Where’s the Democracy in the Environmental Movement?

With tar sands, fracking and mining all on the rise, there’s never been a more important time for a strong environmental movement in Canada. Surveying the landscape of organizations, one thing is missing: democracy. Which is to say, meaningful informed participation among equal participants. The images are familiar. People gathered together, making pivotal decisions about their collective direction in community halls, church basements, and conference rooms. Heated debates, pivotal votes, historic gatherings and galvanizing speeches. These are symbols of something that is basic to what it means for people to band together to fight powerful forces and change things. Movements often have an organization that embodies their spirit. The US civil rights movement in the 1960s was driven forward by the Southern Christian Leadership Congress and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The anti-nuclear direct action in the 1970s had the Movement for a New Society (MNS), and the “antiglobalization” movement of the 1990s and 2000s was an interwoven web of spokescouncil meetings and coalitions. Quebec’s epic student strikes in 2005 and 2012 were initiated by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ).

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