Thanks to your ridiculously generous support, we’ve signed a contract with Pattison Media and we will have one 100 climate crisis posters on the TTC! When we launched, raising $10,000 in 17 days seemed absurdly ambitious — but we’re in the ‘try everything’ camp when it comes to climate action, so we tried.
AND YOU RESPONDED! Keep an eye out for your ads starting on AUGUST 5th.
We are aiming for $10,000, which will get us one ad on almost every train for a month. At $5000 we could run the campaign, but with considerably fewer ads. It seems like a lot, but we already raised over $2000 almost without trying — because everyone seems to love the idea and people have been very generous!
There is a lot of organizing energy in Toronto these days. Climate Justice Toronto — which is partly an offshoot of the Powershift conference and the Our Time movement — recently named itself and their meetings are humming.
Our Climate Picnic last week has filled us with hope and soaked our nervous bones in lovely sounds and sunshine. And it wouldn’t have happened without the help of so many people. We had some great organizers and volunteers including Sue, Ira, Clarence and Brianne. Sue was especially generous in lining up the circus performers and helping with promotion. Thank you!
Thank you so much for coming out and sharing what you do! There may also have been some other groups that I didn’t have a chance to speak to, or even possibly did speak to and forgot about, like many climate people, I’m not exactly a social butterfly graced with a good memory. But double thank you if you came out and I forgot you — email me if you want to be added to the list.
We would also like to thank Porcupine Warriors for all their organizing work in the past, even though I’m not sure they were able to make it out.
And finally mega Thanks to Yana Sery for her many photos and this stunning video:
Our first Climate Picnic had sun, music, flags, blankets, napping and lots of networking amongst people who are both experienced with and completely new to climate organizing. As parents of a four-year-old, it was nice to bring our daughter to an event that was so kid-friendly. But having a four-year-old also means it will be hard for us to run as many Climate Picnics as we would like to — so we are encouraging YOU to run a picnic of your own.
Climate Picnic, The Christie Pits and all of Toronto stand on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. The territory was also the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the HaudenosauneeConfederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. It is also important to recognize that indigenous history is dynamic. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed from the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nation by the Great Law of Peace (Kayanerenkó:wa) which preceded and influenced the U.S. Constitution — although “some Haudenosaunee say that, in imitating the Great Law, the United States did so poorly, for their constitution neglects some of the most important aspects: peace, the Good Mind, obligations to the natural world, the importance of families, obligations to future generations, spirituality, respect for women.”(Williams, 2018). We also encourage Climate Picnic visitors to visit Nish Dish, just down the block from Christie Pits, before or after the picnic in order to get a taste of contemporary indigenous traditions.
Goals of Climate Picnic
Make Climate Organizing Visible to the wider public. Millions of people are worried about climate change, but don’t know what to do about it, and thousands of people are attending different conferences and meetings about the issue, often behind close doors. The primary goal of Climate Picnic is to bring those two groups of people together. As Myrtle said once we got home: “I think the best thing was that we made climate action visible. People could see that the people involved in climate organizing are fun and chill and that it’s totally normal to think about and act on climate.”
Regenerative Culture. There have been a LOT of protests in Ontario this month, and Climate Pledge Collective has been at many of them. But marching and shouting takes a lot of energy and activists deserve to recharge their batteries. That’s one of the reasons we chose not to have any speeches. If people want to just zone out and soak up the sunshine and NOT think about climate for a while — they should be able to do that at Climate Picnic. Making the event a picnic also meant that instead of trying to scarf down Tim Horton’s and then run to the rally, people had time to eat a healthy meal at a healthy pace.
Educate People on a Variety of Opportunities to Act. At Climate Pledge Collective, we know there is no ‘silver-bullet’ solution to climate change — and we trust in the wisdom of crowds to choose the group or action that works for them and put their skills and energy where it will be most effective.
Don’t worry about the size of your picnic. Just by being visible you will normalize the idea of climate action. We are scattering seeds here — one of the three people who comes to your picnic might be the next Greta Thunberg. We’re planning to host another picnic closer to home. It will be smaller than our first picnic and I imagine less groups will make the trek uptown, but it will be easier for my wife and I to bring our daughter somewhere within cargo bike range and we will be doing gentle activism in a quieter neighbourhood where people might be less used to tuning things out.
People: This could just be you and a few friends or two families or it could be a hundred people. In the case of this picnic, it was a mix of people who heard about it through climate groups, old friends of mine with families and the families of my daughters’ preschool and kindergarten friends. School and parent groups are an excellent group to invite, because many of them are super-worried about climate, but have trouble attending protests or evening meetings.
Picnic: Myrtle and I brought fruit, chips, water and a blanket and then bought a vegan pizza from Apiecalypse Now. Having plant-based, low-garbage take-out within walking distance was a plus for the location. Other people brought reusable plates and cups and cutlery and food to share. Serving food can alter the permits required for your event — so it’s best to ask everyone to B.Y.O.Picnic and let guests interpret that however they like. We also suggested that people bring vegan food. Myrtle and I aren’t vegan, but we are reducing the amount of meat and dairy we eat for health, ethical and environmental reasons, and we believe that trying it out one meal at a time is a great way for people to get familiar with plant-based eating.
A Sign: We made a sign by taping printed pages to each side of an old municipal election lawn sign and sticking it in the grass — and it was startlingly effective! I saw lots of people taking pictures of the list of Toronto Climate Groups on the reverse side. The files I used to make the sign are here — feel free to use them as is or modify them — I uploaded them as .doc files, which might mess up some of the fonts, but will make the text easier to edit: Front | Back
Guidance about Next Steps: At our picnic, we had our pledge sheets to sign and a climate emergency postcard pre-addressed to John Tory for people to fill out and mail. We didn’t try to do too much at the event, because we wanted to give activists time to breathe, but people were definitely networking, signing petitions and thinking about what to do next. You might also want to have some info available about personal footprints, the IPCC report, or anything else you find important. Adding a brief opening and/or closing speech with concrete suggestions might also be a good idea. If you do speeches, don’t forget to do a land acknowledgement.
A Location: Choose a park that doesn’t get overcrowded, but has a lot of passers-by — either on a path through the park or a nearby street. If you choose a large park, pick a site within the park and advertise the selected spot clearly. Some people wandered Christie Pits for a while looking for us! Sorry.
Nice to Have:
Promotion: We did four kinds of promotion: online, posters and flyers, a media release and promotion through other networks. I will talk about the network promotions in the section on experts and groups. Promoting through a schools or parenting groups is also a good idea.
ONLINE: We made some videos about the picnic, a clear image that stated the goals of the picnic and a facebook event page and we promoted relentlessly on social media. We are happy to help anyone organizing a picnic with this. Just reach out to us: contact [at] climatepledgecollective.org.
POSTERS AND FLYERS: We made posters and posted them on notice boards and in cafes near the picnic. We also made flyers and dropped them in mailboxes. I’m not sure how effective this was — although we did make a connection with another climate organizer in the neighbourhood who ran us down after getting our flyer! But, at the very least, it will get people thinking about climate for two seconds while they read the poster or flyer. I am happy to change the details on our flyer or poster for you as needed.
MEDIA RELEASE: We did one, but we got no response. It might be best to target neighbourhood newspapers for this.
Activities: These weren’t as necessary at our picnic because we were blessed with live music — but I would definitely suggest planning something like sidewalk chalk or a scavenger hunt with a loose climate theme to occupy the kids!
Volunteers with tasks: We had a few people who volunteered to share our pledges and other groups had people going around with petitions and sign-up lists — but this was definitely an area where we could have been more organized. I would recommend having a volunteer greeter who hangs out near the sign to welcome people to the picnic and share info.
Experts and Group Representatives: At our picnic, we had an atmospheric physicist, a city councillor, representatives from 10 or more Toronto climate groups, a government policy analyst and others. Most of them just relaxed on a picnic blanket, but they were also talking to one another and drawing the climate community closer as well as explaining their work to the general public in a casual way. This meant sending a lot of emails, but I was able to bring people out, partly because I did the pre-work of attending group meetings for different groups and building connections over time, partly because I am privileged to have a lot of social capital and partly because these groups are eager to reach the general public. Your mileage may vary here, but I’m happy to help make connections in Toronto for you. Inviting other groups also meant that many of those groups promoted the event through their lists and networks to achieve cross-pollination.
Live Music: This is a tricky one — because asking musicians to play for free is not cool. The way it worked out for us was that I have met a few musicians at climate organizing meetings and got them involved early and they reached out to other musicians that they knew would enjoy jamming in the park (we will shout them all out with links in our Thank You post coming soon). So run through your mental rolodex (yes, I’m that old) and see if you know any musicians who are also committed to climate action and ask them if it’s something they would like to help out with. Or, if you are in a good financial position, just pay them.
Performers: A professor in my department who helped with the organizing was generous enough to pay for a stilt-walker and a glass juggler. They were a hit with the kids and gave the parents a moment or two to actually talk to one another. The stilt-walker is probably most useful if you are expecting a large turnout.
Banner: We made our banner with an old sheet, projected the letters with a screen projector, traced them with chalk and then painted them by hand.
Permit or Equivalent: For the most part, you won’t need a permit to do this — these are public parks and it’s just a picnic. If you are expecting a large turnout, if you are planning to sell things or serve food in an organized way, if you are planning scheduled performances or if you are going to set anything up you may have to looking into permit requirements for the chosen park. We had the possibility of a large turnout and we had musicians playing, so we filed a ‘notice of demonstration’ with the Toronto Police Services just so we would have some paperwork in case someone complained. Ask me for info on that if it is something you might pursue.
CLOSING THOUGHT: If you divvy up the tasks, trust people and plan in such a way that the event will be successful if one or two people aren’t able to fulfill their commitments — this is a pretty easy event to organize. A friend who goes to a lot of music festivals looked around in surprise at the end and said “Wow. No clean-up. I guess that’s the advantage of throwing an event for climate people.” And he was bang on — people brought their own food in reuseable containers, picked everything up and took it away with them. The people who care deeply about our planet are good people and you can mostly rely on them to take responsibility for themselves and for the places they visit.
It’s been a while since we posted in our low-carbon luxury series. If this is new to you, you can start at Part 1. We are currently on tenet six — stop competing.
My daughter recently attended a birthday party at an arcade with tickets and trinkets. We had fun, but when we tallied up, we discovered we only had enough for some worthless lumps of plastic — until I saw that one of those lumps was a jumping frog. We had enough points to get five or six frogs, but we just got one.
And it jumped far!
My daughter loved it. She showed it off proudly to all the other kids.
But then, as I buckled her into our cargo bike, she noticed that one of the other kids had more plastic goo-gaws than she did.
“Why did he get three things and I only got one?”
I explained to her that someone else probably got even more than him and someone else got more than that person and that if we compare ourselves to others we will only make ourselves miserable. Instead, it is better to focus on what we do have. On its texture and heft, on the way it makes us feel, on the way it leaps through the air in a delightful arc.
I don’t blame her for comparing her wondrous frog to those three inert lumps of plastic. Sometimes it feels as though we are pre-programmed to compare ourselves to others. In a very different world, Moses also found it necessary to remind us not to ‘covet’ our neighbour’s things.
The sixth tenet of low-carbon luxury is to stop competing.
At work, we chase the sales leader or nervously review a coworkers C.V.. On social media we compare likes and follower counts. At home, we might find ourselves ‘keeping up with Joneses’ comparing our old car to their brand new Audi.
Sometimes we win these comparisons and feel a little spark of triumph. Sometimes we lose, and get dragged down by a pound of self-doubt. But there is a more insidious problem here – the more constantly we compare ourselves, the more we become just a height rather than a full body rich with tones, textures, sensations and density. All our comparisons and contrasts are fundamentally empty. They are a hall of mirrors, a house of cards, a cacophony of chalk lines that prevent us from seeing within ourselves.
You are not a height or a resume or a collection of possessions. You are a human being. An immeasurable symphony. An endless sea of thoughts and feelings and memories. Every thing you are aware of in this wide, wide world is actually a thought within your mind, a feeling within your soul. All of it exists again within you.
‘Not Competing’ is two concepts in one. In addition to letting go of comparisons, it also encourages us to start cooperating. ‘Not competing’ means sharing. Do you need your own drill or could you just borrow one? Sharing things lets us simplify. It lets us spend less time maintaining our possessions. Sharing our insights, skills and favourite meals allows us to build community and social connections.
It is so strange to me that our society is built around competition, when cooperation makes us so much happier.
In my own field, academia, there is a hyper-competitive pressure to publish or perish. Even as a student, I know that if I don’t publish more and present at more conferences, my chances of landing a job are slim to none. This tallying of publications and presentations leads many academics to focus on their quantity of output rather than its quality. One encounters slightly different versions of the same article in different journals. People openly admit they are giving presentations or working on papers they know little about. All this despite the fact that most people feel there are already too many articles and papers to keep up with. And yet our brightest minds are whipping themselves to keep churning out more. With a child and precarious mental health, I have decided to ignore this pressure as best I can – and accept the consequences. And it’s a damn good thing, otherwise, at this very moment, I would probably be re-writing an essay on the comparative publicness of public libraries instead of doing climate organizing. The university, which seeks mainly its own growth and prestige, will pay for me to fly around the world tooting my own horn, but it won’t fund my climate organizing.
And if I had chosen to keep my nose to the grindstone, I would have to give up other unquantifiable goods like having emotional discussions about parenting with my colleagues, in order to publish, publish, publish. But those conversations have made me a better parent and made the university a slightly more human place.
And it is not just universities that have fallen prey to our obsession with competition. Look at Toronto’s relentless desire to become a ‘world class city.’ We built the UP Express straight from downtown to the airport while our public transit collapses. We have a fabulous new fountain of ceramic dogs on Front Street, in a neighbourhood that was already overwhelmingly beautiful, while public parks in the inner suburbs are barely even mowed. Municipal governments are eager to pump tax dollars into stadiums and international sporting events before they house their own homeless, just so they can keep up with the Tokyos or Londons of the world.
And all this competition, all these races to nowhere, are taking up the time of our best and brightest, preventing them from addressing our climate crisis. People tell me they have to fly for work or stay late at the office or invest in oil companies ‘to beat inflation.’ Look very carefully at the choices you are making and be certain that the work you are doing is about more than points or paying mortgage payments for a home that is bigger than your needs. There is other important work to be done of course – we must fight oppression and educate and care for one another. But if you are mainly working for imaginary points of one kind or another – I urge you to let those points go. What would happen if you asked to work four days a week? Or requested an unpaid leave? Maybe you wouldn’t even use that time to fight climate change – you might just use it to build closer ties with your friends or family or take care of an aging relative – but just that simple choice, to choose people over points, will improve your life and slow the pace of our relentless rush towards extinction.
‘Not competing’ doesn’t mean slacking off or accepting mediocrity – it means evaluating your performance against your own standards. Not competing means taking an assignment seriously, it means wrestling with tough ideas and actually learning something, rather than parroting back the professor’s viewpoint to get the easy A. When you stop competing, you will be happier because you will stop beating yourself up with someone else’s yard stick. When you stop competing, you will be more satisfied because you will spend your time doing the things that you think are important.
If you still have a few moments to linger here, I have included a video of Gou Miyagi – a Japanese skateboarder who doesn’t give a crap about jumping further or higher than other skateboarders. His videos are a joy to watch and have made him rightfully famous. Because it is always a joy to be around those who refuse to compete.