Today’s guest blogger is Ani, a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation representing Manitoba at the Durban climate conference. Ani works as a Public Education and Outreach Coordinator for Climate Change Connection, a project of the Manitoba Eco-Network. To read more about Ani, visit her info page at YouthDelegateManitoba.wordpress.com.
While I’m experiencing my first day at COP 17 and struggle to figure out why the rooms are named after plants, materials and geographical locations and wonder why no one has provided me with a giant map of the Conference Centre, my email inbox filled up with rumors about Canada preparing to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol next month.
I felt inspired by Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) opening remarks during the plenary reminding countries to reassure that they are committed to work towards a real deal quoting Nelson Mandela – “It seems impossible, until it is done.” Only a few minutes later it was confirmed that Canada plans to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding emissions agreement, early next month. Peter Kent declared to the Canadian Press that he is coming into the negotiations ready “to play hardball with developing countries.” For some reason I thought it was those developing countries who should be playing hardball with developed countries.
Following these developments the day ended with the fossil of the day award. Both, First and Second Place were earned by Canada for failing to support a second commitment period and undermining the value of the Kyoto Protocol. Rounding out the awards, the United Kingdom received Third Place for helping to move tar sands oil into Europe.
It’s Thanksgiving Monday here in Canada. Me and mine have much to be thankful for today, having narrowly avoided a serious health crisis among one of our own. So this Thanksgiving I am grateful for the blessing of good health, and I can even appreciate the reminder not to take it for granted. I am also extremely appreciative of our Canadian health care system; while no one can accuse it of being perfect, most of the time it does what it needs to, and often it does it very well. The care that was given in our situation from every one of the nurses and physicians was outstanding, so this is my shout out to them – THANK YOU!! And let’s not forget while most Canadians are sitting around a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, there are countless healthcare workers who are spending today in a hospital or care facility looking after those who aren’t able to look after themselves.
If I haven’t said it here recently, I will say it now: I love Canada, it is a wonderful country to live in. And our universal health care system is amazing! As none other than (Canadian) Justin Bieber said in an interview this year with Rolling Stone Magazine, when asked about becoming an American citizen:
“You guys are evil. Canada’s the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you’re broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard’s baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby’s premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.”
So I will be toasting those (mostly unsung) heroes of our healthcare system today, as I tuck into my turkey and dressing. I hope each of you, too, will find something to be truly thankful for today, whether or not you are officially celebrating Thanksgiving!
Across Ontario and around the world, September 24th is a a day for people to rally and demand from our elected leaders action on moving beyond fossil fuels. Initiated by 350.org, Moving Planet is a day to put our demands for climate action into motion—marching, biking, skating—calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels.
Our Demands (from 350.org):
On 24 September, we won’t just be cycling or marching―we’ll also be delivering a clear and strong set of demands.
These demands will differ from one country to the next, of course, because the steps we need to take depend on how much fossil fuel we already use. But the rough outlines are clear:
Science-based policies to get us back to 350ppm
We can’t negotiate with chemistry and physics–that’s why we know we have to make sure that climate politics is in line with climate science. We must push for a UN climate regime that lays out the path for a socially just pathway below 350ppm. We must reach peak global emissions as quickly as (humanly) possible.
A rapid, just transition to zero carbon emissions.
We know that the only way to avert climate catastrophe is an emergency mobilization to cut emissions to zero as soon as possible. That’s why we’re encouraging organizing efforts everywhere to support programs that aim for:
100% renewable energy
Zero carbon emissions
Leaving fossil fuels in the ground
A mobilization of funding for a fair transition to a 350ppm world.
Climate change is a moral crisis, and we know that one of the most important ways to address the issue is for the richest among us to help the poorest among us to deal with the burdens of climate change. We must support policies and programs that ensure financing for a fair transition, such as:
Adaptation funding appropriate to the risks and damage already happening from climate impacts
Funding for access to clean, renewable energy to lift people out of poverty
The wealthy (people and countries) should do their fair share to fund a fair transition to 350ppm
Lifting the rights of people over the rights of polluters.
Lifting the rights of people and nature over the rights of polluters. The climate crisis is a human rights crisis. We must support policies and programs that lift up the rights of people over the rights of polluters, such as:
Reducing corporate power’s unfair influence on our leaders
Stopping dirty energy projects
Getting dirty money out of elections
Supporting the rights of indigenous peoples
Protecting human health
We know these demands just scratch the surface of a vision for a safe and fair climate future—please be in touch with other proposals that ought to be considered.
Moving Planet will be a day to put our demands for climate action into motion—marching, biking, skating—calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels.
To find a Moving Planet event in your community, click here.
Here in Red Lake, we’re kicking off our Harvest Festival with a bike rally/rodeo around town, ending with a bike maintenance workshop. Along with all the Harvest Festival activities during the day, Saturday evening we are screening “carbon nation”, which describes itself as nn optimistic, solutions-based, non-partisan documentary that illustrates why it’s incredibly smart to be a part of the new, low-carbon economy: it’s good business, it emboldens national and energy security, and it improves health and the environment. The screening will be followed by a Q & Q session with Director Peter Byck.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, some friends of mine have put together a fabulous event which has been kicked off by a chalk “footprint parade” around the city for the last two weeks, and culminates with a parade from the Manitoba Legislature to the Forks where music will be happening at the Main Stage. If you’re in the city, check it out – go to the Moving Manitoba event page for all the details.
So wherever you are, get out,get moving, connect with other people who are concerned about their children’s future, and have fun doing it! Remember, there is NO Planet B!
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and seven other Nobel Peace Laureates have just written a letter to President Obama urging him to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and to begin building a clean energy future immediately. The letter, released yesterday by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, concludes with:
There is a better way.
Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency.
We urge you to say ‘no’ to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions. This will be your legacy to Americans and the global community: energy that sustains the lives and livelihoods of future generations.
The Keystone XL Pipeline has become a focus point for citizens concerned about climate change, and who want to offer their children a green energy future. To get more information about why this pipeline is so dangerous, for the aquifers and ecosystem of the midwestern U.S. as well as the climate, click here. If you want to take action for the sake of your children’s future, and mine, go to Tar Sands Action.org. If you are in Canada and can come to Ottawa for the September 26th day of action on Parliament Hill, click here for more information. If you are unable to travel to Ottawa but would like to take a stand for a clean energy future, participate (or organize) a Moving Planet event in your community on September 24th. The message of Moving Planet is that, around the world, people are ready to move beyond fossil fuels. In case you need more inspiration, check out this video:
Today is the state funeral for the Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, and the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Canadian Parliament, Mr. Jack Layton. Like many other Canadians, I was surprised by the depth of the sadness I felt on hearing that Mr. Layton had passed away on Monday, only months after scoring a huge election victory for his party. And his last letter to Canadians was inspirational and moving, a reminder to us that we have been, and can be again, better than we are now. In Now Magazine this week, Jian Ghomeshi wrote these words of tribute to “Jack”, as Canadians have come to call Mr. Layton:
Jack developed as a politician and a statesman over the years. He grew into himself. There were elections he did not win early on and times when I debated friends who accused him of being too slick or inconsistent or radical, or not radical enough.
But he found his footing, becoming Canada’s most beloved and admired political figure. He learned to play to his genuine nature. He learned that the general public tends to appreciate it when our leaders are real. And no matter what their views on his politics, by the big election in 2011, very few in this country doubted Jack’s honesty or commitment to his beliefs.
So, today I’m wearing orange, the NDP colour, in tribute to Mr. Layton and his accomplishments, and as a reminder to myself that, as he wrote only last Saturday:
Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
A letter to Canadians from Jack Layton, leader of the NDP and the leader of the Official Opposition in the Canadian Parliament. It is dated August 20, two days before his death today from cancer. Former Governor-General Michaëlle Jean said in a posting on Twitter: “Canada has lost a man of courage and great integrity who embodied the values dearest to Canadians… And we remember the Tommy Douglas quote Jack included in every email he sent:“Courage my friends,’tis not too late to build a better World.”:
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one — a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best, Jack Layton
RIP, John Gilbert “Jack” Layton, July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011
Xavier Kataquapit is originally from Attawapiskat, Ontario on the James Bay coast. In his popular newspaper column, Under the Northern Sky, he writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. In April he wrote this column, Shape Up Or Ship Out, about how global warming is already affecting the north. Here is an excerpt; to read the whole article, go to Wawatay News.
Everywhere I travel these days, I feel the effects of global warming. Weather patterns are changing, ice caps are melting, glaciers are receding and it is all becoming very obvious.
I first started hearing about a change in climate from some of the Elders from up the James Bay coast about 20 years ago. More recently, I have learned through news from the worldwide scientific community that a phenomenon such as global warming is upon us.
Although there is a debate happening with opposition to this concept being fuelled by big corporations, most reasonable people have accepted that global warming is the result of human-caused pollution.
There are so many ramifications of global warming.
Changes in weather and temperatures, even though they don’t seem critical, can have great effect on wildlife. This means that my people the Cree and the Aboriginal people of northern Canada will be facing changes in our traditions and culture as it relates to our relationship to the land and animals.
Already, we see the polar bear populations being affected as well as changes in the annual goose migration. The shorter winter freeze is also affecting my people’s ability to travel in the North.
In colder months, we make great use of the frozen landscape to move about and a winter road connects communities up the James Bay coast. With the change in climate the winter road is going in later and thawing sooner every year.
Many in the corporate world and some in government are doing their best to discredit the scientists, writers and educators who are trying to alert us to this crisis of global warming. That sounds like a nasty thing to do but it is not the first time this form of denial has been encouraged.
…It is easy to feel helpless with such enormous issues like global warming but we can have a voice...Our future depends on it.
What a week it has been! With the backdrop of the verging-on-farcical U.S. debt credit crisis brought on by the tea-baggers in Washington, and the pieing of Rupert Murdoch, a whole lot has been going on the global warming front, and not just the extreme weather events. Here’s a few highlights:
In a historic decision, the U.N. Security Council billed climate change as a global threat to peace and security. To read more, click here.
And that’s not all, on the Harper government/climate change front. Alykhan Velshi, Jason Kenney’s right-hand man until a few months ago, has changed from Kenney’s PR guy to the fossil fuel industry’s champion. Velshi is now running ethicaloil.org, a website which proclaims Canada’s tar sands bitumen is the only righteous oil in the world. Sounds like a heroin addict defiantly asserting that he only buys his heroin from the nicest dealers while injecting himself. Read more at Canadian Campaign Puts The Spin on “Ethical” Oil.
This past Tuesday, young climate activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in U.S. federal prison and a $10,000 fine for “disrupting” a Bureau of Land Management auction in the dying days of the Bush administration. The auction was later declared illegal, but federal prosecutors chose to make an example of DeChristopher to discourage other activists from engaging in acts of civil disobedience. I don’t think it had the effect that those in power hoped! DeChristopher, who has conducted himself with dignity and integrity throughout this gruelling experience, had the opportunity to address the court and the judge before his sentence was announced. Here are excerpts from his inspiring statement to the court after his sentencing (fyi, BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management):
…This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.
Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned…A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.
And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.
The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code. I know Mr Huber disagrees with me on this. He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.” That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience. Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice. The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.
…The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation. I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated. …As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted.
…Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change. They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line. And they know were are running out of time to turn things around. The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back. The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people. The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel. The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today. And neither will I. I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future. Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience. Nothing that happens here today will change that. I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority. You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.
I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me…With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.
To read Tim’s full statement, go to Peaceful Uprising.org. If you consider his imprisonment to be your call to action to build a secure future for your children, 350.org is asking each of us to stand up and help defuse the largest carbon bomb on the planet. Go to 350.org-take-a-stand for more. Or go to Peaceful Uprising for more ideas. Here’s Sandra Steinbrenner, mother, biologist, and cancer survivor, speaking after Tim’s sentencing:
The Harper Government is sending out a clear message at home and abroad that if your politics are not correct your art shouldn’t be shown, and if your findings are inconvenient your science doesn’t matter.
A recent Vancouver Sun discussed the silencing of Fisheries Department scientist Kristi Miller. Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island whose breakthrough research into the deaths of West Coast salmon was published in the top scientific journal Science last year. The study suggests the possibility of a mysterious virus killing huge numbers of Fraser River salmon before they reach their spawning grounds. According to The Sun:
The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.
...Miller is still not allowed to speak publicly about her discovery, and the Privy Council Office and Fisheries Department defend the way she has been silenced.
But observers say it is indefensible and more evidence of the way the government is undermining its scientists.
“There is no question in my mind it’s muzzling,” said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.
“When the lead author of a paper in Science is not permitted to speak about her work, that is suppression,” he said. “There is simply no ifs, ands or buts about that.”
In a similar chilling manner, the Harper Government has recently lead a campaign to silence award-winning artist and author Franke James. James was asked by an international non-profit, Nektarina Nonprofit, which educates, connects and inspires people to care about their communities and their environment, to mount a series of art exhibitions in Europe. As Nektarina’s website states:
The uniqueness of her artwork is in combining science, art and storytelling, creating powerful and thought-provoking visual essays. Franke does not preach, she tells a story, educates and explains, leaving it to the viewers to make their own choices and decisions.
But apparently, Franke has ignited the Harper Government’s fury by telling the truth about Canada’s footdragging on climate action. And having the audacity to advocate pollution taxes and tougher environmental policies on Alberta’s Tar Sands – recommendations which are in line with many respected environmental NGO’s including the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation. Nektarina Non-Profit has issued this statement about the concerted effort the Harper Government, through its Canadian embassies, have been making to shut down James’ art exhibit:
When Nektarina decided to present Franke’s artwork in a series of exhibitions in Europe and Central Asia, we felt confident of the support of Canada – Franke’s homeland. Regrettably, the Canadian Government has since declined support for the project, verbally explaining that “She (Franke James) speaks against the Canadian Government”. Nektarina Non Profit was deeply surprised and disappointed by the reaction of official Canada, yet we decided to carry on with the project.Nektarina Non Profit believes that it is the right of every person – artists and intellectuals in particular – to freely express their opinion and to be able to pose the question about their government’s accountability on specific decisions. This is all the more important when such governmental decisions potentially impact the welfare of a large demographic, natural resources or both.
In the past few months we have encountered many difficulties in organizing the exhibitions, usually connected to interventions of the Canadian Government or institutions under Canadian governmental control. We continued to look for ways to collaborate with the home land of the artist, although at times we felt patronized and even intimidated, as a small NGO trying to reach an understanding with a powerful state.
This was most surprising given Canada´s reputation over many decades as a leader in promoting democratic freedoms, the right of free expression and also supporting the international community (through its role as a peace keeper and in many other ways). It is clear that Canada has a difficult position to resolve in relation to its narrower national interests (in particular the exploitation of natural resources) and its wider responsibility in the international community. We will continue to try to reach out to Canadian society and we feel sure that the positions taken do not reflect the attitudes of Canadian society as a whole and we are confident that we have many friends in the country.
To help make Franke’s powerful “What Can One Person Do?” exhibit a reality, please consider donating $5 or more to Nektarina Non-Profit (the corporate sponsor cancelled after pressure from the Harper Government). Click here to donate on-line. And here’s a challenge from me – I’ll match every $5 that one of you, my blog readers, donates (you let me know in the comment section or by email at email@example.com). Let’s see what we can do!
To read more about the anti-democratic, bullying actions of the Harper Government, as well as more ideas for taking action, go to Franke James’ blog.