rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Could renewable energy be a force for decolonization?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Energy is inextricably linked to a range of community issues, from health to housing. That was one message that emerged from a four-day gathering in Calgary of more than 200 young Indigenous leaders from every province and territory, organized by Disa Crow Chief of the Siksika Nation and Cory Beaver of the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

Participants came to the SevenGen gathering in January to learn about opportunities in Canada's energy transition from an Indigenous youth perspective. Beaver and Crow Chief are keen to engage young people in Indigenous-led energy solutions and find them ongoing mentorship opportunities.

SevenGen's website explains, "As youth of the seventh generation, we feel a renewed responsibility to protect our environment, as water protectors and guardians of all creation. Through SevenGen, we hope to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from diverse backgrounds, share knowledge across cultures, and ensure that the wellbeing of land, water, and all the life within it remains at the forefront of discussions about energy."

For non-Indigenous participants, the notion that many issues we often consider separately are interconnected was striking. Ideas around energy were closely entwined with language, food self-sufficiency and improved housing, health, and well-being. All were grounded in a perspective that emphasizes a deep connection to the land and a responsibility to it and the life it holds.

As Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike grapple with the energy, climate and social challenges facing our communities, we must understand the importance of diversity. If we continue to elevate only voices of those who have traditionally held power, we won't likely discover meaningful solutions to the problems we collectively face. Listening to people with different world views is essential to finding new ways forward.

Indigenous leaders aren't waiting to be invited to the table. Judith Sayers of the Hupacasath Nation, Gordon Planes of T'Souke Nation and others talked about work their communities are already doing to shift to greater self-reliance through community renewable energy and efficiency projects. These provide clean energy, training, jobs and economic development opportunities.

Lumos Energy president Chris Henderson noted that 20 per cent of Canada's renewable energy projects are Indigenous efforts. He says community-led renewable energy projects not only bolster energy democracy -- allowing communities to produce energy rather than depending on large corporations or utilities -- but are also seen by some as part of the way toward decolonization.

"We are the future leaders for our nations, and getting more Indigenous people involved in renewable energy projects will not only benefit our own communities but Canada as a country," Crow Chief explained.

David Suzuki Foundation fellow Melina Laboucan-Massimo spoke about her community's experience with toxic oilsands pollution that severely affected air and water quality. This experience fed her determination to see her community benefit from renewable energy.

In "Let them drown: the violence of othering in a warming world," Naomi Klein points out that fossil fuel extraction has always required sacrifice zones, and that the poorest communities and people of colour have always been most likely to feel the brunt of industrial impacts.

Unlike renewable energy, which can be distributed, fossil fuel extraction occurs in specific places. It's no accident that people who have lived on these territories for millennia have been viewed as "others" by those who wish to profit from extraction.

Crow Chief said that, at 21, she's been to more funerals than graduation ceremonies or weddings. Many in the audience nodded in agreement. "I refuse to do nothing and dwell in hopelessness," she said.

"Our elders always tell us to do things in a good way -- to think in a good way, to act in a good way," said Steven Crowchild, from the Tsuut'ina Nation. It's easy to lose sight of the value of being a good person, of being a good ancestor. He, like many other young leaders, draws strength from his culture and community.

We should all think more about how to be good. As Crow Chief said, "I want to remind you all to be honest and brave when going about your days, wherever it is you come from. I want you to know that you are always supported and a part of something bigger when using your voices to spread kindness and strength."

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Community Renewable Energy Manager Sherry Yano.

Learn more at https://davidsuzuki.org/.

Image: sustenator.com/Wikimedia Commons

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.