Instead of squabbling over scarce jobs and incomes, we should jointly strive for a fair economic system

NYC ShutItDown People’s Monday march for Berta Cáceres in 2017. Photo: Alec Perkins/Wikimedia Commons

There’s an African proverb that is becoming uncomfortably apt to apply to many workers and citizens: “As the waterhole becomes smaller, the animals get meaner.”

In other words, as basic needs dwindle, so does the willingness to share what’s left. The merits of community and co-operation are superseded by a selfish survival-of-the-fittest mentality.

A big difference, however, exists between what happens at a shrinking waterhole in Africa and what happens in Canada when good-paying jobs are reduced, incomes fall or stagnate, and government services are cut back. The African waterhole gets smaller because of a drought. It’s a natural and unavoidable phenomenon. In Canadian society, however, the necessities of life for the most vulnerable among us are being deliberately restricted.

Our welfare “waterhole” is being siphoned away, its contents inequitably transferred from the pockets of the poor into the bulging bank accounts and stock portfolios of the rich and powerful.

There is no shortage of money in Canada. Our per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — the country’s entire financial output — has more than doubled over the past 50 years. But its dispersal has been ruthlessly skewed to favour the most opulent among us. Corporate executives, bankers, major investors and financiers wallow in wealth, much of it derived from taxpayer-funded billion-dollar bailouts of big corporations.

Maldistribution of income

That a barbaric maldistribution of income leaves millions of citizens, including hundreds of thousands of children, destitute and undernourished doesn’t bother the elite in the least. Their cherished capitalist system inevitably creates many more losers than winners, and always will. That’s its chief purpose. So the diversion of income from the needy to the wealthy is welcomed, and the wealthy can count on their right-wing political minions to block or minimize significant poverty reductions.

As long as progressive activists continue to accept the calamities of runaway capitalism as unpreventable, then their many protests, though admirable on their own, will be ineffectual.

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NDP links environment with economic justice to head off Green challenge

Jagmeet Singh. Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

The NDP has released its full set of election campaign commitments early, in the hope that voters will take the time to absorb them, and that those policy proposals will become a key part of the national conversation leading up to the October vote.

The media took notice — at least for a day or two.

Some reporters and commentators focused on the big differences between Jagmeet Singh’s ambitious proposals and Tom Mulcair’s constrained and modest platform last time around. In 2015, the party tied its own hands with a base promise to achieve a balanced budget within a first mandate.

Other commentators took note of the progressive hue of the 2019 platform, and decreed that the NDP has gone back to, as a National Post headline put it, “interventionism, protectionism and fiscal insanity.”

In fact, the NDP’s platform is not radical.

On the revenue side, the 2019 NDP calls for restoration of the corporate tax to its former 2010 rate, and for a modest increase in taxes on the highest income earners, notably in the form of a wealth tax on total assets of over $20 million. It also proposes an increase from 50 to 75 per cent on the taxable amount of capital gains.

In terms of programs, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP emphasizes affordability.

Its platform pledges to deliver: truly universal healthcare, which would include eye care, mental health and, of course, prescription drugs; a half million units of affordable housing over 10 years; expanded employment insurance; a cap on cell phone fees; and measures to increase the number of child care spaces while reducing their cost for parents.

The environment also occupies a big place in the NDP’s plans.

The party pledges to eliminate oil and gas subsidies and invest that money in renewables. It will also invest in low carbon transportation, especially public transit. And it even promises to work with jurisdictions that want it to provide free public transit.

These and other key promises all fall within the mainstream policy framework of most developed countries, with the notable exception of the United States. The NDP’s policy proposals are designed to humanize and rationalize Canada’s private enterprise, market-based economy, not limit or undermine it. MORE

Feeling helpless about climate change? There’s lots you can do

‘We can go on the offence’: A more positive way to look at climate action


(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

According to a recent survey of 14,000 respondents in 14 countries, people basically fall into four groupings when it comes to tackling climate change: “optimists,” “supporters,” “disempowered” and “skeptical.” The optimists and supporters generally feel they can have an impact and are doing their part to mitigate rising emissions and temperatures.

The disempowered, however, think it’s too late to stop the damage and feel, well, paralyzed. But Per Espen Stoknes, a psychologist who has also served as a member of Norway’s parliament, has ideas about how to change that.

Stoknes is the author of a 2015 book called What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming, which focuses on the barriers that keep people from making change — and offers ideas to overcome them. Stoknes shared some of his insights with Stephanie Hogan via email.

What is it about climate change that makes people feel helpless?

The barrier of distance makes planetary-scale climate disruptions feel very far away. It is … remote in terms of space, time, impacts and responsibility, except for the relatively few people who are directly hit by wildfire, floods or droughts at any time.

The scale … and the invisibility of CO2 all contribute to the feeling of helplessness and the lack of self-efficacy to contribute real change with an impact. It makes many voters give climate disruption a low priority relative to immigration, unemployment, health issues, et cetera.

Does the way we talk about climate change make a difference?

Language is hugely important.

When communicating about climate, we should never accept the [negative] frames (doom, uncertainty, cost, sacrifice). There is no need to negate them, or repeat them or argue them in order to counter them.

Rather, we can go on the offence with our own framing: that more commercial and political action is needed right away to ensure safety for society, secure our health, be prepared for what comes and realize the amazing opportunities for jobs and better lives that the shifts in clean energy will bring.

What kind of action can help an individual feel more empowered?

Doing something together with others is the basic remedy. Many think of psychology as individualistic and assume that a psychology of climate solutions would be about what each of us as individuals can do separately, that we only get better one by one.

It is clear, however, that individual solutions are not sufficient to solving climate alone. But they do build stronger bottom-up support for policies and solutions that can. Our personal impact on others is much more valuable in giving momentum to the change of society than the number of [kilograms] of CO2 each action generates. It works like rings in water: If I see someone else that I respect taking action, then I want to as well. Enthusiasm is contagious. That is why engaging together with other people is so crucial.

How do you take that action further?

Organize, organize, organize. The key is to make climate disruption into a social issue by taking action together with others. Start a local chapter of Climate Citizens Lobby or 350.org and make it visible to let your neighbours, friends and colleagues see that you are taking action with solar panels on the roof, electric mobility and/or a more plant-based diet. The largest cuts in climate emissions — from solutions in agriculture to buildings to mobility — can be addressed when thousands of people start taking action together. The Drawdown.org project gives a wonderful and inspiring overview of all the solutions. SOURCE

Trudeau’s Climate Change Policy Is Strategically Inadequate

Approving a pipeline while declaring a climate emergency is ‘climate change denial with a human face.’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
‘This is how climate change denial will increasingly look in the future.’ Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

The Trudeau government’s recent actions — declaring a climate emergency and re-approving the Trans Mountain expansion project within two days — aren’t just hypocritical: they’re morally equivalent to climate change denial.

The United Nation’s authority on climate change recently recommended“rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to counter an imminent crisis, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent decisions have flagrantly ignored the UN’s counsel.

He’s bent over backwards to ensure the Trans Mountain pipeline’s expansion, propping up the project with extensive financial and rhetorical support. In the process, the Trudeau government has perpetuated the prerogatives of an industry that has funded climate change denying research and (knowingly) pollutes the planet.

Make no mistake: Trudeau’s actions represent climate change denial “with a human face,” a darker version of Czech communist leader Alexander Dubček’s 1968 description of his ill-fated liberalization program as “socialism with a human face.”

Trudeau and the Liberal party affirm the reality of global warming in theory, but they effectively deny the phenomenon in practice by facilitating a harmful status quo and belittling the urgency of radical change.

This is how climate change denial will increasingly look in the future: a mixture of symbolic proclamation and strategically inadequate policy.

With flooding, suffocating wildfires and abnormal temperatures across much of the country, the climate crisis isn’t just a theoretical concern for most Canadians. Global warming’s impacts are now apparent, a fact that’s reflected in a recent poll showing that over two-thirds of Canadians consider stopping climate change “a priority.” MORE

Elizabeth May: Solving the climate crisis is ‘Mission Possible’

Clearly we need an Ecocide Law to hold corrupt politicians accountable for criminal acts endangering the planet.


File photograph of Elizabeth May by Alex Tétreault

On Monday night, June 17th, the Parliament of Canada held a last few hours of debate on the Liberal motion that Canada accepts that we are in a climate emergency. The original motion had been tabled on May 16th. As Minister Catherine McKenna spoke in the chamber that day, I launched the Green response to the national clamour for a Green New Deal. Paul Manly (Green MP from Nanaimo-Ladysmith) and I launched Mission: Possible, calling for the complete elimination of fossil fuel use by 2050, slashing dependency by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

We can see no other way for Canada to pull our fair share of the weight to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change imperative that we must adhere to our Paris Agreement goal of holding global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees C.

Failing to meet that target, even allowing the global average temperature increase to reach 2 degrees C, will create unacceptably high risks that we will pass a point of no return. Human civilization and the extinction of millions of species requires that we take the climate emergency seriously.

It will not be easy, but we know it is possible.

The May 16th climate emergency debate was adjourned. It did not surface on our agenda again until the night of June 17th, with a time limited opportunity to consider the matter.

I addressed a nearly empty chamber.

All the other leaders were in Toronto for the Raptors Rally. That is not something I would criticize. The national Raptors reverie has been good for our spirits. We want to celebrate.

But why did the government pick that night for debate?

And, much, much worse, after passing a motion that we are in a climate emergency, why did they – the very next day – commit billions of federal public dollars to build a pipeline?

That pipeline will violate indigenous rights, threaten every waterway it crosses, the Salish Sea through which tankers will navigate and, at the same, time increase our climate warming emissions. It is reckless.

Worse, given the scale of the threat of climate breakdown, it borders on the criminal. MORE

Insiders reveal how Canada used dubious research to approve major industrial projects


Workers take soil samples as crews work to contain and clean up a pipeline spill at an oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Photo by Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

In the world of environmental assessments, few words carry as much significance as “significant.”

Simon Halfyard* knows that better than most. A biologist who works as an environmental consultant in British Columbia, he works for a company that was hired by a sub-consulting firm to do an assessment of the risks and impacts associated with a large-scale natural gas project on the province’s north coast, which was going to consume hectares of land. (He asked that his real name not be used for fear of reprisal.)

It became clear to him that a large amount of critical fish habitat was going to be lost to the footprint of the project.

“So in my interpretation of this, I declared this particular project to be a ‘significant’ risk,” he says. “You want to try and avoid significant effects.”

His assessment wasn’t well-received by his manager, who made it clear he was going to have to tone down his language and focus on the minimum requirements — to strive, Halfyard says, “for mediocrity.”

“‘You can’t say significant,’” Halfyard recalls being told by his manager. “‘You’re putting the project at risk.’”

The pressure persisted — from his own company, as well as the company that had sub-contracted them. Statements were removed from his report, and he was called out by the project manager as uncooperative in abrasive emails to his employer.

“I had two levels of censorship,” he says. “I didn’t understand why I should be unfairly pressured to undermine my professional judgment.”

Halfyard is one of several scientists who spoke to National Observer about their experiences with environmental assessments on major industrial projects that got approved after their proponents submitted dubious evidence in their applications. The consultants all experienced similar pressure to overlook evidence that might make it difficult for projects to get approved by regulatory agencies.

National Observer reached out to them over the past five months as part of an investigation into how federal and provincial officials review the environmental impacts of major industrial projects. The investigation was triggered by tips from several scientists about what they perceived as weaknesses in the current regulatory system. National Observer spoke to more than a dozen sources who held or continue to hold different positions in government and industry that are related to environmental reviews and oversight as part of this investigation.  MORE

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Green New Deal for All Tour Getting Big Response

Image result for Vancouver green new deal tour

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks! Our Green New Deal for All tour has been sold out at nearly every stop, including over 800 people in Toronto and 500 in Halifax.

Thousands of people are signing up with our tour partners, 350.org and the national youth-led campaign Our Time, to organize for a Green New Deal. And while we wish we could stop in every community from coast to coast, we have just two more to go: Vancouver and Winnipeg.

WATCH LIVESTREAM

Our Vancouver tour stop is going to be an incredible night, with this line-up of powerhouse speakers: Kanahus Manuel, David Suzuki, Harsha Walia, Avi Lewis, and Anjali Appadurai.

The event will begin at 7pm PT / 10pm ET. And don’t worry — if you miss the livestream as it’s happening, it will be kept as a recording on The Leap’s YouTube channel.

Click here to watch the Vancouver tour stop tonight, starting at 7pm PT / 10 pm ET.


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