Global Protests a Dangerous Spark in Oil Country

There were 150,000 in Montreal, 20,000 in Berlin, 10,000 in Lausanne, and 500 in Edmonton. A total of 1.4 million youth across 123 countries absent from the classroom. As a general rule of thumb, many parents do not condone truancy. Skipping school only hurts a student’s future. But what if the student believes that the only way to save their future is to sabotage their present?


On Friday, March 15, a larger number of desks than usual sat empty; a significantly larger amount, as students from across the world took to the streets as part of the global #FridaysforFuture movement, started by 16-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg. In an inspiring display of the youth taking the future into their hands, the world took notice (if only for moment), an incredible feat in the time of hyper news cycles.


Despite all the fervour, excitement, and empowerment many other youths across the world seemed to feel as they took the future into their own hand, Edmonton did not feel the global repercussions. We live in a city with a population of about 900,000. According to the 2016 City Census, 82,000 people are ages 15-24, the target demographic for these compendious demonstrations. The turnout in the legislature? A decidedly pale 500 when compared with the rest of the world. Was it mere apathy and differing beliefs that kept students from attending, or was an external factor what caused the event’s local anonymity?



Where were the MacEwan #FridaysforFuture protests? The issue may not lie with the student themselves, but rather their cultural environments and the school’s policies, said AJ Trussler, a MacEwan student who attended the protest. When initially hearing about the movement, AJ said they had assumed- because of Edmonton’s and Alberta’s culture around oil- that there would not even be an offshoot of the protest happening here. “I think that one of the major factors that kept our protest from achieving wider success was simply the fact that we live in a city where many young people probably share their parents’ conservative views,” said Trussler. Trussler’s pronounced opinion on Alberta’s hegemony may ring true for many students attending the oft-liberal MacEwan. “We know the kind of people and corporations that we are living under, and we know our neighbours.”

The spare coverage at MacEwan may also have also left a gap in awareness in the student body. “None. I didn’t see anything at all actually,” said Trussler, who discussed attendance policies and heavy workloads as potential major barriers for MacEwan students getting out of the classroom: “students are afraid to skip, because they don’t want to fail just because they were already sick twice this semester.” The Office of Sustainability at MacEwan may seem like the perfect avenue for which protests like this can be supported, but Kerstyn Lane, Engagement and Outreach Advisor for the Office of Sustainability, says that the Office is put into a sensitive position by being part of a publicly funded institution.


Being an environmental office of a liberal public institution in an oil-heavy province can lead to being squeezed politically and financially, said Lane. Students like Trussler seeing absolutely no coverage at MacEwan was deliberate and had several reasons behind it. “As a nonpartisan unit, part of a post-secondary institution, we have zero role to play in organizing protests against government, businesses, or other organizations,” said Lane. “Oil production is diametrically opposed to climate action, and with public climate institutions, we rely on funding from major donors, and those donors may or may not have investments in oil.” There is a clear conflict of values and finances occurring at the Office. And, according to Lane, the protest wasn’t a total failure. “The turnout for that strike is probably 25 times the size of what they used to be. When I looked at the Instagram stories and posts, all I could think was ‘look how many people are there.’”


To a student who helped organize it, the protest was a total success. Caylie Ganam, a Victoria School student, helped organize the protest with Student Strike YEG. “Every single person there was so passionate about being there, and they all cared so much.” What was the difference between MacEwan students and Victoria High School students? Support. “They made it understood that although they could not publicly endorse it, that no one was going to be in trouble. They gave us the freedom to support something that we believed in.”



Change happens from within, but this change may not be something Alberta is ready for yet. As long as institutions within Alberta are funded by oil money, the protests will always be a partisan issue. To Ganam, there is only so long that Alberta can ignore the momentum of a global change, even if it may seem small now. “We are making our mark, no matter how small, and that is what I think is important.”



Don’t Lose It

We are all constantly pushed to brand ourselves; to utilize the all-encompassing monolith of social media in order to ‘grow’. While these platforms are an amazing tool for communication, collaboration, and frankly free marketing, in my experience they come with a sinister twist: a loss of truth.

Underlying all of the posts, and beneath all of the hustling and self-promotion, is a sense of ingenuity. We are convinced that these Instagram profiles are truthful representations of people, yet we spend so much time agonizing over which parts of ourselves to censor in order to create a palatable personality.

I am guilty of it, you are guilty of it. We are all guilty of it, and there is not much we can do about it. Marketing and self-promotion are important parts of being able to survive, to create something that people want to buy- the issue is that we have become the product. By becoming the product, we begin to evaluate ourselves based on the success we have on these platforms and begin to bury the honest, imperfect, impromptu moments that make us human. We fear moments that make us look bad, or contradict our public personas. Which is ironic, considering that if we are to be relatable, we should be airing these moments of struggle, failure, or comedic accidents that make us who we are. Our collective imperfections are what make us human, and we shouldn’t be afraid to share them with others. On the contrary, a community of professionals who can display that there is more to them that airbrushed statuses and exclamation marks surrounding their next event may lead to the most successful and healthy form of online communication we can achieve.

Asia Revisited

Revisiting the photos from my three-month excursion to Asia has reminded me of how our beliefs, attitudes, worldviews, and (most importantly) our North American pessimism is nothing more than that: North American. Our mental architecture is- and I am in no way an expert in this manner- dictated by our Canadian environment, in which we have a tendency to both intentionally and unintentionally bombard ourselves with negative concepts, ideas, and attitudes towards everything. We believe in pessimism because we are taught to be cynical of everything. We can be unhealthily cynical, and, while visiting different places, the stories of those I got to know were devastating accounts of corrupt governments or neglected children who had to push their own way in the world; the people whose lives I was a part of for merely an hour were, to me, devastating. And yet, these people were happier than I am despite the struggles they have gone through that I could never imagine.

Take a second to remember how lucky we are, and talk to someone else. Learn their outlook, hear their story! It might change your lookout on how you feel about your own. 52999973_573982759735905_2035091380430176256_n.jpg

Story: Paco

Paco and his art gallery, in Jiufen, Taiwan. Paco is an artist, originally a photographer, who decided late in life to move into painting. His wife passed away several years back, and none of his kids still live in Taiwan. He currently resides in the small mountain town of Jiufen. We stumbled upon his art gallery by accident, as there are no signs that directly point you to it; rather his gallery is simply an open door in a narrow alley, above which someone lives. The open door policy that they had in Jiufen was refreshing. We were told, even encouraged to simply walk into someone’s house if we wanted to see them. If they weren’t there, we left and came back later. The community and trust was stronger than anything I have ever seen here.

The Analog Medium

Why do I love analog media?

There is something incredible about being able to hold a tangible form of art in your hand. About the meditative ritual of picking a record off of a shelf, admiring the art, and watching as the black disc unleashes the music that is stored on it. There is no digital artifice involved; the pieces created take up physical, real space. They have emotions, memories, a history attached to them. And they are imperfect. They get scratches, dents, dusty, and reflect a real. They are not digitally perfected, cold and exacting.

It allows us to disconnect, as well. To take a step back from the increasingly all-encompassing digital world of social media and servers in a distant land that contains all. The physical media forces us into the present, into what we are doing. The process of production, viewing, listening, was created to only do one thing. It causes us to have greater care and appreciation for this media because there are no copies, it is not infinitely reproducible. You possess one of the copies, perhaps, but there are a limited number. People and objects, not electricity and microprocessors were involved in the creation of that art. And the vinyl is played right before our eyes; the photograph is exposed when we click the shutter. It allows us to connect more deeply to what is happening because we can more easily understand what is happening.

Analog media are one of the last true connections to capturing the real world around us using the real world itself.

This photo was taken at CJSR, where I work, and where I love to sit, think, and stare at all the music stored. Every song takes up space. It’s almost as good as actually listening to them.

Take it For Granted

We take them for granted all the. Don’t forget that, in the words of Harrison Ford, “nature doesn’t need people, people need nature.” Plastic and fossil fuels (all connected Alberta’s favourite export) are killing the earth. In the end, we’re killing ourselves. What do people gain from denying climate change? They get to pretend everything is okay or continue to profit off of draining the life from the only thing that keeps us alive. It’s not like we have another option.

Journalism Now; or, Rewatching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Everyone wants to be Hunter S. Thompson. At least, that ‘s the way I feel (probably because I want to be him too.) Realistically, I don’t think that it is possible to recreate what he did. The drug-fuelled romp of the ’60s is over, and now journalism demands constant professionalism, attentiveness, and reliability. People can’t find the time in their day to read long-form stories anymore, let alone book-length features. The crazed version of gonzo journalism that he pioneered- one that favoured DIY methods, and a ‘method acting’ type of writing in which the journalist is a part of the story- while perhaps still prevalent in our society (look at the success of Vice) is mostly dead. Drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll are no longer shocking or thrilling. Instead, they’re an accepted- even encouraged- part of society.

So what can a journalist do now? How can we bring about the same fresh and exciting methods that Thompson, breaking free from the academic constraints of APA formatting and inverted-pyramid style hard news in your municipal newspaper, did?

He took risks, and I suppose that is what we have to do now. Journalists have to tell stories that no one else is talking about, and not be afraid to cast off the professional facade we are expected to adopt. There is something to be said for inserting not only you but your persona into the work you do. Write so that the journalism is still valid, but make it a reflection of your personality. Do something that no one else is doing. I feel like because the news cycle is so quick, journalists no longer have the chance to get lost in, or truly explore a story. Although it is important to have a structure to your life: to plan, budget, pay the bills, and cover the local hockey scores, there is still room for what I believe journalism is. Journalism is about telling someone else’s stories, it is about experiencing life through another lens. How can we truly capture life at its core, the messy disaster that we all experience, when we are approaching these events in a cold academic manner?

Then I suppose that one of the key issues is treating journalism like a job and nothing more. When in reality, people want to read about the stories of others, to know what is truly happening around the world and in their own backyards. There will always be a place for hard news; the importance that we all are aware of what is happening is universal. Especially if the events are life- or society-threatening. Journalists just can’t forget to make time to experience life away from the office, the page, and the professional constraints. Public trust in journalism is worryingly low right now. Perhaps it would help to infuse some truthful, unpolished glimpses of life every now and then.

Take a risk.

What Am I Doing This Week?

(also protest update)

Due to the sheer volume of organizations that we are trying to contact, and because it’s just that time of year (there really isn’t any Xmas In February, Lou Reed), the protest is going to be postponed. The postponing is probably for the best because it is supposed to be cold again this Wednesday.

Just in case the cabin fever is starting to get to you, here are a few events that I am going to be checking out (indoors) to pass this deep freeze. Vitamin D season is only a few short months away. Almost there.


PhotoEd Magazine Pecha Kucha Night

Source: Metro Cinema


I am covering this event for the griff, MacEwan’s student newspaper. According to the description on the venue’s, Metro Cinema, website, it is a night celebrating “storytelling, and what draws a photographer to their subject.” People of all skill levels are welcome. This all-Canadian lineup of photographers have only 20 seconds to talk through 20 of their images. This is where the name “Pecha Kucha” comes from, or “the art of concise presentations.” It starts at 7pm on February 12th at the Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, children, and seniors. Tickets can be found here.


Coral Plaza Art Show

This art show is being held at Coral Plaza, a still fresh and independent venue that, according to their website, “is a DIY space dedicated to creating space for everyone and ensuring proper representation in every event we host.” It’s a fantastic and interesting venue that is worth checking out. The art show, happening this Friday, promises “local artists in a new art space for an exhibition of a variety of artwork representing a varied selection of local artists. Featuring special guests GirlsClub DJs from 9pm – late!” Coral Plaza is 6768 99th St. Doors are at 7pm, and tickets are $5.

coral plaza.jpg
Source: Coral Plaza Art Show Facebook Event Page

The World Before Your Feet

A documentary about New Yorker Matt Green, this documentary screened by the Metro Cinema as part of their Doc of the Month series is a love letter for one of the most diverse and iconic cities in the world. Green goes on a trek of New York, “from the heart of Harlem to the marshes of Staten Island,” in a “pursuit of anything that catches his eye, be it a national landmark or a humble manhole cover.” I am excited to see it, for no other reason than to virtually explore one of the most incredible cities in North America through the eyes of Green and many other New Yorkers with their own stories to tell. This film shows on February 13, at 7pm. Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for students. Metro Cinema is 8712 109 St.

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Source: The World Before Your Feet Official YouTube trailer

Hope to see you around.

Protests, and Doing Anything You Can

The devastating invasion of Wet’suwet’en by CoastalGasLink and the expansion of their pipeline to the coast has largely been forgotten by the media, it seems. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, based on the speed of the news cycle. Now we have our friend and fantastic councillor Jon Dziadyk to worry about, among other things. Despite these massive infractions on a sovereign and autonomous part of Canada, and the fact that Alberta churns out both thinly-veiled racist and anti-environment protests in the form of our own bastardized Yellow Vest Movement, Alberta hasn’t really done their (our) part. Our part being taking action alongside the rest of the world, akin to what is happening in Europe with the prodigious Greta Thunberg; she is the de facto leader of the revolution to save the planet happening across the continent currently.

So what do we do about it? What do we, as students, as young people, as people who have to live on this planet for the rest of our new lives, and who, frankly, have to shoulder the responsibility that the Boomer Throwaway generation decided was too much work for them, do? Good question. Anything. I know that most of us are overworked, overtired, underpaid and underfed, but something has to be done. After all, we only have 12 years.

So a friend and I have decided to organize a protest. A protest that seeks to call out the new pipeline, the violation of consent, the rise of anti-immigration and persistence of ignorant anti-environmentalism in Alberta, among other things. The tentative date is Wednesday, February 13th, at around 4:00 pm. The location will be the Legislature. And everyone is welcome and invited! More details to come soon.

That mountain in the photo ain’t gonna be covered in snow for too much longer if things keep heating up (also summer is coming soon.)