the poet and essayist. Dr. Palmater was a bundle of energy throughout her presentation, and shouts “land back!” Land back equals resources back, but it also means respecting Indigenous sovreignty and governance over their territories. Echoing Alicia, they were born to protect these lands.

This leads in to the next theme, which was top of mind during the other presentations: we have to get rid of what’s not working, not just try to reform it. Looking to the future that we want, what do we need to disrupt to build something new. Something that ensures everyone can thrive while respecting the wellbeing of our planet. Jim Stanford spoke to pre-pandemic problems making working situations specifically worse during the pandemic. One of the solutions is that workers must have the power to raise issues (with their employers or the state) and then win change. This impacts all other solutions to changing work for good, and involves turning many industries on their heads. Kate Raworth encourages us to escape the old idea of constant growth and insists that if we want to change the future we must change the dynamics. I know from experience that manyfolks cannot imagine a future where we are fighting the climate crisis and still enjoying a high quality of life. I agree that it’s difficult to imagine the possibility. But as Nanaimo did, we can divest (as individuals and communities) and move funds to ones that better meet our environmental goals. And maybe that will help our imaginations expand. In response to a question about capitalism vs. socialism, Kate Raworth stated that she doesn’t use those terms. She’s going beyond and getting to the heart of enterprises. The old things are not going to be useful going forward, so let’s get excited about the new ideas. And see how we can push these new ideas forward. This was very inspiring, and something Alicia Elliot stated later reminded me of this: “so many things in our modern world become irrational when considered against Dish With One Spoon Treaty or Seven Generation Knowledge.”

Which brings me to the final theme: everything is connected. And y’all, I am petering out of this essay. It’s been a long time since I wrote one. And I kind of forget how to do it. I have so many great point highlighted from the notes I took, but I am struggling to summarize them in my own voice. I want to capture the feeling and the inspiration I felt in every session. So I am going to dial it in with a list:

  • Human rights and environmental protections are not popularity contests, we are not waiting for a consensus (from Dr. Palmater’s session)
  • White supremacy isn’t a fringe issue; it is the foundation of our society (from Dr. Palmater’s session)
  • When you figure out your boss is trying to kill you, you get angry and fight back! (from Jim Stanford’s session)
  • The Economy = Human Beings
  • Canadian identity = nature as separate, nature as extracurricular (from Alicia Elliott’s session)
  • The nation-state is different from the people who live in Canada, but the nation wants us to believe they are the same things; it is imporatant however to distinguish them (from Alicia Elliott’s session)
  • Everything is interconnected; the doughnut framework allows us to look at it holistically and see all the connections and be connected (from Kate Raworth’s session)
  • Consider land a gift to be acknowledged every day (from Alicia Elliott’s session)
  • The hole in the middle of the donut are where people are falling through; “leave no one in the hole” (from Kate Raworth’s session)
  • Our only constraint is US, our capacity, our ideas, our ingenuity (from Jim Stanford’s session)

I continue to read through my notes, and get re-inspired to be courageous, vulnerable, and build the community we need. I am sorry this essay was mostly garbage, but as I continue to learn and grow I hope to at least inspire you to do the same.


Dr Pam Palmater

Alicia Elliott

Jim Stanford: Centre for Future Work

Kate Raworth: Doughnut Economies

Maude Barlow

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