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I won’t let you down

Not long after the global climate strikes, a poem came across my twitter feed. Named after a documentary about climate change, in Fanny Choi writes, in How To Let Go Of The World:

Among a growing list of promises I can’t make my friends: This weight will tether. You can come back up again.

Today I am in Montreal, in Canada, and it is election day. It’s mid-autumn and the leaves are everywhere from a stubborn green to a bright red. The fire in the trees here is an illusion. It’s supposed to be this way. The West coast saw fewer fires this year. My friends ask: Is it because so much of it has already burned? I don’t know the answer. I want to add to Fanny’s list of promises I can’t make my friends: I think the worst of it is over.

At a poetry reading a few weeks ago, the first truly cold night of the year, my friend told me that when the big disaster comes, whatever it is, she isn’t going to wait around to see if she can survive. I knew what she meant. I’ve been watching Doomsday Preppers with my partner when I’m too tired to do much else. A prevailing assumption: when the Great Bad Thing happens more people will be with you than against you. You must prepare with rigorous independence.

Fanny Choi writes:

I say when like disaster hasn’t already come, isn’t already growing in the yard. Do I have to run through the list? The firefighter prisoners–my friends’ islands slowly swallowed–war in my faucet, remember? Syria is the name of a drought. The name of this hurricane is Exxon, Exxon, I shout.

A friend, who belongs to the same First Nation as me, scoffed one of the first times we hung out alone together. Independence, he said. What a persistent myth. Our people lived for a very long time on the assumption that we’re no use without each other.

More promises I can’t make: If we act for something instead of against something, we can change the world.

Last year on Halloween I broke several months of sobriety at a friend’s wedding. I was feeling shy and out of place and heartbroken. I was dressed as Tina Belcher. I tried to play them a song as a wedding gift, but it was too late into the night and I was too drunk and I messed it up. It was pretty dark, anyway: The song is written by a young Jewish man about his grandparents, who fell in love as teenagers at the onset of the second world war. As their city was overtaken by fascists, their citizenship in the only country they had ever known was stripped away and they were sent off to gender-segregated work camps. The song tells the story of the way the singer’s grandfather clung to the memory of his lover, and that this made him brave when he wouldn’t have been. He survived. So did she. They found each other when it was all over and lived as happily ever after as they could.

Fanny, again:

When the disaster comes, some of us will stand on the rooftop to address the ghosts. Some of us will hold the line. Some of us will look for the shards, run our tongues along the floor.

In this great mess of harm, I am trying to reduce it where necessary. Voting is one way to do that. When the voting is over we will have more work to do. This is how this works.

Today, at the polling station and at work and on the long walk home, it’s Max Bemis’s lyrics I’m clinging to. They are the promise I was trying to make my friends at their wedding. They’re the promise I’m trying to make with my vote. They’re the promise I’m trying to make when I do whatever I have to do after.

When the disaster comes I want to be holding the line. I hope you are there and you are holding it with me.

Max Bemis sings in Alive With the Glory of Love:

I won’t let you down. I won’t let them take you. I won’t let them take you. Hell, no. No.


— By Tara McGowan-Ross

The Amazon is on Fire and this Blog Won’t Change Anything

Yesterday morning, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro rejected a $20 Million USD offer from G7 countries to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest. While $20 Million USD is a very small amount of money to come from all of the seven richest counties in the world (for scope, it is 1/10th of the budget of the film Boss Baby), it would have at least been a step towards putting out the fires currently ripping through one of the last really big rainforests we still have kicking around. Bolsonaro said no, citing Macron being a big meanie-face, and — GET THIS — concerns about “colonialism.” The Amazon is home to one million Indigenous people. There are reports that these Indigenous people are facing violence so that land can be cleared and burned.

The Amazon is an essential part of the earth’s carbon cycle and cooling system. The Amazon emits so much moisture that it cools down the entire planet. Right now, there are more fires burning in it than there ever have been in recorded history. These fires were mostly set intentionally by people emboldened by Bolsonaro’s anti-environmentalist promises to industrialize the Amazon, and at the expense of the right to breathe of like the whole world. A few days ago, Bolsonaro excused himself in advance for any failures to manage this crisis put the fire out on a lack of resources. A lot of this happened on Twitter, because of course it did.

If you get tired of watching the most powerful people on earth ego-match us into extinction, you can try navigating information on the internet. Environmentalist groups give you stats about importing and exporting, what to boycott and what not to, with almost exclusively US-based information. Capitalist profiteers scream “fake news.” People with the same basic goals squabble amongst themselves about tactics, the nitty-gritty specifics of terminology, and our own political passions. Meanwhile, the world burns on.

Look: the Amazon is in trouble. That much is legit true, even if it’s also true that whiplash freak-out effect of the whole situation is the result of some misleading journalism and frustrating truths about group psychology. There are a lot of articles that are saying things that are true: the Amazon is on fire, and that sucks, and is bad. There are lots of other articles saying things that are also true, which is that we need to be careful of the nuances of the way we present this information, because presenting misinformation is bad, even if it supports political ends we happen to agree with. While this is totally true and we at SC agree, there is a point at which we start to wonder if “ecosplaining” is a thing, and these articles called stuff like “Everything You Think You Know About The Amazon Is Wrong (and You’re a Big Dumb Idiot)” just start to sound like someone shouting “WELL, ACTUALLY…” over a conversation at a party. Even if he is right, who invited this guy? So rude. But then I remember that people focused on rudeness over facts got us into this mess in the first place! I look down, and see the beef in my hands, and the blood on them. Am I the problem? Darn!

Here are a bunch of things that are true at the same time:

  • Forest fires are a part of how forests self-regulate, and controlled burns are an essential part of responsible forest stewardship. Do not let that fact delude you into thinking that this rate of burning is normal, or common. The current rates of forest fires, in the Amazon and worldwide, are above the average for the last, like, bunch and bunch of years. It’s not normal for the forest to burn like this. Do not let anyone tell you different. We’re starting to sound like the residents of Krypton who didn’t believe the planet was exploding.
  • Current Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro took office in January. Bolsonaro has compared environmentalism to religious extremism, and rode a big wave of economic anxiety to political victory, mostly by promising to open up the Amazon to further development in order to expediate Brazil’s climb out of an economic recession.
  • A bunch of the fires in the Amazon were set intentionally to clear land for cattle and soy. The issue with the Amazon fires is not that they were set intentionally (intentional fires are, as mentioned above, sometimes necessary, even if they’re not nice to look at), but that they’re being set intentionally as a part of a mentioned plan to industrialize the Amazon. Our planet’s having kind of a hard time, if you haven’t noticed. It needs like a trillion more trees, not fewer.
  • Bolsonaro only really got his butt in gear to lift even a finger to do anything about the Amazon fires when people started threatening Brazil’s struggling economy with boycotts and sanctions.
  • Forest fires burn the world over: There are also fires in Bolivia and the Democratic Republic of Congo that need our attention just as much. The ARCTIC caught fire this year, guys. The arctic. Where ice comes from!
  • It is true that there will be a time when controlled burns and forest fires can be a normal part of our global forests’ regulation system again. That time is not now.

There is nothing partisan about the fact that there are no jobs, no progress, no future, and no profits on a dead planet. The survival of the Amazon is much bigger than Brazil: this is about the struggle for the biggest air filtration system on the planet and the right for endangered cultures to be free from violence. This is also an opportunity to start the real, hard conversations about how we are abusing our forests the world over, from overproduction of beef in Brazil to replanting clearcuts with monocultures of crop trees on the West coast of Canada. For too long, we have measured progress by our ability to control and manipulate non-human life, forgetting that we rely on healthy trees and drinkable water and clean air just as much as a frog or a monkey or a fish. I like blue jeans and smart phones as much as the next millennial, and I am a product of the world that I was born into. A sustainable future will require a pretty radical overhaul of the way we all do life, which is of course frustrating and will probably happen in stages. We can’t forget that we, too, are wildlife. We do not dominate nature, and we don’t stand apart from it. We are nature. As the Amazon burns, we burn with it.

Don’t let Bolsonaro fool you by throwing around high-earning scrabble words like “colonialism” to justify his bad behaviour. And let this be a lesson: just because someone knows what words to use to manipulate your sense of morality, does not mean they’re doing it with any good will at all. It would be great if we could all just sit back and think about the problems we’ve got in our own homes, our own communities, our own countries, like Bolsonaro implores Macron to do — but we live in a globally connected world, and the evidence of the global impact of our choices is right there for us all to see. Bolsonaro is trying to leverage shame against the people trying to hold him accountable. Let’s not let him get away with it. Let’s call him on his bluff.

Put the fires out, now, and beyond that it’s time for responsible forest stewardship, now. Everywhere. Please. I hate this.

If you’re as concerned as we are about the situation in the Amazon, here are some concrete things you can do:

  • If you’re in the Montreal area, you can join the folks at Extinction Rebellion for a peaceful demonstration outside the Brazilian consulate on Wednesday August 28th. Facebook Event
  • For people outside of Montreal, consider joining a demonstration in your area. Voicing dissent in a public space sends a message, and is good for your head and heart.
  • You can boycott Brazilian beef. The main companies who import from Brazil are JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva. Consider cutting back on meat, or source from a local farm.
  • Cut back on soy consumption. Most of soy globally is used to feed livestock, so if you reduce animal consumption you cut back on most of this. Source your soy as carefully as you would source meat.
  • Donate to initiatives like https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/plant-a-billion/
  • Donate to initiatives that work towards conservation through the support of indigenous peoples, like Amazon Watch https://amazonwatch.org/ or Amazon Team https://www.amazonteam.org/
  • Rainforest alliance has a list of other products you can boycott to reduce impact on the environment. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/faqs/what-does-rainforest-alliance-certified-mean
  • If you’re involved in forestry, talk to your colleagues and bosses about concerns you have about how your industry is managed. Write a petition. Hold a meeting. Make a stink.
  • Honour your grief and frustration. Scream into a pillow if you’re angry or sad. Make art and don’t worry about making it nice or happy–what’s the point of having an outlet if you can only say nice things? You don’t have to show it to anyone, but if you do, remember that art is worldmaking and we must be careful with the worlds we make. If you’re looking for free materials and you’re in the Montreal area, look out for the grand re-opening of the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR, pronounced “sucker”), where you can get materials for free and divert waste out of landfills.
  • Look around for people who have the same goals as you do, and remember that agreeing about everything isn’t a prerequisite to accomplishing things together. Identify a goal and work backwards. Make tasks. Delegate.
  • Be with the earth. Lay in the grass. Feel the sun on you. Go for a walk and feel the way it supports you. Take a walk in a green place and remember that this, too, is a cathedral. Remember that you belong here. Remember that we all do.
Andrew Vaughan - The Canadian Press

From Tio’tia:ke to Mi’kma’ki: Sustainable Concordia in Solidarity with Mi’kmaw Grassroots Grandmothers

Sustainable Concordia’s coordinators and board condemn in the strongest possible terms the removal and arrest of three Mi’kmaw grassroots grandmothers from their treaty territory by police this past Wednesday. We condemn the colonial powers of Alton Gas and the industrialized structures of power who have made a clear decision to support the interests of capital and colonialism over the interests of the land, the people, and the women shouldering the sacred role of protecting them.

The removal of Darlene Gilbert, Madonna Bernard, and Paula Isaac from their territory is not only a moral and ethical abomination, but a clear violation of Canada’s own treaty law, and a reinforcement of the notion that Canada’s legal concerns lie in protecting financial interests and not in protecting the land, water, humans, or non-human lives to whom it is responsible. It is a reinforcement of the idea that the goalposts of colonial capitalism move wherever the whims of the powerful want them to, whenever they want them to, in order to prevent the marginalized from exercising legal rights that would pose a threat to systems of power. We are unsurprised, but no less horrified to see that once again, a human-designed system of assessing value is being privileged over our habitat, our neighbors, and our planet.

As a collection of Indigenous and other peoples, we would like to recognize that we occupy Kanien’kehá:ka territory as uninvited guests, and profit daily from a legacy of genocide. We recognize that the foundation of our every privilege is the legacy of murder, exploitation, and betrayal that has birthed and shaped the colonial occupation of modern-day Turtle Island. We recognize that along with the privileges we have inherited from previous generations, we also inherit the burden of reconciliation and reparation. As such, we refuse to turn a blind eye to further instances of exploitation. Our stance remains that the interests of the earth, the people on it, and the sacred ties of interdependence cannot be measured against capital value. Our stance remains that Indigenous peoples are sovereign on land they have occupied and protected since time immemorial.

Shame on Alton Gas, and shame on any and all people or systems supporting them.

Help the water protectors raise a proper legal fund to stop Alton Gas by donating here.

If you weren’t able to make it to the demonstration today, but you’d still like your voice to be heard, please contact Environmental Minister Margaret Miller and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. Feel free to ask them exactly what about the science of this project makes them so confident it won’t be a complete disaster for the water in Nova Scotia, and why Stephen McNeil ran away from protesters last week instead of doing his job as a public servant to hear and respond to their concerns.

Margaret Miller: 902-424-3600
Stephen McNeil: 902-424-6600

Sustainable Concordia’s AGM 2019

It’s almotht time for our Annual General Meeting!
As you might have guessed, this year’s theme is bugs, and we’ll have a swarm of insect-themed activities! That includes some cricket 🦗 cookies for the brave of heart, to complement our free Rawlin vegan sushi! 🍣

We invite everyone from the community to come celebrate alongside us as we showcase what we’ve been up to this year, elect a new Board of Directors, and approve our next budget!

🐜 🐜 🐜

Members will be voting on the following:

  • Approval of our audited statements for 2018
  • Election of our Board of Directors for the 2019/2020 term (Join our board!)


🐞 When: Wednesday, April 24th, 5pm
🐞 Where: SCPA Basement, 2149 Mackay St

There will be food and games!

🐌 Everyone of all ages welcome! If you would like to bring your children please send us a heads up before, so that we can prepare accordingly and make sure we have everything you need.

Regretfully, the SCPA basement is not wheelchair accessible. There are two entrances to the SCPA basement. The main entrance is up 11 stairs, the basement is down 18 carpeted stairs. The basement entrance is down 4 steps with 2 more steps inside. Bathrooms are gender neutral. If you desire child care, please let us know before Monday April 22 5pm. 

Montreal, traditional name Tiohtià:ke is located on unceded Indigenous territory. It has historically been a meeting place for many nations, with the Kanien’kehá:ka as the stewards. We encourage you to reflect on your current and historical relationship to this land.

🐝 🐛 🐌 🐞 🐜 🦗 🌿

Urban Somatics: Building intimacy with(in) the city

We’re super excited to host this workshop as a prelude to our Sustain’Alive event week!
Urban Somatics: A workshop to explore and embody the interactions between human and non-human bodies in the urban environment.
While considering themes of environmental hope and disaster (as they may relate to our particular identities) we will explore art-based practices that aim to critique, transgress and debunk our multilayered understanding of urban ecologies, and to propose and embody alternative urban futures through play and performativity.
This workshop will consist of in-studio exercises, sharing circles, a brief urban exploration, prototyping and play/performance. We will use our bodies, voices, and technologies to assist us in the process.
In the extent possible bring comfy clothes, a story about you/the environment, and a smartphone.
Facilitator bio:
Christian Scott is fascinated by the ability of people to transform cities with playful actions. With a background in urban sociology they use poetry, music, and sometimes movement as mediums of exploration; they’re currently applying to become a PhD candidate at Concordia University. They grew up between Montreal and Guadalajara (MX), and currently inhabit the H2R 1C3 postal code.
We’ll tell you more about Sustain’Alive very soon (it’ll happen mid-March), but come join us for this amazing workshop first!
When: Tuesday, February 19th – 5pm to 8pm
Where: School of Community and Public Affairs basement, 2149 Mackay street


Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1211110985720314/

Sustain’Alive: Speaker call-out


Dreaming, plotting, planning alternative futures


Sustain’Alive is an event week hosted by Sustainable Concordia that aims to unpack, engage with and dream alternatives to the complexities of sustainability.

This year’s Sustain’Alive (Jan. 28 – Feb 1st) is taking a closer look at how solidarity and justice relate to sustainability through public conversation, workshops, and a panel. More info to come in early 2019!


We are looking to host experts for public conversations on the following topics:

  • How to make holistic activist communities
    What does it take to keep our communities from burning out? How do we allow conflict and move on from it? What practices are needed to sustain our activism? What practices are needed to sustain our communities? Can we live the future we’re dreaming of with one another, now? 
  • Creative strategies to organize for culture change
    What are out of the box ways to shift power dynamics, to change our relationship to the environment? How can we be creative about approaching difference in opinion? What creative methods can we use to engage people in our activism?

For each conversation, 2 people will be selected to be experts on the topic at hand and will receive an honorarium of $150.

Experts will prepare so as to be able to share their knowledge and experience to help move the conversation forwards, based on the questions outlined above (to be edited if need be). The conversations will be facilitated by our staff members.


If you are someone with experience relevant to these topics, please fill out this quick form to apply:

Application deadline: January 10th, 2019

Conversations will take place in a wheelchair accessible location, and we are trying to secure ASL and live translation.


Free Sushi and Solving Climate Change with Concordia’s Sustainability Hub? Count me in!

Okay, so maybe not solving climate change, but the free food part is true!

The Concordia Sustainability Hub is an open group of rad folks who come together on a monthly basis to talk about sustainability. Regular attendees usually include SC, the SAF, the CFCCUCCRThe Dish ProjectEH&SJSEC, and The Concordia Greenhouse, although anyone looking to learn more about sustainability or get involved is always welcome. Conversations typically focus on what groups are up to, what they could use support in, how they can offer their support to others, and even how events and activities can be collectively organized. A much anticipated and upcoming “Lunch & Learn” series set to launch this coming Fall based on the Sustainability Action Plans at the university is an example of just that.

These Lunch & Learns are community events open to all people who are interested in learning more about sustainability in the Concordia context, as well as how they can get involved in being part of the change. The first Lunch & Learn is set to take place on Thursday, September 13th from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm in the EV Junction and will tackle arguably the greatest challenge of our time: Climate Change.

Climate change, waste, food, research and curriculum, and accessibility and diversity are some pretty all-encompassing and poignant issues in the sustainability world, so we think that it’s great that Concordia is working on institutionalizing sustainability in terms of its practices, policies, and processes by creating and eventually implementing action plans based on these 5 “sustainability streams”.

These Lunch and Learns will create a space for people to learn about Concordia’s current sustainability efforts, engage in discussion with experts and change-makers on campus about what is systematically working well and what needs to change, and discover how they can get involved in cultivating an inclusive, empowering, and impactful culture of sustainability at the university. Not to mention, Rawlins Rolls (the hottest vegan sushi joint around campus) will be tickling our tastebuds on the 13th, so you really don’t want to miss this!

We can’t wait to see you there. If you have any questions about this event, or Concordia’s work on the Sustainability Action Plans, don’t hesitation to pass by our space and start a conversation.

Peace, Love, & Sustainability




Photo: SC’s board retreat 2018 in St Henri

Summer retreat brief with our new general coordinator

The first SIP workshop is out!!


Last week, as the first part of our summer retreat with our new and enthusiastic board, Alice and Jueji, members of the Sustainable Investing Project, led us through the very first workshop of the initiative. Alice, our finance coordinator and current leader of the project, explained that the goal of the workshop is to start guiding organizations through the process of choosing what to invest in, within the large realm of sustainable investments (here’s a resource developed by previous team members if you would like to know more yourself!)


During a couple of hour, we discussed what we valued as an organization so that the SIP team got a clearer idea of where to start their research to build our portfolio (a collection of hand-picked investments, in the form of chosen companies we think our organization should support).

Alice and Jueji first explained very clearly what sustainable investing was all about, why it mattered, and how we would create a portfolio as an organization. We then went through what we considered important sustainability issues, and then proceeded to prioritizing them (which was very challenging for us!). Finally, we established a list of criterias companies we would invest in should conform to, that align with the priorities we chose.


The workshop sparked amazing discussions, and got the team very excited and committed to the research. The session aimed to give us more vocabulary and ease with investment concepts. It also enabled us to start conversations in and out of the organization, while giving our researchers a clearer scope to build our portfolio.

Hopefully the SIP team got enough feedback from us and is now ready to look into our options! SC will lead it by example, and Alice is hoping other organizations will collaborate and join the research, enabling the community to slowly create a significant fund.


SIP is starting to get a lot of attention, we are glad there is strong interest in that project in the community, and some momentum around sustainable investing practices in Montreal!

More and more non-finance people are starting to get their hands on investing, just like Alice did – with an accounting background, she explained she is continuously learning through SIP and getting familiar with those concepts, as she wants herself to eventually be able to know what to invest in.  


‘If you have money, you have power. Investment touches everyone,’ she finally pointed out. So get in there, reach out, and make your money count!  Join the movement and get involved now!


SC is hiring a new general coordinator!

We are looking for a new general coordinator to replace our amazing Mark, who has been at SC for the past 4 years – he got offered a great position at the SAF, our friends and office-mates (so he will not go very far away from us!). We are excited to welcome someone new to our dear team!
If you feel passionate about sustainability and want to build a stronger community, and you have experience in organizational logistics, apply now!

Check out the job posting here!