The NDP’s only hope is a Green New Deal for Canada

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the US Congresswoman spearheading the Green New Deal, speaks at a community event on May 28, 2018. Photo by Corey Torpie, via handout.

Last night, Jagmeet Singh defied the doubters and critics, winning his seat in Burnaby South.

“If the NDP want to turn their fortunes around by October, their best (and maybe only) hope is to bring the bold vision of a Green New Deal to Canada.”

It’s a good result for Singh, and a breath of fresh air for a New Democratic Party that’s been struggling to raise money, floundering in the polls, and has seemed to be teetering on the edge of a very public internal civil war for the past few months. But, as Singh himself mentioned in his victory remarks, now the real campaign begins. If the NDP want to turn their fortunes around by October, their best (and maybe only) hope is to bring the bold vision of a Green New Deal to Canada.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, the Green New Deal is a political idea to tackle climate change with WWII-scale economic and social mobilization. Named for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda that pulled the United States out of the Great Depression, the Green New Deal has been rapidly picking up steam south of the border. Championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and now supported by dozens of congressional representatives and senators (along with every major Democratic presidential hopeful), the Green New Deal has become a clarion call for action at the scale and pace of the climate crisis.

But the Green New Deal isn’t just a good idea. With the campaign and organizing savvy of the Sunrise Movement behind it, polling numbers show wide geographic and cross-partisan support (especially among youth). It’s become a winning platform for Democrats and, if they imported it in the right way, it could do the same for Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.

It’s no secret that, in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s success was due, in large measure, to his ability to outflank the NDP on critical progressive issues — including climate change. It’s also true that his majority victory was driven by a dramatic uptick in youth voter turnout — 57.1 percent of eligible 18-24 year olds voted in 2015 compared to 38.8 per cent in 2011 — that largely showed up for the Liberals.

It’s also clear that Canadians, especially young people, want to see more from our federal government when it comes to climate change.

A Mainstreet Research poll released last November found that 76.1 per cent of Canadians accept that climate change is real and caused by human activity, and that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians agree that the government has to solve the issue of climate change even if doing so impacts economic growth.

The good thing about a Green New Deal is that it would create jobs and support working families through a federal jobs guarantee program. Although we don’t have direct polling on such a proposal in Canada, a 2016 Iron & Earth poll found that nearly 70 per cent of energy workers support a time-bound transition to 100 per cent renewable energy in Canada. That same poll found that 80-95 per cent would support government programs to support workers through the transition. Among the general public, these numbers are even higher. MORE

Environmental justice and the Green New Deal

Hundreds gather in San Francisco with the youth led Sunrise Movement. Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr
There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right — left — direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

The Green New Deal, like some sort of eco-superhero, has arrived at the eleventh hour. Naomi Klein writes hopefully of it as a plan to address global warming that at long last matches the scale of the crisis. Klein (co-author of the Green New Deal-esque “Leap Manifesto“) has reason for optimism — a Green New Deal is not a single policy intervention, but a systemic approach to transform our economy and energy system and build sustainable, democratically-empowered communities.

The point of the concept is in its name — “green” and “New Deal.” It marries the need for decarbonization to a reimagining of a just and fair society embodied in slogans like “climate justice” and “just transition.” The Green New Deal concept has arisen from many quarters, including decades of work by environmental justice groups, the Green Party (which insists on defunding the military in order to fund life), and, more recently, the Sunrise Movement as well as rebellious politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who have brought visibility to the concept.

Both decarbonization and justice are crucial. Since climate change is engendered by a ruling class that exists via a class that is ruled, decarbonization won’t happen without creation of a just and equitable economics and society. MORE


Green New Deal critics can’t see the forest for the trees

Image result for Green New Deal critics can’t see the forest for the trees
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the main champion of the Green New Deal proposal. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about the (new) Green New Deal. It’s an ambitious plan to make America carbon-neutral — as well as more equitable — in a mere 10 years.

The Ocasio-Cortez resolution lists a number of objectives in addition to carbon neutrality such as universal health care and stronger rights for workers.

Some view this “green intersectionality” as damaging to the fight against climate change. They argue that these other policy goals are irrelevant, costly and will weaken support for the plan. Others suggest, to the contrary, that it is politically savvy to link issues that voters clearly care about to the fight against climate change.

Student activists with the Sunrise Movement occupy Nancy Pelosi’s office in November 2018, when she was House Minority Leader, to demand that she and the Democrats act on climate change. Shutterstock

Author and activist Naomi Klein has eloquently argued why both sides miss the point. The prevailing view places issues into silos, and fails to grasp that the crises of inequality and environmental devastation are “inextricably linked — and can only be overcome with a holistic vision for social and economic transformation.” MORE


Plant More Trees—Young Forests Use Carbon Most Effectively

Image result for Plant More Trees—Young Forests Use Carbon Most Effectivelyleonard_c / E+ / Getty Images

For forests, it really does help to be young. British scientists who have identified the vital factor that shows what makes a forest a good carbon sink say young forests use carbon best and absorb it most efficiently.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seems on the face of it to settle an old puzzle with an unsurprising answer. New and young forests make the most efficient and effective carbon sinks.

Humans burn fossil fuels and emit vast quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The felling, burning and clearing of natural forest releases ever more carbon.

But green plants absorb CO2 to make tissue and turn the gas into root and branch, leaf and bark, trunk and fruit. So scientists, led by Tom Pugh of the University of Birmingham in England, addressed the question: what kind of forest is best as a carbon sink? MORE

‘Moment of reckoning:’ U.S. cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

Six recycle bins overflowing with cardboard.

The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yogurt containers, and other items into recycling bins.

But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded onto trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility, and burned, according to the city’s government.

It’s a situation being replicated across the U.S. as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse.

The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper, and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the U.S.

About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says.

“People want to do the right thing by recycling but they have no idea where it goes and who it impacts,” said Zulene Mayfield, who was born and raised in Chester and now spearheads a community group against the incinerator, called Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living. MORE

Pipeline lawsuit could have big impact

A natural gas line owned by Enbridge runs over the Fraser River and through Lheidli T’enneh territory.- BRENT BRAATEN, PHOTOGRAPHER

The legal action by the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation against Enbridge could change the landscape of Canadian law. It could change Canada’s physical landscape as well.

The LTFN has filed a petition in Prince George court asking for a trio of injunctions that would, if the court finds in their favour, shut off the natural gas flowing through two pipelines across the local territory, and fix the damage caused.

It would also force the company to dig them up and move them to the territory of a First Nation willing to have them. (Almost all land in northern B.C. is someone’s traditional territory.)

All this was a response to a massive explosion of an Enbridge natural gas pipeline only 500 metres from the homes of the main LTFN residential community about 15 kms northeast of Prince George. MORE





Why Sweden Clears Snow-Covered Walkways Before Roads

Photo: Stockholm Transport Museum

In Swedish cities, the approach to snow removal used to be pretty similar to the way it is in the United States.

First cities would plow major highways. Then they would plow big surface streets, especially near large employers. Last, they would clear walkways and bike paths.

But after analyzing government services through a process known as “gender-balanced budgeting,” many Swedish cities, including Stockholm, prioritize snow clearance very differently. They now clear walkways and bike paths first, especially those near bus stops and primary schools. Next, they clear local roads, and then, finally, highways.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions explains it all in this English-language video:

An analysis of Sweden’s snow clearance practices showed that it disadvantaged women, who were more likely to walk, while employment districts where men predominantly worked were more likely to have streets plowed first.

Not only was the impact of snow clearance priorities discriminatory, there were negative consequences for society as a whole. Three times as many people are injured while walking in icy conditions in Sweden than while driving. And the cost of those injuries far exceeds the cost of snow clearance. MORE

Indigenous clean energy shift must be built on trust and respect

Improving relationships key to ending diesel dependence in remote communities

Hybrid 20 kW solar photovoltaic and 50 kW diesel system at Wawakapewin First Nation. Photo: Dave Lovekin, Pembina Institute

Many opportunities and challenges are facing remote Indigenous communities in Canada as they shift towards a clean energy future. More than 70 per cent of these communities are powered by diesel generators. The burning of fossil fuels has negative impacts on health, well-being, the environment, and climate change. In some cases, communities’ reliance on diesel-based electricity also limits the energy available for them to thrive and grow — contributing to difficult economic conditions and social inequalities.

Indigenous communities are leading the way in bringing new renewable energy projects to remote places. Over the past few years, enthusiastic leadership, targeted capacity building programs, and new government funding have also helped shift the clean energy landscape. However, many barriers still remain to fully deploying and deeply embedding renewable energy systems in remote communities and ending the era of diesel dependence. Some of the main barriers are:

  • the perceived — and, in some cases, real — high capital costs of remote renewable energy compared to diesel systems
  • government funding mechanisms and practices that still focus predominately on supporting familiar diesel energy systems
  • a subsidy system that skews the true cost of diesel systems — but which helps keep energy bills somewhat affordable
  • competition for limited human capacity — communities face many challenging issues, and staff resources are limited


LANA PAYNE: The Conservatives have a racism problem

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 28. — CP file photo
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer – Canadian Press

No one should be surprised that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is playing footsie with racists and refusing to condemn acts of hate and threats of violence.

His social media feed contains an endless litany of hate-coded messages, inaccuracies and sometimes downright lies. His party’s infinite attack against asylum seekers is just one of the ways they are stoking xenophobic fears.

It’s the latest political trend for conservatives across the world. History shows it is nothing new.

Too often racialized people are exploited as scapegoats when incompetent and ineffective politicians are unable or unwilling to do anything to fix challenging economic and societal problems. Blame the victims, the vulnerable, the exploited, the newcomer, Indigenous people. Too many politicians have had success based on this nasty recipe.

It’s much easier apparently to blame the newcomer than do something about rising inequality and wealth concentration or tackle climate change.

It is also dangerous. You may win an election, but in the end all you have achieved is a divided nation, divided by hate rather than united by the possible, by friendship and compassion.

There are so many issues crying out for a good debate in this country. The state of homelessness and affordable housing; the lack of affordable childcare; the rising costs of post-secondary education; the impact artificial intelligence and automation will have on the future labour market; how we can best meet the needs of an aging population; or the shift towards a greener economy and a truly just transition for workers; democratic reform. Pick one. Pick another.

ndeed, from all appearances he has had no trouble cavorting and courting with Yellow Vests or appearing on a stage with white nationalists and smiling through it all as if he was attending a potluck at the local Legion hall.

He has refused to denounce the Yellow Vest elements within the United We Roll group who have accused the prime minister of treason, called for violence against Justin Trudeau and who have been spewing hate and violence against immigrants. He has refused to condemn statements by one of his own Senators who asked the truckers participating in the United We Roll rally to “roll over every Liberal left in the country.”

This is a matter of character. And Andrew Scheer has obviously decided that lining up with racists is preferable to finding some political courage and condemning the indefensible. MORE


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Youth climate strikers: ‘We are going to change the fate of humanity

Exclusive: Students issue an open letter ahead of global day of action on 15 March, when young people are expected to strike across 50 nations

The students striking from schools around the world to demand action on climate change have issued an uncompromising open letter stating: “We are going to change the fate of humanity, whether you like it or not.”

The letter, published by the Guardian, says: “United we will rise on 15 March and many times after until we see climate justice. We demand the world’s decision makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. [But] the youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

The Youth Strikes for Climate movement is not centrally organised, so keeping track of the fast growing number of strikes is difficult, but many are registering on So far, there are almost 500 events listed to take place on 15 March across 51 countries, making it the biggest strike day so far. Students plan to skip school across Western Europe, from the US to Brazil and Chile, and from Australia to Iran, India and Japan.

“For people under 18 in most countries, the only democratic right we have is to demonstrate. We don’t have representation,” said Jonas Kampus, a 17 year old student activist, from near Zurich, Switzerland. “To study for a future that will not exist, that does not make sense.” MORE