Brianna Dines: Standing up for the environment

Editors note: Brianna Dines has served as an adviser for Youth Power Indiana since its inception. Recently, she moved to Canada to pursue graduate work.

Yesterday, I decided my role as a human animal on this earth was more important than my short-term concerns as a graduate student. I was rushing to finish a paper (using a book titled “Friction,” focusing on environmental destruction and globalization) on time for that day’s class, when I found out that people were being arrested on Burnaby Mountain (a designated public conservation area) for opposing US Company Kinder Morgan’s pipeline construction.

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I have never missed turning in an assignment on time, but I thought, “Okay, who am I if I finish this paper instead of joining them? Who am I if I stop what I’m doing and make a stand on this mountain that has become one of my newest and most beautiful acquaintances?”

These are the decisions I will need to make as I mold myself into the academic I wish to be. Do I think that writing and thinking about the world and our relationships to it and ourselves is enough?

I do not.

I emailed my professor saying, “Instead of class, we should all show up at the Burnaby Mountain protests and help make some ‘friction.’ Feeling a little silly writing a paper using works on global capitalism, environmental destruction, and collective action and not being on the mountain enacting the purpose of those works. What could we do as a class in solidarity that puts theory into action?”

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He replied that he would be inclined to do that, but I would need the majority of the class’s support. I immediately got on Facebook and messaged everyone in class. All of us agreed to come and immediately started talking about where to meet and what to bring. The professor cancelled a meeting at another location so he could meet us at the site.

That night, as we stood in a circle in the dark, we discussed our reading material: how is the landscape itself an agent and an interlocutor with humans in the drama of globalization? What is indigeneity? It was the perfect place to think about these theoretical issues. I saw that social action can be the site of the most embodied kind of intellectual engagement.

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I am not First Nations. I am not Canadian. But I am a woman who lives and learns as a neighbor to Burnaby Mountain. I cannot avoid what I feel to be my duty to stand with others against the utter backwardness that is the continuing investment in fossil fuels for short-term profit. This myopic mindset destroys the abundance given which allows us to exist in this world.

As I think about who I am becoming, I know I will need to use my mental, emotional, and corporal energy to stand firm against environmental (and thus our own) destruction and that balance will be the education I will need the most.

Andy Fry