Maayan Kreitzman: From civil disobedience to running for office—why we need more conscientious radicals in politics

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      By Maayan Kreitzman

      A year ago, I was arrested on Burrard Bridge protesting government inaction on the climate and ecological crisis. Now, I find myself running in that same constituency to replace politicians who are making this crisis worse. 

      I was not alone then, and I’m not alone now. I was fortunate enough to be part of a courageous community of activists in a  global grassroots movement called Extinction Rebellion. You may have heard of them. Extinction Rebellion (XR) emerged in the U.K. near the end of 2018, when the world was just starting to recognize the planetary emergency that climate breakdown is. XR’s strategy is simple: empower ordinary people to participate in democracy in a way that goes beyond occasional elections, through peaceful civil disobedience and inclusive Citizens’ Assemblies. 

      There is a long history and a large body of social science that shows how peaceful civil disobedience can be effective where conventional campaigning efforts have failed. Peacefully breaking the law on purpose, for an ethical imperative, shifts reality, even if it’s incredibly unpopular at the time it takes place. The suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, and others that were reviled at the time but that we revere today have shown this.

      More recently, the Wet’suwet’en rail blockades, Tiny House Warriors of the Secwépemc people, and Land Back movement galvanizing on Haudenosaunee territory have proven what it takes to make politicians listen to Indigenous land defenders. 

      That’s why I sat on the Burrard Bridge and refused to move. That’s why I’ve been organizing direct action in the path of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby for the last month and a half—so that people are ready to put their bodies in the way when the destruction crews come in.

      B.C. Green candidate Maayan Kreitzman was among those who blocked the Burrard Bridge in the rain last October.

      These forms of direct action are necessary to raise the profile of a climate and ecological emergency that is still being lied about, minimized, and ignored.

      To force us to acknowledge its horrific implications—mass extinction, mass migration, mass death of human beings, and vast regions of our planet becoming uninhabitable. Most politicians, and the flawed democratic structures that they operate within, are fundamentally unprepared to mobilize the kind of emergency response over the next decade that is necessary to avert catastrophe.

      So if politics is so broken, why am I even running? Let me give you three reasons:  

      First, we need more conscientious radicals in politics. A conscientious radical is simply someone who wants to achieve systemic change in society that addresses the root causes of the many crises we are facing.

      When it’s radical to admit that my heart is broken by how life is slipping away under legally sanctioned ecocide—we need radical.

      When it’s radical to admit that our lives will be disrupted by climate breakdown, and that the next generation will struggle even more—we need radical.

      When it’s radical to admit that mainstream science shows a 4 °C warmer world will mean mass murder of human beings and our non-human relatives—we need radical.

      I don’t have a lot of hope that things will be okay, but I do believe that courage, solidarity, and humility are what's needed right now. The first step to acting radically is through connection to our hearts, and we need politicians who acknowledge these facts and feel through their gravity.

      Second, we need politicians that have organized and understand civil disobedience.  More politicians need to acknowledge why people act illegally.

      Those who engage in grassroots community organizing to hold their governments accountable through civil disobedience will be remembered for being on the right side of history. When governments won’t uphold their duty to protect us, citizens have the right and duty to stand up and refuse to act as though this is normal. More politicians must understand, champion, and participate in these movements.

      Third, we need more politicians who are deeply committed to democratic reform. The complete ineffectiveness of any elected government to appropriately address climate and ecological breakdown indicates that present democracies must be radically upgraded, not just through electoral reform and proportional representation, but with the implementation of Citizens’ Assemblies.

      These are groups of ordinary people who are given time, expertise, and professional facilitation to deliberate and make decisions. They have been used with great success around the world to address issues that were seemingly intractable, like the abortion debate in Ireland. They were also used successfully in B.C. around electoral reform—but were not given the ability to actually make a legislative decision in that case. 

      Supplementing the short-termism, deadlock, lack of representation, and other weaknesses of elected governments with deliberative Citizens’ Assemblies is an evolutionary step towards better and more democratic governance.  

      I joined the B.C. Greens in part because they recognize the importance of participatory democracy. Vancouver’s B.C. Green candidates are young, diverse people with incredible talent and a shared vision for our province: to heal our society and halt our planet’s breakdown.

      We envision a city and society where everyone can live with dignity and where quality of life is rooted in relationships, not expansion and consumption. Where we live within Earth’s planetary boundaries and support each other to deeply thrive.

      The boundary of Vancouver–False Creek extends across the Burrard Bridge into part of Kitsilano.

      In this election, I want to be a voice of truth in our province to tell voters that we don’t have to settle for the same lifeless political discourse that is obscuring honest conversation about our planet’s future and what it will take to create it.

      Both the B.C. NDP and Liberals do not see clearly on this. They are intent on subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of a billion a year, and pushing through the Coastal Gaslink and Trans Mountain pipelines that a clean energy economy would need to outgrow in one decade—a mistake that would cost British Columbians billions more in the long run. We are in a battle of imagination right now about what the future can be—we aren’t fated to fail, but if we don’t imagine hard and act fast, we will. 

      A week ago, I had no plans to run in this snap election. It’s been a month since I finished my PhD and I was planning to relax during the fall season. But being called into service is powerful—and I couldn’t ignore it.

      As your B.C. Green candidate, I will fight to ensure that we meet these unprecedented challenges with innovative, humane policies so that we can actually look forward to a future. And so that we can say truthfully that we have fulfilled our responsibilities to all our human and non-human relations and to ourselves as future ancestors.