Tuesday, September 9, 2008

a vote for the earth

last night i was sitting in a pub alongside my long time friend andrew, and the folks who'd gathered for his bi-monthly 'enviro-writers' chat, when briony penn arrived looking tanned and healthy and as energetic as always, bike helmet in hand and words of apology that she couldn't stay long.

the last time i saw briony was at the hospital bedside of ingmar lee. ingmar's a renowned environmental trouble-maker - he puts platforms in trees (cunningham woods at uvic, cathedral grove, langford) to encourage peaceful direct action as a way to protect (or at least draw attention to) some of the last remaining forests on our beautiful planet. he's always successful at getting media attention, his most recent endeavour being the formation of a mining company to harvest the mineral rights he owns at bear mountain, but of the three tree-sits mentioned, only cathedral grove remains.

regardless, we environmentalists persevere. when ingmar fell ill with a rare form of tuberculosis, many of us brought him food and encouragement and were inspired to sit and listen to his stories (taking on the nanaimo council over their tainted watershed, other horrifying things he learned during his 20+ years as a tree planter in this province). ingmar's an enigma, and one day, near the end of his illness, i happened to be visiting at the same time as briony penn.

if i hadn't seen briony at ingmar's bedside, if i didn't know about how she's been working with ingmar's partner to document the ancient sand hill cranes which inhabit the northern island, i might not be so impressed with her. i mean, i remember 'enviro-mental', the too short-lived television show briony hosted at 'new vi,' which promised all sorts of community activities in order to get their license from the crtc and which dropped those as soon as it could and is now part of some congolomerate (is it ctv?), i've read several of her articles in monday magazine and focus, i've even seen, live and in person, the massive over-sized toilet she painted with scenes from the salish sea as a way to emphasize that what we put in our toilets and down our sinks has an effect on the ocean creatures, and i remember her entertaining 'raging grannies art history' presentation at their granniversary. i've collected a lot of briony experiences through the years - I know that she's an incredibly talented writer and artist, with a bubbly personality and a great sense of humour, but it was seeing her at ingmar's bedside that really clinched it for me --- briony really does care.

i hope we don't lose briony. she's a candidate in the next election, running with the dreaded federal liberal party. why? so many of us asked, why the liberals? they're the ones that initiated the spp that will see the end of canada. sure, they kept us out of iraq, but there we are in afghanistan killing children labelled 'taliban.' why would briony choose to run with the liberals?

apparently she was approached by three parties - presumably the greens and the ndp as well. one can presume she chose the liberals because her riding has been a stronghold of conservatism for all these years - grandmas and grandpas who don't really understand that these conservatives are anything but conservative in the old 'save every scrap for the war effort' variety. things are different now, gramps, they're power mongers playing havoc with your old emotions. the liberals might be able to win those voters who, for whatever media induced reason, are afraid to see the blue for the neo-nazis they are (ooohhhh, strong words ..... but they are!) and may feel safe and comfortable with the good old liberals.

last night, though she didn't stay long, briony assured me that one of the reasons she chose the liberals is because stephan dion promised her, if she chose to run with them, that he'd open the discussion on electoral reform (so our votes will actually count). i told her what i'd heard on the weekend, that our native friend mary had been in bella coola this summer and reported that at least 100 native families are packing up and leaving (going who knows where) because they can't survive there anymore - there are no fish. briony said she'd spent the summer up north, working with krista researching her beloved sand hill cranes (one of the most ancient species of bird on the planet), and she knew things were bad but she hadn't heard that.

i'm convinced that briony cares. if we had proportional representation we could comfortably vote for our candidate of choice, regardless of what party they're with. i don't live in briony's district, but i think that i might bite my tongue and vote for her anyways, if i could. i hope she gets elected, and i hope we don't lose her in that tangled mess they call a political system.