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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Acoustic Relations: pipelines, plant medicine, and sustainability in Vancouver, British Columbia

  • Author(s): Lawson, Kristine
  • Advisor(s): Chen, Nancy N
  • et al.

The twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline between the Alberta tar sands and Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the most politically divisive issues in recent Canadian history. At the epicentre of the debate are questions about sustainability policy, indigenous rights, and political leadership. This ethnographic investigation problematizes the term “sustainability” and approaches to accomplishing it that fail to adequately acknowledge social implications. The work draws parallels between the need for reconciliation with and healing of Land and Peoples. It also implements the teachings of plants and plant medicine to draw out connections between people, their environments, and climate change crisis. Some of the questions raised include: What if sustainability policy focused instead on natural cycles of regeneration, with phases of creation, sustainability, and destruction? Although the City of Vancouver is often perceived of as a climate change leader, in what ways has the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan created new sets of exclusion and marginalization and how will the city address this in its next sustainability plan? What are the connections between climate change crises and reconciliation, in a Canadian context, with land-based long-resident people? And, how can the use of ceremony be heard as a form of both political dissent and re-emergent leadership? This investigation combines acoustic methods for deep listening to the environment, the news, and political leaders, as well as the ancient knowledge of plants.

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