‘Act now. Our lives are in your hands’: Demanding climate action, Extinction Rebellion shuts down traffic in five UK cities

“We’ve all read the science, we know the story, the whole phase of denial is over, and if it takes civil disobedience to make a difference, then so be it.”


Image credit: Extinction Rebellion

Kicking off a summer-long campaign of civil disobedience and grassroots activism, thousands of campaigners with the Extinction Rebellion movement shut down traffic in five U.K. cities on Monday to demand that the government take immediate and sweeping action to combat the climate crisis and ensure a sustainable future.

Campaigners risked arrest by blocking major roads and bridges in Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, and London with colorful boats named after legendary environmentalists like Polly Higgins, who died of cancer in April.

The boats conveyed a simple message: “Act Now.”

As The Guardian reported, “Protests in each city are focusing on a different ecological threat: rising sea levels, floods, wildfires, crop failures, and extreme weather. According to Extinction Rebellion, more than 3,000 activists across the country have signed up to participate in acts of civil disobedience this week, a third of those in London.”

“We are facing the sixth mass extinction,” said Frances, an 18-year-old Extinction Rebellion activist who took part in Monday’s action. “If there was one thing I could say to our government it would be: Act Now. Our lives are in your hands.”

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Extinction Rebellion Guildford@XRGuildford

We are in a climate & ecological emergency.

We must act now. Those responsible for destroying our future must be held accountable

MAKE ECOCIDE LAW

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🌞Extinction Rebellion Bristol🌞@XRBristol

Politicians are rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic

The 2050 commitment for carbon neutral is too late & would lead us into catastrophy

We need @GOVUK to & commit to

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Extinction Rebellion UK ☀️✊@XRebellionUK

London ! The @PollyHiggins boat

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In a statement, Extinction Rebellion said it is calling on the British government to act to “halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.”

“We’ve all read the science, we know the story, the whole phase of denial is over, and if it takes civil disobedience to make a difference, then so be it,” Wilf, a 50-year-old teacher who took to the streets Monday, told The Guardian.

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Red Cross to World’s Cities: Here’s How to Prevent Heat Wave Deaths

Cooling off at a Madrid park during the European heat wave in June.
CreditCreditManu Fernandez/Associated Press

One of the largest disaster relief agencies on Tuesday had a message for the world’s mayors: Heat waves are getting more intense on a hotter planet, but they don’t have to be deadly if city officials take simple and often inexpensive steps.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies put out a 96-page guidebook designed to help city officials prepare for heat waves. It repeatedly points out that heat waves are predictable, sometimes days and weeks in advance, and that city officials, and, sometimes private employers, can take steps to save lives.

The tips include what the federation’s president, Francesco Rocca, described as “really simple and affordable” measures. They include knowing when a heat wave is coming; letting people know how dangerous that can be, especially in normally hot places where people might try to shrug off a heat wave; preparing health workers to respond to a health emergencies; setting up cooling centers for those without access to air conditioning; and distributing water.

At a time when climate change is exacerbating extreme heat events, the guidebook also offers a reference point for citizens to hold their lawmakers accountable. It comes just weeks after several European cities and towns broke heat records, and amid extreme heat warnings for much of the Eastern United States later this week.

The French Red Cross distributed water and fruit to homeless people in Tours during the June heat wave. CreditGuillaume Souvant/Agence France-Presse — Getty Image

Last month was the hottest June in 139 years of record-keeping, according to NASA. If the emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase at the current pace, the United States is projected to have twice the number of extremely hot and humid days that feel like at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 degrees Celsius, according to a study by researchers at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Kristina Dahl, the lead author, said the study pointed to “a hotter future that’s hard to imagine today.”

Heat waves are most dangerous for those who are already at risk, including older people and the poor. The Red Cross guidebook calls on city governments to identify in advance neighborhoods and communities that may be more at risk and, then to create ways to check on vulnerable people during spikes in heat. MORE

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Councillors: We Need an Extreme Temperature Emergency Plan

Redefining hope in a world threatened by climate change

“I want us to replace ‘I hope’ with ‘I resolve to do the work’ or ‘I will be this kind of person; I will live this kind of life’.” 

Here’s what leading thinkers, writers, and educators say about how to keep going in troubled times.

Cheering

Perhaps you have read that The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom has decided to use the terms climate emergency, crisis or breakdown instead of climate change in its news stories; and global heating instead of global warming. As social and cultural circumstances alter, words and their power change their meanings and impact, and the public in the end may have to adapt by using new words.

Or sometimes we can try to refine or redefine old words to fit new circumstances. For instance, hope, which as verb and noun has long implied both desire and expectation: “I hope [desire] that we can solve the climate problem” or “I have little hope [don’t expect] that our civilization will survive this existential climate crisis.” But what happens when desire outstrips results, and then discouragement leads to hopelessness, despair, cynicism, paralysis? When hope starts to sound passive and empty?

Here, from some leading thinkers, writers, philosophers, and educators, are a few useful, maybe even inspiring, ways to rethink hope. Click on the links for more good words.

  • Amory Lovins: “Many of us here stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. We work to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the pragmatic and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices. … Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. … Applied hope requires fearlessness.”
  • Joanna Macy: “Active Hope involves identifying the outcomes we hope for and then playing an active role in bringing them about. We don’t wait until we are sure of success. We don’t limit our choices to the outcomes that seem likely. Instead, we focus on what we truly, deeply long for, and then we proceed to take determined steps in that direction.”
  • Michael P. Nelson: “I want us to replace ‘I hope’ with ‘I resolve to do the work’ or ‘I will be this kind of person, I will live this kind of life’ or any sort of utterance that focuses on virtue rather than on consequence. … I am suggesting … that our obligation to the future is most properly satisfied when we act rightly and virtuously, and when our motivation stands stubbornly apart from, not held hostage to, the consequences of our actions.”
  • David W. Orr: “Optimism has this confident look, feet up on the table. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”
  • Maria Popova: “Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope – not blind optimism, because that too is a form of resignation, to believe that everything will work out just fine and we need not apply ourselves. I mean hope bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed in identifying what is lacking, in ourselves or the world, but then envisions ways to create it and endeavors to do that. In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”
  • Carl Safina: “Hope is the ability to see how things could be better. The world of human affairs has long been a shadowy place, but always backlit by the light of hope. Each person can add hope to the world. A resigned person subtracts hope. The more people strive, the more change becomes likely. Far better, then, that good people do the striving.”
  • Rebecca Solnit: “Hope is not about what we expect. It’s an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world. Hope is not a door but a sense that there might be a door”; “It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand”; “It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.”

SOURCE


This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

How energy efficiency can upgrade Canada for the future

Reducing energy waste and boosting energy productivity will also help industry get ahead, writes Joanna Kyriazis and Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada. CC0 Photo by Pixabay

They may not make many headlines, but policies that help Canadians and businesses waste less energy are a win-win.

Families want lower utility bills. Businesses want to cut costs and improve productivity and competitiveness. And we all want to eliminate pollution and live in a cleaner environment. Put simply, improving energy efficiency achieves all of the above.

The federal government has introduced a number of policies under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change aimed at energy efficiency. These include measures to make new buildings more energy efficient, retrofit existing buildings, improve energy efficiency for appliances and equipment, support energy efficiency in Indigenous communities and improve industrial energy efficiency. More recently, we’ve seen the introduction of additional programs to retrofit homes, schools, community organizations and affordable housing developments. These will seriously help reduce pollution while also helping Canadian homes and businesses save on energy costs — with real economic benefits to boot.

Clean Energy Canada is a think tank at Simon Fraser University focusing on the clean energy transition and the right measures to accelerate it. To that end, as part of our series to help Canadians better understand pre-existing federal climate policies, we’ve broken down the benefits of energy efficiency in Canada.

The pollution-fighting benefits

Buildings currently account for 12 per cent of Canada’s overall emissions. If you add indirect emissions from using electricity, that share jumps to 17 per cent. Heavy industry such as mining, pulp and paper, and cement production — used in many buildings — accounts for another 10 per cent. Improving energy efficiency can reduce energy waste and cut emissions across the board. Current efficiency measures are expected to reduce national emissions by52 million tonnes, or 25 per cent of the way to our 2030 Paris targets.

The cost-cutting benefits

Efficiency measures help Canadians save on utility bills. According to analysis by Clean Energy Canada, the energy efficiency measures in the pan-Canadian framework are projected to save the average household $114 a year over the lifetime of the measures.

And the benefits reach beyond buildings. Reducing energy waste and boosting energy productivity will also help industry get ahead. Canada’s energy-intensity-per-unit GDP is higher than the U.S., Europe and Japan. This is a competitive disadvantage. Energy efficiency measures help our businesses improve their energy productivity, which in turn makes them more competitive. Our analysis shows that commercial and industrial savings could amount to $3.2 billion across Canada by 2030.

The economic benefits

Making homes and businesses more energy efficient also represents a big economic opportunity. Between 2017 and 2030, Canada’s GDP will see a net increase of $356 billion (or 1 per cent) thanks to the energy efficiency measures in the pan-Canadian framework. Every $1 spent on energy efficiency programs generates $7 of GDP.

Companies in the business of energy efficiency include those focused on improving home energy systems. Toronto’s Ecobee, for instance, is a leading provider of smart thermostats. Then there’s Fredericton-based Stash Energy, which makes home heating and cooling more affordable using “smart” heat pumps with built-in thermal energy storage systems that allow homeowners to store energy during cheap off-peak hours for use during peak hours. B.C.-based MineSense, meanwhile, helps mining operators cut both costs and emissions by improving how efficiently mining operators process iron ore. MORE

Politics not technology: what must change for the world to go 100% renewable by 2050

We asked 12 Canadian premiers about Quebec’s controversial secularism law


Asiyah Robinson said her hijab is not only a religious symbol but an inseparable part of her identity, during a council meeting in Victoria, B.C., July 11, 2019. Photo by Emilee Gilpin

Last week, Asiyah Robinson, a 22-year-old Muslim woman, presented an impassioned speech that woke the ghosts of an otherwise eerily stoic Victoria city council chambers. Robinson added her voice to a chorus of concerned Canadians speaking against a recent secularism bill passed into Quebec law.

If Robinson were a Quebec citizen, she couldn’t pursue a job as a teacher, lawyer, judge nor police officer while practicing her religion, wearing a hijab, as she has done since she was nine years old. A controversial new Quebec law — Bill 21: An Act respecting the secularity of the State — would prohibit her and any other public service employees in positions of authority who practiced their faith wearing a hijab, turban, kippa, cross and more from doing so, while delivering services to the public.

“First they strip you of your religion, then they take away your cultural practices, then they separate you from your community,” Robinson said. She called an attentive Victoria City Council to think back to the Quebec City mosque shooting. “On Jan. 29, 2017, there was a dreadful mass shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre. Six were killed … It was horrible and devastating.”

Robinson said the mosque shooting bears a chilling resemblance to the political movement in Quebec today.

“The shooting was done by one person, and thankfully, the bullets ran out… But to live in a country that proposes and promotes an institutional law that legalizes discrimination based on faith ensures a never-ending supply of ammunition that suppresses not only Muslim, but Canadian values,” Robinson said. “This will not only affect my generation but will ripple into generations to come.”

People gesture during a demonstration in Montreal, Sunday, April 7, 2019, in opposition to the Quebec government’s newly tabled Bill 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

 

As a city, Victoria doesn’t get much further from the province of Quebec, located on the west coast on Vancouver Island. Yet citizens are speaking out against Quebec’s new law as if it existed in British Columbia. It’s rare outrage in a country that has seen few leaders stand up and outwardly proclaim the law to be against Canadian values.

In Victoria, Robinson thanked councilor Sharmarke Dubow, who introduced a motion to city council in support of the legal opposition to Bill 21. Robinson expressed gratitude to Victoria’s city council, which voted unanimously in support of the motion.

“An attack on the constitution in one part of Canada is an attack on the constitution in any part of Canada. This new law will upend people’s lives and livelihoods ⁠— it’s textbook discrimination.”

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What Elizabeth May wants to do with Canadian oil

Elizabeth May in a yellow shirt: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Photograph by Blair Gable)
© Used with permission of / © Rogers Media Inc. 2019. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Photograph by Blair Gable)

This fall, Elizabeth May will lead the Green Party into her fifth election as leader. Her involvement in environmental issues on a national level began 30 years ago, when she served as a senior policy adviser to Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives. She was later the executive director of Sierra Club of Canada before becoming leader of the Green Party in 2006. She spoke with Maclean’s senior writer Paul Wells as Parliament wound down its final session before the fall vote.

Q: You’ve now been leader of the Green Party for 13 years.

A: Yes.

Q: And it seems like our politics very often turn on questions of climate and the environment. It’s how Stéphane Dion became Liberal leader. It was central to Stephen Harper’s majority government. And it’s one of the key questions on which the Liberals will be judged in the fall. And yet, there often doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of progress on climate.

A: There’s none. We slide backwards, really.

Q: I assume you’re not thrilled by that.

A: We’re in a climate emergency. Everything is changed. And yet, every day in Ottawa, we don’t act as if we’re taking it seriously. We haven’t adjusted our emission-reduction targets from the one left behind from Stephen Harper’s administration, which is loosely referred to as the Paris target, even though it has never been consistent with the Paris Agreement [from 2015]. The Paris Agreement says to try to hold at 1.5 degrees [of warming above pre-industrial levels], and as far below two degrees as possible. Well now we know, thanks to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that two degrees is too dangerous. We have to hold at 1.5 degrees. So it’s bad luck for the current generation of politicians because the time for procrastination has run out. I’ve been working with every single government since June 1992 to try to get climate action. By the way, Paul Martin had a really good climate plan. That was the last good plan we saw.

Q: And what about this gang?

A: They don’t have a plan. It’s sad to say. I mean, they’ve taken measures. But their target was left behind by the previous government that didn’t take climate change seriously. And if you look at it globally, if you take all the targets of all the governments around the world as they existed in December 2015, when we negotiated in Paris, the cumulative effect of everyone hitting their targets is to increase the global average temperature somewhere between 2.4 and 3.5 degrees. And now that we know we have to hold at 1.5 or we really are playing Russian roulette with whether humanity survives—well, then you have to re-examine your targets. And for a government that has such good rhetoric, I’m deeply disappointed. They’re bringing in regulations on methane, they’re bringing in some measures. They claim we’re going off coal. But if we use fracked natural gas instead, we’re not actually making an improvement. I’m not going to say they’ve done absolutely nothing, but what they’ve done amounts to an abdication of responsibility.

Q: The next election is going to be a confrontation largely between the Liberals and the Conservatives over who’s got a real plan for the climate. How’s it going to feel watching a polarized debate between two parties when you don’t think either one of them has the answer?

A: I don’t see it as being a two-party choice. We have six parties that currently have seats in Parliament that are going to be fielding candidates in the election. And when you look at that mix, I think there’s a greater likelihood of a minority Parliament, which creates the possibility of co-operation. As Greens, we’ve put forward what we call Mission Possible. It’s not Mission Easy, but it is possible, and it will require a transformational effort, the kind of transformation of our economy that we haven’t seen since the Second World War. It’s major but it does lead us to a positive place where people have jobs and Canadians are happy, but it requires getting off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

Q: There was a report that came out last year by most of the country’s auditors general. It said only Nova Scotia was meeting the targets it had most recently set. And what it says is that a lot of the problem in climate politics is not the parties that are against effective action on climate change, it’s the parties that support effective action and then never get around to taking it. They just say stuff to make themselves feel good, but then don’t follow through.

A: The problem is politicians look at what needs to be done and say, well, we’d better be incremental. The enemy of climate action right now is incrementalism. Now, the federal government has powers that the current administration hasn’t even thought about, as far as I can see. They haven’t once mentioned that carbon dioxide is listed as a toxin under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. There are basically 200 facilities across Canada that are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gases; they could be regulated. We don’t even need to pass a new law.

Q: What happens if you regulate a few hundred large carbon emitters on the principle that carbon is a toxin? What happens to the economy from one day to the next?

A: Well, I’m not advocating that we do everything through regulation. We want to do it through proactive development of a strong renewable energy sector. Andrew Scheer talks about an energy corridor. So do I, but his corridor is for pipelines and mine is an electricity grid that’s running 100 per cent on renewable energy. So there’s a lot of work to be done because we actually have gaps in our electricity grid: Quebec Hydro basically stops at Moncton, N.B., but it could reach all of Atlantic Canada.

So you start looking at the pieces to make sure we have to have an efficient electricity grid running on 100 per cent renewables. That isn’t done essentially only by regulation. But if you did bring in regulations for the large emitters, which are basically coal-fired electricity plants and cement, you could say they’re going to have to cut by 50 per cent by this date. And we also have some money to help you. If you’d like to shift right away to renewable energy, we’ll help you do that. So it’s carrots and sticks.

a view of a city with smoke coming out of the water: The Athabasca oil sands near Fort McMurray, Alta., where refineries dominate the landscape (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
© Used with permission of / © Rogers Media Inc. 2019. The Athabasca oil sands near Fort McMurray, Alta., where refineries dominate the landscape (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Q: Part of your plan is to use only Canadian oil during a transition period, at the end of which we wouldn’t be using any oil. And for that great idea, you got chewed out by the leader of the Green Party in Quebec, who said we’re not going to be using more Alberta oil, thank you very much.

A: He didn’t actually look at the full document. What we’re proposing is that for Quebec, and for Atlantic Canada, we can reduce the number of tankers moving through Atlantic Canadian waters. This is not going to be overnight. You can’t wave a magic wand and undo a lot of commercial contracts. But [Newfoundland’s] Hibernia oil is over 80 per cent exported. That oil would suit.

And for Western Canada, there’s an existing infrastructure that meets the needs of a domestic market. But we’ve been so conditioned by everybody in politics and in Alberta saying we have to get our oil to market. Well, there’s a market, and it’s Canada. Of course, our plan is not music to their ears in Alberta because the Greens are talking about quite a dramatic reduction in our use of fossil fuels. But Alberta has the best potential of any province for solar energy. It has enormous potential for wind power. And so replacing coal in Alberta with wind and solar is totally doable, and good for their economy. In the meantime, over time, bitumen can become the feedstock for a petrochemical industry instead of burning it. MORE

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