we are all on the bus together

The line of vehicles funneling from either Second Avenue or Lewes Boulevard down to one lane each way at the bridge constitute the closest thing we…

The line of vehicles funneling from either Second Avenue or Lewes Boulevard down to one lane each way at the bridge constitute the closest thing we have in the Yukon to traffic jam.

Any grousing about our three-times-a-day ‘rush minutes’ must seem ludicrous to anyone familiar with urban travel almost anywhere else in the world.

As well, the new Quebec-built buses now on the road here in Whitehorse offer a comfortable, uncramped ride almost unimaginable in the teeming cities of the South.

Getting on an African bus can be a challenge like none a Yukoner has to face.

I certainly remember the drill. An amoebic queue forms at the bus stop. When the bus pulls up, the crowd pastes itself onto the side of the bus.

My height definitely was an advantage. I could survive the press and grab a hold on the doorframe above others heads. With a good grip I then pulled myself on. Once the vehicle is totally packed, the driver would take off.

The bus careened through traffic avoiding potholes and people on the way to the next stop where even more folk would be shoe-horned in. Intimacy took on a whole new meaning.

City councillors in Nairobi, Kenya, surprised World Social Forum organizers three months ago when they decided to move the venue of this major global gathering.

It had been slated to conveniently take place in downtown Nairobi at the very central Uhuru (or Freedom) Park. The new site, the Moi International Sports Complex, sits some 16 kilometres away from the city centre.

This means a matatu ride. These minibuses, notorious for their role in all-too-regular gruesome smash-ups, can take as much as an hour and a half to negotiate that distance at the peak of an ordinary day’s maddening traffic in the Kenyan capital.

At least one Yukoner, Susan Thompson, has the ‘pleasure’ of dealing with the traffic there this week. Hopefully the stress of getting around has been of offset by the enthusiasm that comes from joining tens of thousands of others who believe that another world is indeed possible at the 7th annual World Social Forum.

There, social activists seek to chart the outlines of a just, sustainable world where poverty, disease, war and marginalization no longer predominate.

Initially the World Social Forum was conceived as a counterweight to the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of powerful business and political élites held in Davos, Switzerland, who had, for far too long, been unchallenged as they set the agenda for global growth.

Chico Whitaker, one of the original Brazilian founders of the World Social Forum, delivered the inaugural speech:

“We know the world we want, one in which there is no domination by the West, but respect; one in which there are no debts culminating from this domination.”

This annual open meeting where social movements and other civil-society organizations come together “to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action offers hope to a starkly divided world,” according to a release.

As Oduor Ong’wen, a member of this year’s organizing committee, told an Inter Press Service reporter, “We expect that people will interrogate the current world as it is and make alternatives for creating a better world,”

More than 100,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the World Social Forum, and discuss key issues, such as housing, the environment, trade, unemployment, corruption, and human rights.

We are all on this global bus together. We must make sure it gets where it needs to go safely, for our sake and the sake of future generations.

Nairobi isn’t the only place in the world this week where people are talking about change. Tomorrow, tens of thousands of people will march on Washington DC to demand peace and justice in Iraq and the Middle East.

We are invited to be e-participants in a virtual march at http://www.avaaz.org/en/global_peace_march/act.php

On Monday, BYTE and the Yukon Association of Community Living will host Rudy Ruttiman of SKETCH, a Toronto organization working with street kids.

Come learn how she transforms lives using art at the Whitehorse Public Library at 3:30 p.m.

On January 31st at 7 p.m. the Yukon Conservation Society, CPAWS and the Canada Youth Climate Coalition will offer a free screening of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth at Hellaby Hall at 4th and Elliot. Seating is limited.