A new season for activism
Starhawk helps the seeds of social change sprout at the U of R
“How do you develop a strategy for change and how do you also sustain yourself in a healthy and nurturing and nourishing way when you’re trying to work on issues that are big and sometimes seem overwhelming?” author and activist Starhawk asked. “How do you create spiritual sustenance so you have the ability to stay healthful, energized, and enthusiastic, and continue working for the long term?”
On Monday, Starhawk will be coming to the University of Regina for a lecture and a Spring Equinox ritual. Her visit, facilitated by the U of R’s Women’s Centre, will revolve around activism and Canada’s environment circumstances. But first, on Sunday, she will be at Regina’s Cathedral Neighborhood Centre, conducting a workshop titled Spirit and Activism, looking at how to maintain spiritual strength through the battles of activism.
As an activist for decades, Starhawk has done all kinds of work surrounding a variety of issues. She believes activism takes two forms: protesting injustices and creating alternatives.
“I’ve been involved a lot with the Occupy movement through the fall, protesting economic injustice and inequality,” she said. “For me, it’s always important to work on both sides. I think we’re stronger when we say no to something when we also have a way of saying ‘yes.’”
Starhawk is also the founder of a seminar program called Earth Activist Trainings (EAT), which recently helped develop gardens in inner-city neighbourhoods, where she claims there are more liquor stores than groceries stores.
“It’s a neighbourhood that suffers from a food apartheid,” Starhawk said. “There is little or no way in that neighbourhood to get a hold of fresh fruit, vegetables, good food.”
But when she comes to Regina next week, Starhawk will focus more on spirituality, activism, and Canada’s resources. She finds her spiritual approach, however, in tune with the Aboriginal people and their shared view that the world is sacred.
“The planet we live on, our support systems, the things we need to sustain life … are sacred in the sense that they are really, really important,” she said. “They shouldn’t be given up, or compromised, for the sake of something else, like profit or money.
“If we don’t take care of them, if we don’t care of the basic systems that sustain our lives, then we’re not going to be able to sustain our culture, our society, and our own lives.”
Starhawk’s visit to the U of R deliberately coincides with the Spring Equniox, which she said is “a way of celebrating the transition of the seasons and the time of winter and cold and dark into the time of spring, when new things begin to grow and sprout.
“When this is happening in the outer world, it’s a good time to focus on what we want to grow and sprout and plant in our own lives,” she added. “The changes we might want to make, the growth we might want to go through personally, and the things we want to do for our community and our world.”
On Monday evening, Starhawk will be giving a talk about her experiences as an activist and the state of one of Canada’s most disputed resources, the oil sands. She takes issue with both the environmental and economic impacts of the industry and she hopes other women do, too.
“I think the huge issues are environmental destruction and economic injustice and there is a lot of things that support both of them, like racism and sexism,” Starhawk explained. “All of those issues have an enormous impact on women, because women are the ones who pick up the pieces, clean up the messes, who are often the ones left to take the responsibility that no one else wants to take.
“I think women are the ones who also suffer the worst impact when the environment no longer sustains us and when economic injustice forces us into poverty; it always falls hardest on women and our children.”
Although she thinks these issues are particularly relevant to women, she doesn’t disregard their impact on men; however, Starhawk thinks it’s the values and ideas of women that will make a difference.
“I think it’s very important for us, as women, to be able to find our voices and find our power and come together and figure out how we can stand up and build a world that values the values that women have always held,” she said.
“I don’t think they are innate to women and women only. I think there is definitely plenty of men that are nurturing and loving and care for children and our future, but those are the values that have been assigned to women in our patriarchal culture.”
Starhawk also plans to discuss Canada’s oil sands and Canada’s important role in the environment.
“That’s one of the things that makes Canada[’s] society so strong and so unique,” she explained. “In some ways, Canada is very much in the forefront of some of the big environmental questions, especially around the tar sands and Keystone pipeline.
“I think the decisions you all make, as Canadians, around these things are really key right now, not just for Canada, not just for North America, but for the state of the world.”
Coming from California, Starhawk jokes that she’s apprehensive about the cold, but is thrilled to be able to spread her message – a fusion of spirituality and activism – to University of Regina students.
“I hope the students will take away some tools and understandings that they can apply to the issues they care most deeply about … for understanding how do you develop a strategy for change,” she said.
Starhawk’s workshop on Sunday does require registration, but Monday’s events are open to all University of Regina students. The Spring Equinox ritual at First Nations University will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m, with the talk scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Luther Auditorium and a reception and book signing to follow. All of the events are free of charge.