Response to Norway Horror: Faced With Inhumanity, We Must Be More Human

The contrast between Norway’s response to the brutal terror attacks last Friday and that of the United States after 9/11 couldn’t be starker.  Imagine if President Bush had instead said, like Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg,  “Our answer is more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence.”  How many brutal and unnecessary deaths of innocents could have been avoided in Afghanistan and Iraq? Canadians like Maher Ahar (361 days in Syrian detention), Abdullah Almalki (more than 22 months in Syria), Ahmad El Maati (two years, two months and two days in Syria and Egypt) and Muayyed Nureddin (34 days in Syria) wouldn’t have had their lives disrupted forever by illegal deportation to, and torture in, Syria by the U.S.  And the list could go on and on.

Several commentators have pointed out that the “politics of hate” that the killer, Anders Behring Breivik, subscribes to, has moved from the fringe to the mainstream in recent years in both Europe and North America. Political scapegoating and demonizing of opponents is increasingly common place in Canada and is certainly endemic in the United States right now, as demonstrated by the rise of the tea party movement and the current impasse on raising the debt ceiling led by a Republican party intent on opposing President Obama no matter what the cost to their nation.

It is in this kind of atmosphere that a mentality that threatens climate scientists’ lives  could thrive. It’s the kind of atmosphere that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News International, has fostered over the last three decades, Fox “News” being one of the most obvious and influential examples of this in North America. In the “politics of hate” world, it’s okay to spend trillions of dollars on wars that kill and maim and not on okay to spend billions on healthcare and clean energy.

Norway is showing us that there is another way to respond to haters. Norwegian Erik Abild wrote in Al Jazeera yesterday:

In Norway, many politicians and people state that “today we are all AUF” (the name of the youth party). And we are. Just as we all were Japanese when the earthquake struck, or as we all are Somalis when we read about famine. This feeling of community is a part of being human. And this communality, the shared experience of humanity, is essential to hold onto. In the face of inhumanity, we have to be more human. Because there is only this one world, brutal and beautiful, and we only have one fragile life to make our difference in the world we all share as home.

More links:

Faced With Inhumanity, We Must Be More Human

Norway’s Attacks Reveal A World Of Hatred

Norway Attacks: We Can No Longer Ignore The Far-Right Threat

Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought In U.S.

Norway Outlines Its Climate Cure, Climate Change Response Plan for Ontario Urged, Meanwhile Alberta Tar Sands Growth Unchecked

In the news this week, those progressive Scandinavians are at it again! Norway has announced one of the world’s toughest climate goals, with a target of 30 – 40% reduced CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Unlike recent announcements of a progressive new Canadian environmental policy, which turned out to be a Yes Men hoax (click here or here for more), Norway is serious about pursuing this strategy.  The “Climate Cure” plan that has just been released is a 300-page document prepared by Norwegian state agencies to guide deep cuts in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This policy is in line with the reductions that the best science say are necessary to avert global climate destabilization from greenhouse gas pollution.  The economic cost is considered in the plan as well, with Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim saying the modest impact on economic growth predicted will mean that Norway will be as rich by Easter in 2020 than the country otherwise would be at Christmas in 2019. Seems a small price to pay to keep the planet habitable for future generations! To read more about Norway’s announcement, click here.

Meanwhile, closer to home, a blue ribbon panel of experts has produced a 96 page report entitled “Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario” which makes 59 comprehensive recommendations on how to deal with coming climate change-related effects. By this spring, the report states, Ontario should produce a “climate change adaptation action plan,” to guide policy creation in everything from physical infrastructure – such as building better roads and bridges – to agriculture, water, at risk species, and human health. Click here for more.

No announcements from the Canadian government on an environmental plan that will ensure a safe and healthy future for Canadians, though. The federal and Alberta governments’ support for the oil sands, the dirtiest oil in the world, continues unabated. However, there are signs from outside the country that campaigns that target the tar sands and the companies associated with them are having an effect. As discussed earlier on this blog, two Fortune 500 companies – Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond – recently announced they were going to remove the oil sands from their supply chains. Meanwhile in Britain, campaigners are encouraging people to lobby their pension plans if they hold shares in BP or Shell, two major oil sands investors. And in the U.S. a “Love Winter Hate the Oil Sands” campaign is just getting started. It seems these companies will only listen when their bottom line is threatened – sanity, science and long-term planetary security don’t seem to make a difference. A campaign that targets Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for its bankrolling of the tar sands is also underway – and is having an effect. This week, RBC Chief Operating Officer Barbara Stymiest (yes, that really is her name) and Rainforest Action Network met – click here to read “Getting to Maybe with RBC” or here for a Macleans article about this issue. To send a letter to Royal Bank of Canada CEO Gordon Nixon telling him to stop investing in the tar sands, click here. To join the Facebook group “Ending Investment in Tar Sands” click here.