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Speaker from University of British Columbia talks environmental impact and civil disobedience

Professor Kathryn Harrison speaks to a crowd in Haggard Hall on Wednesday, April 22. // Photo by Christina Becker.
Western hosted Kathryn Harrison, a professor of Political Science from the University of British Columbia, to speak on the topic of civil disobedience in regards to the recent pipeline expansion project taking place in British Columbia. As Western celebrated Earth Day on Wednesday April 22, Harrison spoke on recent environmental issues happening in BC. Since November, protests have been taking place near Burnaby Mountain in BC, Canada due to the sparked disagreements against the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion. More than 100 protestors have been arrested while blocking the streets and camping in the woods near the pipeline activity. They are doing this in an effort to raise opposition toward the active expansion currently occurring just north of the Canadian and US border. Harrison went into great detail about the events that have been taking place since the expansion first made news back in November. People take over the road and camp in the woods to protest against this pipeline expansion, she said. Harrison discussed the motives behind efforts protestors made even while they likely knew arrest was a possibility, “People were getting arrested while the drilling was going on behind them. It was a symbolic arrest but an extremely powerful symbol.” Harrison said. People perform acts of civil disobedience to make a point. They are choosing to speak out and take a stand on issues they care about. They want to influence the people they know and the policymakers working in office, in the hopes of seeing real changes take place, Harrison said during her lecture. Morgan Cabe, a senior anthropology major attended the lecture and left with a sense of understanding for the issue. “I agree with a lot of the things she said, in regards to how civil disobedience can be influential depending on the circumstances,” Cabe said. Harrison pointed out that the power of civil disobedience is in the selflessness of the act; protesters risk the immediate and long-term impact of being arrested in the hope that their sacrifice will be noticed and will persuade the opinions of others. Harrison noted that the policymakers are doing little to change these environmental issues and that there is no real push for any major changes in the future. “As long as voters have other priorities, and especially priorities that are perceived to be intention with action on climate change, then they can win votes by doing very anti-environmental things,” Harrison said. Harrison noted with very little happening, individuals have taken it upon themselves to become responsible for the change they wish to see in regards to the environment. She suspects those being arrested are extremely frustrated and feeling powerless after watching things go in the wrong direction for so long. Many of the individuals involved in these acts of disobedience and arrests are young adults who want to be heard, Harrison said. Harrison noted in her lecture that while young adults are the ones most passionate about these issues of climate change and oil expansion, they are also the smallest minority of voters. “The irony is at a time when young people are saying voting doesn’t matter, it’s the time when if they actually voted they could have a particularly large impact,” Harrison said Jason Conner, a senior communications major at Western also attended the lecture and found these facts about young adults not voting very interesting. “When she pointed out young people aren’t voting, that makes all the more sense. It made me consider how are you then going to get it in front of the eyes of the voters in a way that makes them want to support it? She pointed out the validity in that older generations are perceiving it as disorderly conduct rather than something progressive and creating form,” Conner said. Harrison encourages young people, regardless of where they live or what they are involved in to vote and to share their voice.

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