Roughly 30 people entered a McGill University building in Montreal Friday morning with a powerful goal—to highlight the flawed approach to debate on fossil fuel extraction that marginalizes those most affected by the toxic process and fails to address how the world moves beyond a paradigm of perpetual growth.
The target of the group's occupation was a conference entitled Petrocultures 2014: Oil, Energy, and Canada’s Future. In a blog post, the group explains that
The framework of this conference positions support for fossil fuel extraction as one valid opinion among others, reducing massive environmental destruction, widespread death and disease, and the continued advancement of Canada’s colonial project to intellectual concerns, to be balanced against the promise of cheap energy and growth in profits. No matter their personal convictions, participants in such debate legitimate the pro-tar sands, pro-fracking, colonialist position by granting its defenders a speaking platform and a considered response.
At around 7:45, just over an hour before the conference was set to open, the protesters entered the building. Their first goal, spokesperson Mona Luxion told Common Dreams, was to prevent, or at least make it more difficult, for the event to take place. Already, Luxion said, they achieved a small victory because their action forced the event to move to another building.
Their second goal, Luxion said, was "to raise visibility not only at this conference but around the national debate over fossil fuel extraction."
The framework of reporting everywhere takes the "position that we should be engaging in fossil fuel extraction... that we should keep on mining the tar sands, that we should keep fracking, all of which are toxic processes," she said.
"We don't get to have a debate about how we create an economy in which we don't rely on fossil fuels," she added, so the action on Friday was to critique not only this conference, which gives a platform to advocates of continued extraction, but also to critique the way the debate happens nationally and internationally.
We need to look at "who is present in the conversation," Luxion said, and include in the debate the people faced with "the immediate danger of resource extraction...rather than those voices being marginalized."
"We really need to talk about how to not continue an economy based on perpetual growth with limitless resources. We need to look at the system as a whole."
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Twitter users present at the action kept track of the action using the hashtag #LockoutPetroCultures, which you can see below: