“The power of our vision must be so much stronger than the power of our fear,” said ecofuturist and founder of the BC Sustainable Energy Association Guy Dauncey when speaking as a guest at a VIU political studies class. “The challenge is huge, but it’s mostly achievable.”

As Canada and the world meet in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) to create a universal agreement on climate for the first time in 20 years, Nanaimo locals are also advocating to raise awareness about climate change.

On November 24, a diverse group of VIU Arts and Humanities faculty, students affiliated with VIU’s Awareness of Climate Change through Education and Research (ACER) club, and the VIU Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee performed readings of various pieces that portrayed different outlooks surrounding climate change in Scenes from the Anthropocene.

The staged reading is one of over 100 theatre events occurring worldwide to raise awareness about climate change in the days leading up to COP21.

changeVIU’s event was organized by Dr. Nelson Gray, a VIU writer and stage director. Dr. Gray received a $75k grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) last fall, as well as a Canada Council grant the year before to write a film opera based on his experiences as a salmon troller. For inspiration, he drew on oceanographic research from scientists at the University of Victoria and Dalhousie University, and on his own recent summer residency experience at Ocean Networks Canada.

Nineteen people sat in a semi-circle on the Malsapina Theatre’s dimly lit stage as the soothing sound of ocean waves echoed out of the theatre’s PA system. From the point of view of a mother polar bear trying to teach her cub to hunt seals in an environment where ice is constantly retreating, to documentary filmmakers debating if the Western or Eastern world is more responsible for climate change, to an illustration of the contrasting views on the issue between generations, and an ironic monologue from the view of the “average joe” speculating the legitimacy of climate change, each performance offered a thoughtful and clear message.

The performance was followed by an information session with climate change experts from VIU’s Faculty of Science and Technology, who are faculty coordinators of Awareness of Climate Change through Education and Research, which is a student-led initiative focusing on education and outreach.

Eric Krogh, Chemistry professor and head of the Applied Environmental Research Laboratory lab on campus explained that extremely cold winters and natural disasters cause some people to question the legitimacy of global “warming.” Because of this, “Some scientists prefer to refer to global warming as ‘climate destabilization,’” he said, as these other extreme fluctuations in weather are all connected to the greater issue.

When asked about ways for people to start taking action now, Jeff Lewis, a climatologist that teaches in VIU’s Geography department, said there are many ways to begin making an impact. Reducing your consumption of meat, recycling, taking your bike or public transit, signing petitions, voting for people invested in helping the environment, and raising awareness are just some of the strategies each person can use, he said.

“There are different levels of taking action and helping,” said VIUSU Women’s Representative Connie Graham, who also spoke at the event. “There’s the high-up level where the delegates going to the UN Paris Summit are, then there are the things everyone can do in their day-to-day lives.”

There was also a Global Climate March and rally at Maffeo Sutton Park on Sunday, November 29 as a call to action. This march was part of a joint effort with communities around the world who have been setting out their demands on climate.

Faith groups, trade unions, Indigenous groups, women’s and youth organizations, environmental groups, community organizations, families, and other concerned citizens marched through the streets of downtown Nanaimo, returning to the park for speakers and music. The speakers at the march focused on local climate initiatives and projects and promoted making positive change, said leader of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Green Party Paul Manly, who helped organize the event.

When asked about what he would like to see Canada do at the Paris Summit, Manly said Canada should show leadership in combating climate change. “We need to set some ambitious targets for Canada,” he said. “I think if Canada sets an ambitious target, that’ll make it easier to have an international agreement. Harper’s government wasn’t involved; it has been a stick in the mud. We’ve seen commitments from China and the US, so Canada needs to join.” To contact or get involved with ACER, email ACER@viu.ca.

To learn more about Dauncey’s research and projects on global environment and climate change, you can visit his SlideShare online.

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