The Ballad of Luke Wallace

A funny thing happened at protest singer Luke Wallace's protest show of environmental protest songs at Gulf Island Secondary School this Spring: the school administration protested the protest part of the protest.

Say what?

At 21, Luke Wallace is already a veteran stage performer and recording artist, with three albums to his credit. His work ranges from white rap alt blues to straight up folksy ditties, with the occasional shot across the bow of the tax man (get used to it, buddy). He is first and foremost a protest singer ("Fight For Tomorrow," "Little Rivers Matter Too," "Mess We've Made") and in fact is the leading folk-singing protest voice in the mainland and Gulf Islands. He tours relentlessly, like a young Bob Dylan. Look on any poster for any Kinder Morgan or Site C Dam protest and Wallace's name will be on there somewhere. So what better place than a secondary school cafeteria to have a show for the fresh-faced generation that's going to have to mop up all the climate change disasters that have already started to tear away at the Earth?

The issue at hand with GISS administration was in Wallace's poster. Before the show started, school officials demanded that the show's organizers black magic marker out the line "Opposing The Kinder Morgan Pipeline" from any posters hanging in the school hallways. Rumblings and mumblings and grumblings ensued amongst the event's organizers. A little journalistic gumshoeing (and a five spot) quickly uncovered an ugly allegation: the teacher's union pension fund is supposedly invested in Kinder Morgan, and the school didn't want to offend their corporate overlords sponsors with an 11x14 poster of a fish.

Dick move.

Poster by Nina Pickstone

The whole kerfuffle made one audience member wonder: if ever there was an organization perfectly ripe for divestment, it's gotta be a teacher's union pension fund, right? What a great legacy these teachers can provide to their students by divesting in companies which are directly contributing to climate change. Don't make the students protest for it; consider it "An Opportunity" (as per the title of Wallace's most recent CD) to take it upon yourselves to demand that your union invest in green, ethical funds.

Sure, the dividends and returns are a lot less than that of a fossil fuel heavy portfolio. It's hard to beat energy stocks, or anything that has to do with war, when it comes to making gobs and gobs of money. And sure, it might bite into that annual February in Hawaii snowbird migration you've been planning for years now, which you feel you deserve after working so hard your entire life as a teacher, just like the teachers who retired before you.

Fair enough.

But things are different now. We're living in climate crisis times and the old rules don't apply. The way things are going, there won't be a Hawaii left for your students to go to when they retire. These kids, Luke Wallace, they get that. That tar sands size carbon footprint that Kinder Morgan et al enable must go the way of the dinosaur.

Students at the University of Winnipeg are protesting this exact same divestment issue right now. It's all part of a nationwide movement of fossil fuel divestment spearheaded by Fossil Free Canada, which connects nearly thirty student divestment campaigns (and growing) across Canada. As their website states, "By pressuring institutions such as universities to divest from fossil fuel companies, we are able to send a clear message that these industries no longer have the social license they require to operate."

The whole topic sounds lyrically ripe for treatment by one of Wallace's rap-flavored beats. Maybe something like:

The world is a mess it must be addressed
Gotta fight fossil fuels in the Pacific Northwest
Let me beat my chest, let me loudly protest:
Your teacher's union pension fund is making me depressed!

It's time to put your integrity to the test:
Divest in Kinder Morgan — that is my quest
Go all green in your financial egg nest
And prove to your students you're giving them your best

Respect our request to give it a rest
It's time to divest

Luke Wallace at GISS

The Salt Spring Island COUGAR is open to art, literary works, poetry, creative non-fiction, photography, and other submissions from local residents.