by Global HERizons 2019 Scholarship Winner Charlotte Connolly
My whole life I have wondered, “what does change look like?” This question guides my professional and academic work, but at times it has left me feeling burnt-out and over-burdened. Could I really make an impact on the big local and global issues I care about? Was I just an optimistic, but ultimately naïve young activist? It was only when standing beside my fellow community organizers and friends this past October during a rally to protest the Nova Scotia Gold Show that I realized I had been asking the wrong question. What I should have been asking is “what does change feel like?” It feels like hope, like connection, and like love. Love for each other and for the planet we share; for an alternative vision that is just, equitable and sustainable. It is about believing that another world is possible, about stepping out of our comfort zones and making the difference that may feel hard to reach at times. When we band together, in solidarity, we can embody the change we desire.
The Nova Scotia Gold Show was a private event organized by the Mining Association of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association, sponsored by the provincial government. Though paid for by public funds, civil society and media were prohibited from participating in discussions over existing and proposed projects in unceded Mi’kmaq territory. Our Flowing Together network – a collective of environmental activists and Mi’kmaw peoples – decided we need to make our voices heard and loudly. The Flowing Together group grew out of a workshop I organized this past March on behalf of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club Foundation where we discussed how we can work collaboratively as allies to address the risks and impacts of mining in the province. Our Water Not Gold campaign – in opposition to the Gold Show – took our advocacy from “against mining” to “pro-sustainable development” by emphasizing the need for more inclusive and democratic resource policies.
I think we all left the rally feeling like we can do this. Though I had some initial anxieties about whether we could pull off a protest outside the Airport Hotel in late October (the oh-so-convenient venue for the Gold Show!), nearly 80 amazing people showed up to tell the Nova Scotia government that we would not stand idly by while they auctioned off our mineral resources. It was an honour to organize and lead the rally, and to create a space where every person felt included and heard. I have learnt much about community mobilization in the process, specifically how to build a cross-cultural movement of peoples motivated by a common message, that being care for Mother Earth. I firmly believe we must raise Indigenous voices in struggles for environmental and social justice, given historical and contemporary processes of exclusion and racism. Navigating my own privilege and positionality as a settler in this work requires humility, patience and a willingness to listen above all else. I continued to be challenged and pushed in my journey of decolonization, towards a place of true allyship and understanding. This is integral to the building of safe, respectful and reciprocal movements. I am more motivated the ever to continue this work in the search of a more inclusive and just world and am so grateful to the Global HERizons community for their unwavering support and encouragement!