Brigette DePape and Tamo Campos: Talkin’ bout our generation

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      We often hear that as young people, we are apathetic with our heads stuck in our iPhones. Across North America this fall, we proved otherwise.

      Just a few weeks ago, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a millennial like us, donated his Governor General's Literary Award prize money to oppose the Energy East pipeline and urged others to also donate. The campaign raised $350,000 in just days.

      On the other side of the country, another pipeline battle: this time the Kinder Morgan pipeline on Burnaby Mountain. Between November 20 and 27, over 100 of us were arrested, including many young people. We were arrested for peacefully opposing the company’s survey work in a publicly-owned conservation area—an area which lies on unceded indigenous territories.

      What might seem like distant actions are actually very closely related. They speak to the generation we are defining ourselves to be: not apathetic, but hungry for change, stepping up to stop pipelines and create an epic powershift.

      On Burnaby Mountain, the work of young people was amazing to witness. For the most part, it was young people who camped to protect Burnaby Mountain from the pipeline. Known as the caretakers, they—under the leadership of indigenous elders—held down the blockade from day one. Many youth were arrested for putting their bodies on the line to protect the mountain.

      I—Tamo Campos—was arrested, as was my mother Tamiko Suzuki, sister Midori Suzuki, and partner Hannah Campbell. Young people organized rallies and legal support, showed up on the mountain between classes to bring food to the camp, played guitar at the fire, hugged friends who just got out of jail, donated money, shared articles on Facebook or Twitter, and snapped photos and video. There is a place for all of us.

      Why us? Why now? We are the first generation to grow up in a time where the scientific consensus is that, on our current trajectory, we could actually see in our lifetime a world devastated by catastrophic climate change. We’re acutely aware that the zombie apocalypse is right around the corner. We are confronted with dystopic futures in movies—like The Hunger Games—where a tiny elite win and the rest of us lose.

      And our actions have had an impact. We experienced what people power means when a mass mobilization delayed Kinder Morgan from enforcing its injunction to take down the camp. Then as a result of mass arrests later that same week, Kinder Morgan had to retreat from its drilling earlier than it had planned and the courts denied its request for an extended injunction.

      It wasn’t just young people. It was incredibly powerful to see generations coming together against an undemocratic pipeline that goes against our collective will: to see 13-year-olds all the way to 80-year-olds as well as three generations of mothers, daughters, and granddaughters joining hands and crossing the line. 

      We are part of what Naomi Klein refers to as “blockadia”: people putting their bodies on the line to stop fossil fuel expansion. This is part of a transition to a clean, just renewable energy economy controlled by the community. Paired with First Nations legal challenges to projects that violate their rights, frontline blockades are one of our best hopes for stopping climate change. 

      But it won’t be easy for our generation. Oil and gas companies have shown they are capable of brutal, heavy-handed tactics in the name of profit. They sued people defending Burnaby Mountain for millions of dollars. Two of the defendants are our age.

      Because of a court-issued injunction, RCMP officers were authorized to use force against protestors. They threw me, Tamo Campos, to the ground face first. They choked another friend, a Simon Fraser University student. Reflecting the prejudices of our society, they discriminated against people of colour and low-income folks: I saw them shove my friend Mel, an indigenous man, against a cop car. Meanwhile, I, Brigette DePape, a young middle-class white woman, was gently escorted into the paddy wagon. 

      This blatant racism within our institutions that reared its ugly head during the environmental protest at Burnaby Mountain showcased why increasing numbers of youth are calling not only for changing our environmental practices but also for climate justice. So while the protest at its surface was about the environment, at its core it is also about challenging racism and deep inequalities. 

      This is in part why many of our friends marched in the climate march in New York City for climate justice. In light of racist decisions not to indict police officers who killed black civilians, youth are also rising up in the United States. And their protests have clearly shown that they are ready to fight racism along with the dysfunctional and unequal economic system in the U.S. Both mobilizations were among the largest seen since the civil rights movement. 

      Stereotypes are wrong about us. Far from apathetic, we are hungry for change. We want a good life that doesn’t cost us our health, or the health of the frontline communities impacted by tar sands and climate change. Where the water, air, and earth isn’t eaten up by unsustainable energy projects, with future generations and youth left to deal with the consequences. Where indigenous land rights and title are recognized instead of being sacrifice zones for extractive projects. Where racism is no longer built into our institutions. We love this Earth and the people on it and we’re going to fight for it.

      We're not apathetic, we are redefining our society—present and future—on our terms.




      Jan 21, 2015 at 2:39pm

      Thank you, Brigette DePape and Tamo Campos, for your leadership and courage. As Michael Klare explains in his latest, we certainly need a lot of it now and are going to need much, much more from many, many more people going forward:

      "Preventing these catastrophes will involve sustained and dedicated effort by all those who truly care about the future of humanity. This will certainly require better educating people about the risks of climate change and the role played by fossil fuel combustion in producing it. But it will also require deconstructing and exposing the futuristic fantasies deployed by the fossil fuel companies to perpetuate their dominance. However fraudulent their arguments may be, they have the potential to blunt significant progress on climate change and so must be vigorously repudiated. Unless we do so, the apostles of carbon will continue to dominate the debate and bring us ever closer to a planetary inferno. This is the only way to thwart and discredit those who seek to perpetuate the Reign of Carbon."

      ah, I see

      Jan 21, 2015 at 10:19pm

      "all those who truly care about the future of humanity"

      So this is about women who are baby-crazy and men who want to get laid. Those who don't fall into one of those categories have no rational reason to care about the "future of humanity." Good thing we have people obsessed with breeding to dictate our future to us!

      shawn wilson

      Jan 22, 2015 at 5:39am

      your way cool Bigette


      Jan 22, 2015 at 6:32am

      I appreciate the content of this article.

      Please check the use of the phrase "paddy wagon." It is an insulting term and the more appropriate one would be simply, "police wagon." While a small point, given the context of its use in this article, it's worth addressing.

      Sign me of Irish descent.


      Jan 22, 2015 at 9:46am

      i did not attend at Burnaby Mountain, except in spirit. but you guys have my absolutely full support. don't be afraid to go all the way. the world needs your courage, voice, and energy now.

      out at night

      Jan 22, 2015 at 3:27pm

      "Stereotypes are wrong about us. Far from apathetic, we are hungry for change."

      Good job with the protests and I support you all the way; but extrapolating your own activities and experiences and those of a relatively small cross-section of people your age to reach the conclusion that the "stereotypes are wrong" doesn't wash with me.

      I'd say the stereotypes are for the most part quite true, and with the exception of a certain demographic of folks with smart parents, liberal upbringings and exposure to the right kind of cultural content and news, millennials are indeed the apathetic, under-motivated, entitled kids we often hear about.

      It's funny because your editorial is so very close to a joke I've made a few times about how every time some columnist writes about the millennials being slacker sadsacks, there invariably follows a letter co-authored by Sally Smart and Gudi Tushoos letting us all know how many bake sales they've organized. In your case the Burnaby Mountain protests are a way, way bigger deal than fundraising for Goodwill, but until we see the youth mobilize en masse I'll have to remain pessimistic, bitter (can you tell?) and less-than-blown-away by your generation's gutsiness and zeal.

      Dr.Dorle Kneifel

      Jan 24, 2015 at 2:54am

      May we all be as committed to a beautiful just sustainable future as you are!

      Joyce Kirkness

      Jan 26, 2015 at 8:43pm

      Brigette and Tamo, I think yous' are doing the right thing and are very proud of you, some people just do not get it, ignore them, pretty sad when your generation know more, and want to do something about it, when generations ago, they should have, it is all to do with money I think, they do not think about the outcome what could or will probably happen. Good for yous' keep up the good work, at least you care enough about our world to try to do something to stop the stupid things they wanted to do, Proud of yous, my son lives in New Foundland, he is in the military so they usually go for 5 years at a time, but I think he only has 2 years left, then if he doesn't want to go where they want to send him, he can fight it and say no, , he says it is Beautiful out there, they like it have a little grandson, his daughter is living here in Grimsby with her other Nana, he fought for her for over a year, raised her for almost 3 years, then judge lets the Nana take her because she has a sister and brother, but 2 more years she will be old enough to decide where she wants to live, now they are having another baby, so I am sure she will want to be with daddy, stepmom and the little ones, sorry got off the track, but very Proud of yous for standing up for yourselves and everyone, I really wish you good luck, I think you will make a big difference, if more people did that, things wouldn't happen, I surely didn't agree with that pipeline myself, I will check in every so often to see how things are going, your generation is a lot smarter also! :)

      Ziggy Eckardt

      Jan 28, 2015 at 12:29am

      In front of me is a book called 'Dark Winter'. It was written by John L. Casey, a consultant to NASA headquarters and President of the Space and Science Research Corporation. He says forget about CO2 influencing global temperatures. Prepare for 30 years of cold weather. Right Now! The sun is going to take a nap.
      I have no idea whether he is right or wrong. I do know, that if in about 2 years the temperature went up even a tiny fraction instead of down, we will all get together, sing cumbaya and throw him under the bus.
      Your gurus tell you that the more CO2 we emit, anthropologically or otherwise, the global temperatures go up. We, as a species, have been very diligent and increased our emissions like never before... (That's why you fly in to protest on the mountain and believe you are committing a noble deed by interrupting a dinner party of people who do not even work with oil?)
      But you haven't noticed that the temperature has not changed for 18 years?
      What would this world do without you and your intellect?...
      In the meantime: Next time remove your trash and feces from the mountain before you leave! Leaving them offends those of us who think people should clean up after their dogs.


      Jan 29, 2015 at 2:40pm

      Sooooo desperate to find a cause and be validated. So many young people! So brave, so hard working, by...camping, smoking dope and playing guitar! Like, right?

      Instead of these attention grabbing tantrums why not direct the energy, money and (carbon emitting) travel to developing these fabled alternative energies that are right there man! Just no one will grab them!

      There is not scientific consensus.
      Zombies are not real.
      Hunger Games is fiction.
      Grow up.

      Gotta love that seque into racism! You (Brigetter Depape) were led into the "paddy wagon" (as you ethnically call it) gently because you are a harmless, privileged, white, suburban child seeking attention. You went along passively because you're weak and spoiled, the cops know you're not a threat. The way your *male* counterpart was treated isn't racist, that's laughable. At the very tightest stretch it was sexist, any man is more of a threat than a showboating little suburban princess.

      For those who found the column TLDR: "We want a good life (and praise) that doesn’t cost us..."...that about wraps it up.