radical is the new sensible . . .

Rockers Not Frackers! Quebec’s Creative Resistance to Fracking

Philippe Duhamel, volunteer coordinator for Quebec's One Generation Moratorium Campaign to ban fracking.

Philippe Duhamel, volunteer coordinator for Quebec’s One Generation Moratorium Campaign to ban fracking.

“Imagine!” Philippe Duhamel urges excitedly, “The natural gas industry is coming and instead of the usual blockade of activists, there could be a row of grannies in rocking chairs knitting!”

The whole scene whips through my mind lightning fast: the police come to arrest the protesters. The grannies lock down, not to natural gas drilling equipment, but to their rockers. The officers must then load them – rocking chairs and all – into the police van while the cameras flash and the banner behind them reads, “Rockers Not Frackers!”

“What if,” Philippe continues in his delightful French-Canadian accent, “we held a music concert on the service road to block the trucks?!”

Celine Dion explodes in my imagination.

“Near . . . far . . . wherever you are!” she howls in her best Queen of Canadian Divadom style as the police attempt to haul away her ardent-fans-turned-activists.

Philippe Duhamel is a volunteer coordinator for the One Generation Moratorium Campaign in Quebec, Canada. His animated descriptions of their wild ideas to keep hydraulic fracturing for natural gas out of their region have me laughing in stitches. This music concert blockade of the service roads to fracking sites could just as easily be contra dancers – who will literally stomp and whirl in a marathon-all-night-style so long as the music is good and the cause is just. Philippe mentions a chorus of children and the Estonian Singing Revolution comes to mind. (A remarkable nonviolent struggle in which the people literally sang the Soviets out of power in acts of mass defiance and noncooperation.)

Schiste 911 means Shale 911, the emergency number people in Quebec can call to mobilize the anti-fracking resistance groups when the industry shows up in their backyards.

Schiste 911 means Shale 911, the emergency number people in Quebec can call to mobilize the anti-fracking resistance groups when the industry shows up in their backyards.

After another five minutes of conversation, I’m ready to move to Quebec.

“We throw the best parties,” Philippe admits with a chuckle.

This, my friends, is the strength of the Quebec resistance to fracking.

While fending off the powerful oil and gas industry isn’t all fun and games, the sense of spirit and humor is a source of strength for the community-based movement. When the villages of Quebec learned that 20,000 fracking sites had been planned up and down (and even under) the St. Lawrence River, it quickly became clear that all hands were needed on deck to stop the industry. Philippe, who has a long history of activism, realized that in order to mobilize the region, it was important to put some joi de vivre – some life! – into the struggle. Resistance campaigns can be intense, serious, and frightening . . . not to mention the long slew of often incredibly boring meetings that must be endured anytime one engages with political bureaucracy. Because let’s face it: who wants to give up football for fracking? (Or hockey if you’re Canadian.)

Admittedly, I don’t care a flying-you-know-what about sports. A warm fire and a cup of tea are more my style. Standing around in a cold stadium watching heavily padded men slam into each other is about as interesting to me as locking myself to a freezing cold bulldozer in the wintery regions of Canada.

However, by the time Philippe finishes explaining about the puppets, musicians, and theater that accompanied the anti-fracking movement’s 430-mile long walk from village to village to raise awareness about the dangers of fracking, I’m ready to cross the border and join the party over in Quebec.

“This movement is about life,” he says. “It is not an interruption of our lives.”

One Generation Moratorium sought to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Quebec for a generation's time.

One Generation Moratorium sought to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Quebec for a generation’s time.

It is, he explains, about reclaiming our connections to each other, our sense of place and community, and using the threat of fracking as an opportunity to discuss what is important to us. We shouldn’t need a mega-corporation poised to poison our watershed to evoke such conversations, but it seems that the threat of fracking acts as a wake up call, similar to when a life-threatening illness forces us to confront our own mortality. It spurs those conversations that begin with I love you and what is really important? The worry of watersheds makes communities sit down and discuss how their resources of water, land, health, people, time, and money should be balanced. The concern about the toxins left behind in the wake of fracking compels citizens to think about their children of their great-grandchildren.

In the case of Quebec, resisting fracking is not an onerous distraction from life as usual . . . it is the story of our times. Philippe and the Quebecois bring creativity, humor, and community to the forefront of their campaign because hockey season must go on hold when industry invades one’s region. Life, however, waits for no one . . . and love and laughter cannot be abandoned in the struggle to protect watersheds.

When we realize how fleeting our opportunity for life is, joy and love become more precious than gold. A brush with death deepens our conviction to live, to make the changes in lifestyle, health, and diet that may prolong our time on this beautiful planet. All around the world, people face the destruction of extractive energy industries. On top of that, climate change is shifting the framework of mortality from our own individual deaths to that of our communities, our regions, and life-as-we-know-it. The Earth and all her ecosystems are struggling and we humans must grapple with the largest concept of mortality that we have ever faced.

The question is: will we grasp courage and love and strive for life with every fiber of our being?

Many already are. Up in Quebec, entire communities are leading the way.

Philippe Duhamel is a real life character straight out of Rivera Sun's novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. Believe it or not, she really didn't know him before she wrote the book .. though she's delighted to know him now!

Philippe Duhamel is a real life character straight out of Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. Believe it or not, she really didn’t know him before she wrote the book .. though she’s delighted to know him now!

“Fighting destruction with destruction leaves the whole world destroyed. Resisting destruction with vitality is the most powerful force on Earth.” -The Dandelion Insurrection – a novel of love and revolution by Rivera Sun

Read more about the innovative – and successful – strategies of the Quebec anti-fracking campaign in Philippe Duhamel’s article in Open Democracy.

Also, tune in to Occupy Radio to listen to Philippe’s lively reflections on what’s working for the villages of Quebec. (This radio show is available as a podcast at OccupytheMedia.podomatic.com.)

For your reference and utter enjoyment, please check out The Singing Revolution, the story of Estonia’s nonviolent struggle for liberation. Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA9PmZo-2jo

Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength.

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