Screening this week: "The Reluctant Radical" contemplates “appropriate” actions in a climate crisis

Bowen in Transition will be screening "The Reluctant Radical" on Wednesday, May 8 at 7 p.m. at the Library Annex.

Last Monday, a 71 year-old grandfather named Terry Christenson camped out in a Burnaby tree-top to protest the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain expansion project. On Tuesday, he rappelled down, “in order to protect the safety of the RCMP officers” who were trying to climb up the tree to arrest him.

Christenson told the media that he’s more afraid of climate change than jail, and that he’s not going to stand around and let this pipeline get built.

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In 2016, Oregon’s Ken Ward contemplated what may be considered a more extreme action. He was a long-time environmental and climate activist, but felt that his efforts yielded insufficient results, given the scale of the crisis.

“What we really needed to be doing, from the very beginning,” says Ward, “was raising hell. If you’ve done all the legal, available methods and they don’t work, the only thing left is to put your body in the way.”

In October of that year, Ward and five other activists decided to risk their freedom to stop the flow of crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the U.S. By cutting the fences surrounding the shut off valves at five Enbridge pipeline locations, the protestors stopped the movement of 70 per cent of the Alberta oil being shipped to the US that day.

The Reluctant Radical tells the story of those actions, as well as the waves of emotions, and internal struggles that led Ken Ward, a normally law-abiding citizen, to do something that would ultimately land him in jail.

Bowen In Transition’s Dave Pollard says that he’s met Ward, and even tried out the type of bolt cutters used to break through the fencing to the pipeline valve near Anacortes, Washington.

“Ken and his group were careful to plan the action in a way that would not result in violence or danger to safety or to the land,” says Pollard. “But he did feel the necessity to push the limits of direct action. I think many of us will come to a point where we consider the necessity of direct action, and may need to ask ourselves questions similar to those Ken Ward asked himself. What would we have done here on Bowen, for example, if following our community protest, the province decided to go ahead with logging anyway? It wouldn’t have surprised me to see people chained to bulldozers.”

Bowen in Transition will be screening The Reluctant Radical on Wednesday, May 8 (7 p.m. at the Library Annex) with a follow-up question and answer video call with Ken Ward. The library is co-sponsoring the screening and will make the film available for rental after the event.

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