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During 2010 and 2011,
a hundred young social change
organizers from BC, Alberta and
Saskatchewan engaged in creating
the following statement of shared
purpose. The statement was initiated
leading up to a gathering on British
Columbias Sunshine Coast, and
endorsed the following year, at
a gathering in the foothills of the
Alberta Rockies. This is our basis of
We are progressive activists
dedicated to social, environmental
and economic justice. We apply this
dedication to the way we live our
lives and to the social movements
where we invest our energies. Some
of us have focused on environmental
issues, or international solidarity,
or womens equality; some work
primarily on poverty reduction
and eliminating homelessness,
or Indigenous sovereignty, or
anti-racism; while others have
concentrated mainly on bringing
about progressive social change and
community-building through the arts,
education, community planning, legal
new media,
or electoral
We come to this work from
diverse cultural identities and
various experiences of privilege
and marginalization; together,
these experiences have shaped
our worldview and informed our
understanding of the challenges
that lie ahead. We acknowledge the
different privileges we experience,
especially on land where the majority
of us are settlers, and we accept the
responsibilities that accompany this.
What we share is a common sense of
purpose and of urgency. We choose
a life not of apathy and passive
observation, but of making positive
social change. We accept that we
have a responsibility; that we must
strengthen a movement to bring
about social, political and economic
change that will create an equitable
and just society. We know that the
responsibility is ours, and the time is
This Moment in Time 3
Confronting Power 5
A Better World is Possible 7
Addressing Our Democratic Deficit 9
Creating a Life-Sustaining Economy 11
Cultivating the Human Spirit 15
Conclusion: Building the Movement 17
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n an increasingly globalized world, our
generation has grown up bouncing from
one crisis to the next. Over a backdrop
of continued colonial oppression, we
have seen environmental and economic
crises accelerate in pace and increase
in magnitude. With much of our lives and
the lives of our children still ahead, we are
not willing to witness delayed action any
longer. We accept that it is the task of this
generation to change the direction of these
devastating trends.
Wo livo on a hnito planot tnat oannot
sustain perpetual material growth. The
ovorwnolming body o soiontiho opinion
tells us that our society must be carbon-
neutral within our generation if devastating
ecological and social upheaval and harm
is to be avoided. The Earth has already
warmed by nearly 1C, leading to an
increase in extreme weather events. Climate
destabilization is only one of several
environmental challenges we face. Globally,
we see an escalation in soil erosion,
decline in freshwater reserves, accelerated
dosortihoation, drastio loss o biodivorsity
and unseen levels of toxicity in the air,
water, soil, and throughout the food chain.
We know this, yet we continue down this
path, the foot on the pedal, accelerating
toward irreversible environmental damage.
What seems hard for some to accept
is obvious to us; these are not passing
glitonos in a systom hnding its oourso;
they are systemic failures of a worldview
headed for disaster. The current economic
structure stretches the coping capacity of
local economies, and is highly dependant
upon unsustainable resource extraction and
environmental degradation. And the gap
between rich and the rest of us grows larger
each day.
Despite an abundance of material wealth
and technological advancements, global
inequality continues to rise. The political
and economic forces that maintain
inequality simultaneously deny people
access to basic life necessities such as
affordable housing, clean drinking water,
healthy food and medical care. Although
we have the technological capacity to
oradioato nutritional dohoionoios, lowor tno
global disease burden and ensure access
to basic goods, the needs of billions of the
global poor remain unmet. The dominant
vision of development, with the primary
goal of economic growth, has worsened
living conditions for many but has largely
bonohtod its advooatos: govornmonts o
wealthy countries, banks, corporations
and investors. When faced with a crisis in
"Tno ovorwnolming body o soiontiho opinion tolls us tnat our
society must be carbon-neutral within our generation.
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tno hnanoial systom, tno samo advooatos
turn to the governmentand public
resourcesto bail them out. We do not
boliovo in a systom tnat privatizos prohts
and socializes losses.

This suffering is not random, or
unavoidable, or the way it has always
been. There have always been natural
disasters, shortages, struggles, but the
pace and scale of the natural and human
exploitation originating with European
oolonialism and magnihod by tno industrial
revolution is more than our planet has ever
seen. The wealth of industrialized nations
was built on slavery and the appropriation
of Indigenous lands in the global south and
at home. In a modern form, this continues
today as Indigenous people resist
corporate and political pressure to exploit
their lands, from the proposed Enbridge
pipeline in British Columbias, to Goldcorp
extraction at Marlin mine in Guatemala. The
neoliberal agenda of the last 30 years, with
its growing pressure to globalize, privatize,
deregulate, and militarize, has quickened
the pace.
Transforming this exploitative paradigm
into a life-sustaining and life-celebrating
worldview is the goal of our movement, and
the greatest task of our time. While the twin
ecological and economic crises are surely
dire, we are of the view that these crises
the current historic moment also creates
new openings for progressive social and
economic change, and for advancing
both domestic and global income re-
distribution. Previous generations had the
luxury of doubt, the hope that maybe the
crises were temporary anomalies, or risks
we could manage. Our generation must
face the evidence of a deeper failure and
change the course. This context creates
a willingness to entertain bold new ideas,
and as the reality of the climate crisis
deepens, redistributive changes that seem
politically impossible today will become
politically possible tomorrow. As was the
case in the 1930s, new infrastructure and
institutions (from public child care and
dental care to public investment banks and
new crown corporations) may be possible,
and will become the legacy of this era.
Global poverty, political oppression, and
natural depletion are intrinsically tied to the
current industrial model. Facing this reality
will require challenging those who maintain
and bonoht rom tno status quo.
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sylvan lake declaration
ffective social change work requires
confronting power and using every
democratic means available to demand
that political and economic power be
shared. The exploitative worldview is built
on human oppression and exploitation;
its replacement will be built on equity and
participatory democracy.
This time is marked by an amazing growth
and diversity of creative social activism
and community building. People around
us are seeking to live more sustainable
lives in remarkable and inspiring ways.
All too often, however, this activity seems
to occur beyond politics; divorced from
the electoral contests that determine who
wields political power and ignoring the
reality of who wields economic power.
It can also be blind to structures of
oppression; ignoring the ways in which
privilege built on lines of race, gender,
or class, protects itself in conscious and
unconscious ways.
Local community building it is not enough.
It will remain a minor cultural event unless
it is strategically leveraged within a
larger movement to challenge the power
structures at play and build alternatives.
This will be achieved through social
mobilization, democratic engagement, and
direct action. It will require escalating the
pusn baok against oorporato intorosts:
challenging their power in the media, the
market, and government. And it will also
require that progressives not shy away
rom olootoral politios: wo must sook to win
However, if there is one lesson we must
learn from previous liberation movements,
it is that those who benefit from the status
quo will not cede this power willingly.
The more successful our challenge to the
system, the stronger we can expect the
rosponso to bo: modia spin oampaigns,
funding cuts to progressive-leaning public
institutions, concentration of political
power, undermining of democratic
processes, and repression of political
This is not some dystopic portrait of a
distant future; it is already underway.
As the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto
reminded us, those in power will not
hesitate to use the police and military
to assert their dominance, regardless of
laws or constitutional rights to freedom of
And it will also require that progressives not shy away from
electoral politics: we must seek to win government.
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expression. Repression of political dissent
happens everyday in Canada, through
police intimidation, increased surveillance,
infiltration of activist circles, preemptive
arrest, and charges under anti-terrorism
laws. This is the lived experience of many
of our fellow change makers; we will not
fear it, we will not ignore it. Instead, we will
celebrate the subversive power of vibrant
local communities, able to heal, create,
and resist.
At our ooro wo know tnis: possimism is
a luxury we cannot afford. We have the
ingenuity and creativity to transition toward
increasingly joyful and sustainable ways of
life. And so we will remain committed, and
rally to the task at hand, knowing that time
is of the essence.
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ince the fall of the Berlin wall, many
have commented on the difficulty of
coming up with a new unifying vision for
the left. As our analysis becomes more
complex and we take more seriously
the diversity of voices that should have
a say, our capacity to build one single
overarching agenda for all has decreased.
Instead, we propose a bolder goal;
multiple interdependent visions, with the
capacity to find common ground and
work together across diverse movements
for justice. We are no longer interested
in choosing which is the most important
struggle. The time has come to build
stronger bridges and to strategize
together. In this spirit, we share our own
The world we envision will be driven by
new definitions of wealth or, many will
argue, old ones. We define wealth not in
monetary terms or material possessions,
but rather, as physical, mental and spiritual
health, purposeful lives, and the creation
of interconnected communities based on
trust, celebration and sharing, and that is
rich in culture and arts. Personal success
is no longer defined by accumulated
wealth, but by the richness one brings to
the community.
A wealthy life is meaningful, passionate
and creative. It empowers the individual to
take responsibility for the collective, and
to rejoice in supporting their communities.
Wealthy communities embrace the
diversity of their people and cultures, and
value authenticity, tradition and progress.
A wealthy world relies on dialogue and
conversation rather than force.
We envision a democratic system that truly
encourages participation, and reflects the
will of the people. An economic system
that allows us to care for one another
by supporting people through difficult
times, and providing real opportunities
for individual and collective growth. A
health care system that nurtures whole
and vibrant people; that is committed
to prevention, and improving quality
of life throughout stages of health and
illness; and that understands that caring
for peoples health includes caring for
their families and their environment.
An education system that nurtures
curiosity, self expression, critical thinking,
collaboration, and self governance. A truly
multi-cultural society, where people from
"We defne wealth not in terms of money or possessions, but
rather, in terms of health, purpose, community and culture."
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sylvan lake declaration
diverse communities and with multiple
histories build bridges and engage in
genuine dialogue about the need for real
equality - in employment opportunities, in
housing, and equal participation in society.
A society that respects the sovereignty
of Indigenous peoples, and acts on the
global stage based on principles of equity
and solidarity.
We envision a social contract that
ensures everyones needs can be met
-- from physical needs to the need for
self-actualization -- and that competing
priorities are debated from positions of
strength and equity. We envision strong
communities, neighbors knowing each
others names, and strangers striking
up conversation. We believe that
entrepreneurial creativity is fundamentally
driven by something more than the quest
for maximizing wealth and personal gain,
and that by refocusing that purpose we
can have thriving businesses, even global
organizations, that primarily serve the
common good. Therefore the motivation
to advertise and manufacture cravings
could be replaced by the need to inform,
and nurture contentment. Thus, instead of
wasting time managing the clutter of our
material wealth, we can become wealthy
with time for connecting with the ones
we love, getting to know the unknown,
engaging in the political process of the
community, and finding deeper purpose to
our lives.
This is the world we want to build. Here are
what we deem to be the necessary next
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anadians enjoy important civil
liberties and a democratic system,
shaped by the struggles of the past,
which cannot be taken for granted.
Yet, jaded by marginalization, distrust
and disempowerment, many people
have stopped voting and engaging with
the political system directly. The 2008
federal election had the lowest rate
of voter turnout in Canadian history at
59%. The 2011 election showed but a
small improvement at 61.4%. Traditional
advocacy and political volunteerism
fare no better, hovering at 2%. However,
despite low voter turnout, 86% of
Canadians say it is their duty to vote;
there is clearly a key ingredient missing in
moving from interest to action.
Some structural and cultural changes
can help improve civic engagement.
First, electoral reform is needed to ensure
that the number of seats allocated to a
political party is fair and representative.
Proportional representation would address
public concerns about the impact of an
individual vote, and sustain a diversity
of political parties and citizen voices
in parliament. Second, we need to
strengthen party financing and lobbying
laws to ensure that people speak
louder than corporate dollars. Third, we
need to expand the opportunities for
public involvement in decision making,
beyond a single vote every four years.
Participatory democracy would improve
the quality of responses to complex policy
choices, increase trust in government,
build constituencies to support action,
increase access and foster civic literacy.
By building the public capacity to engage
in political discussion and activities
within our lives families, work, clubs,
religious centres, sports, social media,
grassroots organizing we decrease
our dependence on mass media to
understand political issues. This, in turn,
increases popular input into political
decision-making, whether through citizen
assemblies, focus groups, hearings, or
To benefit from the full wealth of our
democracy we must build on existing
strengths and create genuine space
for all members of society, including
those whose knowledge stems from the
"By building the public capacity to engage in political discussion
and activities within our lives - families, work, clubs, religious
centres, sports, social media, grassroots organizing - we decrease
our dependence on mass media to understand political issues.
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direct experience of marginalization.
This will require engaging as equals with
Indigenous nations and respecting their
chosen governance models.
This also requires us to challenge
citizenship policies that deny basic human
rights to a growing number of Canadians.
Since the introduction of temporary
employment authorization programs in the
seventies, the number of people living with
precarious citizenship status in Canada
has grown exponentially. This includes
the 90,000 people welcomed into Canada
each year to work, to pay taxes and to
pay into systems such as EI, but who are
denied the basic rights and protections
attached to citizenship, such as the ability
to access social programs, to choose their
employer, to be protected from harassment
at work, or to form a union. This also
includes the estimated 200,000 to 400,000
people who live in Canada without the
protections of legal status and who also
lack basic human rights such as the right
to a fair trial, or the right to live and walk
in public without fearing harassment by
police or immigration agents. Precarious
citizenship status also includes people,
often women, who depend legally on a
spouse or an employer for their right to be
in the country; it primarily impacts people
living in poverty, the working class and
people of colour.
If we are to make our governing system
truly representative, it must represent
the existing and evolving diversity within
Canada, and include measures that
increase accountability, agency and public
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The urgent need to address climate
change will be both a driver for this
economic transformation and a clear
indicator of progress. Weaning our
industrial system from its fossil-fuel
addiction poses a huge technological
and political challenge. Clearly, certain
corporate interests will not make this
transition voluntarily. From regulations
to carbon pricing and carbon quotas,
multiple policy tools are available to foster
this transition; all that is needed is political
For people to embrace the dramatic
change that is needed to become carbon-
zero, they need to know that everyone
is taking on their fair share of the load.
Locally we will need systemic supports,
public infrastructure and income security
to allow people to retrofit their homes
and to get out of their cars. Similarly, at
a global level, rich nations like Canada
must accept the concept of climate
debt. Those who have contributed the
least to climate change are now paying
the highest price. If poorer countries
are to meet the climate challenge, we
are obliged to assist with income and
technology transfers commensurate to
our responsibility in the crisis, as well as
welcome our fair share of global climate
Ultimately, climate change is only one
symptom of an unsustainable economic
and industrial model. We need to face the
fact that perpetual material growth is not
sustainable, and aim for a closed loop
industrial model, where all outputs (i.e.
waste) become inputs. We need to ensure
that wealth creation does not happen at
the expense of the ecosystems, and of
those they sustain.
The development of industrial nations has
ur current economic system fails to
provide for the needs of current and
future generations. It incentivizes short-
term gains over long-term sustainability.
We need to radically rethink how we
structure the economy, in a way that
moves beyond using GDP as the measure
of success, toward an economic system
that fosters well being, reduces inequities,
eliminates poverty, and provides full
employment in an ecologically sustainable
way. Based on principles of environmental
justice and economic equity we can
create a truly life-sustaining economy.
Environmental Justice
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been bankrolled by a generous subsidy
from Indigenous land bases, natural
systems, and future generations. Those
who absorb the cost of environmental
destruction are animals, plants, and
the living systems of the earth. Those
who bear the brunt of environmental
degradation are disproportionately people
living in poverty, women, people of colour,
and people with disabilities who are more
likely to live and work in areas where
pollution is deemed acceptable. There will
always be trade offs between economic
development and ecosystem integrity.
Tno koy quostions aro: now do wo onsuro
that the true cost and social impact of
the ecological disturbance are properly
assessed, and who gets to make the
Some economic tools can be used to
assess social and ecological impacts.
Full cost accounting attempts to reflect
the environmental, social, and economic
costs and advantages for each proposed
alternative. Ecosystem services evaluation
assign a dollar value to services
performed by functioning ecosystems,
like water filtration, flood control, carbon
sequestration, and pest management.
Though limited, these approaches can
help guide the conversation to include
a broader understanding of the impacts
of industrial development. They can also
help determine penalties for ecological
disruption, thus inserting environmental
damage at the core of commercial cost
benefit analysis. We believe these tools
should become standard practice for the
evaluation of any industrial project.
While these tools give some economic
and political expression to ecological
principles, they do not resolve the
underlying question of who should decide
what is an acceptable level of risk or
an acceptable level of environmental
disruption. We call for a precautionary
approach to any industrial project that
has a suspected risk of disrupting
environmental health. This approach
places the burden of proving safe
environmental practices on industry
instead of those affected by the disruption
and exposed to harm.
Stronger political and economic
participation in decision-making
by the general public, and respect
for Indigenous knowledge and
responsibilities for the land, are necessary
steps toward a just management of our
natural heritage. We must also ensure that
the benefits of our economic activity are
fairly distributed.
We call for a precautionary approach to any industrial project
that has a suspected risk of disrupting environmental health.
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We can eradicate poverty, even as we
move towards ecological sustainability.
This will require a profound change in
how we make economic decisions, a
more just redistribution of wealth, strong
social programs, and a recalibration of the
standard of living.
First, we need to move economic control
from the hands of a few, to the hands
of many - radically democratizing the
economy. This will require, first and
foremost, that we curb the power of
private corporations. Given the growing
influence of corporate lobbyist on
governments, control of media, and the
active undermining of labour movements,
corporate law must be reformed to
create a more stringent system of
accountability by revisiting the limited
liability of executives and shareholders.
The insertion of a sunset clause within
corporate charters forcing the periodic
public review of corporate activities
would also strengthen accountability.
But more generally, we should shift our
economy toward ownership models
tnat aro innorontly moro domooratio:
cooperatives, worker-owned businesses,
and not-for-profits. These structures can
re-invest economic benefits within their
communities of operation, provide formal
and informal pathways for public input,
and foster place-based accountability.
Nationalization or public ownership of
essential resources and enterprises can
also broaden the public debate about
their management, and, ensure priority is
placed on the long-term public good. This
is particularly appropriate for industries
where reducing demand benefits the
public, for example in the case of
tobacco, fossil fuels, or reactive health
care services.
Second, we need governmental
policies to ensure a fair distribution of
the wealth generated by the economy.
Conservative framing attempts to equate
wealth redistribution with fiscal waste,
while spending billions for the military
industrial complex and in tax cuts for
the wealthy. This fallacy masks what is
really a question of spending priorities.
In a similar way, conservative framing
claims to leave the market alone, while
actively supporting the interests of large
corporations and the wealthiest few at the
expense of small businesses, workers,
and the environment. It is time to level the
field and foster wealth distribution through
progressive tax reform, strong labour
unions, livable income supports, salary
caps, and measures to encourage non-
for-profit and small businesses.
Economic Equity
We should shift our economy toward ownership models
that are inherently more democratic: cooperatives, worker-
owned businesses, and not-for-profits."
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Taxation should also be used to alleviate
other social and environmental harms. For
example, Robin Hood taxes on financial
transactions to reduce speculation, carbon
taxes to reduce greenhouse gases,
inheritance taxes to deter dynasties, and
taxes on junk food, alcohol and tobacco. If
measures are taken to ensure they do not
affect disproportionally those at the bottom
of the income scale, these policies can
be powerful tools of social transformation.
But truly leveling the playing field also
requires us to look at the conditions that
keep people in poverty.
Thus, we call for the creation of both a
national poverty reduction strategy and a
national housing strategy, including broad
public debate and political commitment
to a renewed social safety net. Our
current system is flawed, and it is failing
to do what it could. Over the past three
decades we have seen a systematic
weakening and dismantling of welfare and
employment insurance. This has happened
to the detriment of all Canadians, and
has been especially harmful to already
vulnerable populations, including women
and children, people with disabilities and
mental illness, seniors, new immigrants,
and First Nations communities.
Poverty reduction must become a
priority at all levels of government, and
include legislated targets and time lines.
Given that women and children are
disproportionately affected by poverty,
and that labour traditionally carried
out by women, including pregnancy,
childbirth, childcare, and elder care is
not remunerated proportionally to its
social and economic value, an effective
plan must include universal childcare
and expanding child tax credits. It would
also require expanded low-income tax
credits, increasing the minimum wage and
indexing it to inflation, and wide-spread
adoption of a living family wage.
These types of economic policies are
necessary if we are to give true expression
to our commitments under the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. We must
honour the human right to shelter, food
and dignity, and in doing so, we will
liberate people to embrace the changes
needed for an environmentally sustainable
future. They reflect a belief that everyone
deserves an opportunity to grow in a
healthy, safe and inspired environment.
Yet, economic policies are only tools;
their use, purpose and results depend on
the consciousness that guide them. The
actions needed in this moment in time
require a transformation that goes much
deeper than our policies. And they will
require a strength that
has deeper roots.
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sylvan lake declaration
e long to have deeper
relationships with one another
and with the natural world. The reduction
of a beautifully intricate web of life into
a mere pool of resources has falsely
empowered many in industrial society
to claim the right to use and abuse the
natural world, and entitled us to be
managers of resources. There seems
to be no limits to what we feel entitled
to engineer, from the very fabric of life,
to the climate system. Humans, like any
other species, affect and are affected by
their habitat. However, the human species
is unique in that its ecological footprint
extends beyond its geographical location.
This will remain abstract to those who
grew up in the industrial mindset as long
they view themselves as separate from
the natural world. We must acknowledge
that this very notion of an environment
as something that surrounds us, but is
somehow separate, is core to that failure.
Such disconnection causes great spiritual
suffering. Individual and collective healing
and awakening is therefore another
necessary condition for the profound
transformation we seek. Embedded in our
vision of a better world are deep longings
for connection, and a profound desire to
lead lives of purpose and meaning.
This longing for connection has been
shattered by the individualistic structures
of our economic and social systems,
which teach us to take care of ourselves
first, to accumulate and to compete. Yet
we still experience joy at the coming
together of friends, and feel grief in
response to tragedies across the
world. Inherently we know that we are
interconnected, and we have much to
gain from social systems that reflect and
strengthen that interconnectedness. This
necessitates large systemic changes
as much as it requires practicing more
compassionate ways of relating to and
interacting with one another.
Parallel to this longing for connection is
a desire to live more meaningful lives.
For some, this meaning is embedded in
religious tradition or spiritual practice.
For many others this search for meaning
is more open ended. Against a cultural
backdrop of mindless consumption and
disconnection, we still long for something
"Inherently we know that we are interconnected, and we have
much to gain from social systems that reflect and strengthen
that interconnectedness.
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In our lives and in our work we need to
honour these yearnings by creating space
to discuss meaning, experience emotion,
express creativity, and build relationships.
And so we call on one another to practice
greater mindfulness of the present
moment, to remember gratitude for the
fullness of the world, and to find ways to
cultivate the human spirit. In this way we
will know more resilience, experience more
well-being, and feel a renewed dedication
to the tasks at hand.
In our lives and in our work we need to
honour these yearnings by creating space
to discuss meaning, experience emotion,
express creativity, and build relationships.
And so we call on one another to practice
greater mindfulness of the present
moment, to remember gratitude for the
fullness of the world, and to find ways to
cultivate the human spirit. In this way we
will know more resilience, experience more
well-being, and feel a renewed dedication
to the tasks at hand.
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sylvan lake declaration
ur generation grew up with a
constant awareness of ecological
and economic crises. We have been told
again and again that the world we want
is not possible, that the status quo is the
only viable option. We believe otherwise.
We know that the need for change is
urgent, and we share a concern that
progressive movements are currently too
fragmented, and that traditional politics,
marked by stalemate, seems unable to
rise to the task at hand. Our first-past-the-
post electoral system does not accurately
reflect the voice of its citizens, and our
social movements have not been able to
mobilize as they historically were capable
of. And so, new life must be breathed into
both sectors, and deadlocks creatively
broken, so that our progressive views
and values can properly find political
and social expression. We desire to
see greater cooperation between social
movements and progressive political
parties, and bolder leadership across
both. Such a transformation would bring
about a democratic renewal, a necessary
step in changing course.
We know both the necessity and
possibility of creative, progressive social
change. And we know that the time
is now. Amid global human suffering,
economic dysfunction and systemic
oppression, we commit to building a more
loving world. This requires letting go of the
old stories of our culture, and replacing
tnom witn now onos: Storios tnat doino
wealth through relationships, that honour
the natural world, and that remind us of
our interdependence.
This, we know, is our shared responsibility.
And we know that this is the moment.