Let’s do something NOW!!

Let's do something NOW!!
The climate change rally at Belleville City Hall on September 20, 2019 was well attended by people of all ages. (Photo: Amanda Smith/Quinte News)

The climate change/global warming issue is picking up steam worldwide and it’s no different in the Quinte region.

Over 200 people, from kids to seniors, gathered outside city hall in Market Square demanding action on climate change immediately.

It was a short but boisterous and colourful rally and featured the heckling of a local politician and a fiery call for civil disobedience.

Rally organizer Kristen Parks, using a megaphone and standing tall on a bench, introduced the four guest speakers.

Climate change rally organizer Kristen Parks speaks during the rally at Belleville City Hall on September 20, 2019. (Photo: Amanda Smith/Quinte News)

The Liberal MP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington riding Mike  Bossio was first up.

He passionately proclaimed that there was no more time to wait to change our ways.  “We’ve known for decades about global warming.  Now is the time to do something.  I promise you I’ll do everything in my power to protect the planet for us and for future generations!”

Twice Bossio was interrupted by loud protests from some in the crowd.

Several people bellowed “That’s what you said four years ago!  Why should we believe you now?”

Two minutes later as Bossio again stated it was time for action now others yelled out “then stop the pipelines!”

Fellow Liberal and Bay of Quinte riding MP Neil Ellis was present but did not speak.

Danny Celovsky, the candidate running for the Green Party in Bay of Quinte riding, climbed up on the bench next.

“The liberals promised action on climate change four years ago and all we’ve got are promises broken.  Enough already!  We don’t need any more discussion!  We know what has to be done!”

Celovski said he wished the keys to power could be transferred to people between the ages of 18 and 35.  “They’ve got the most to lose.  We’re not getting anywhere waiting on old rich white guys!”

The NDP’s candidate in Bay of Quinte riding Stephanie Bell, sporting cycling gear after riding to the rally, told the crowd that people needed to work harder and immediately find even small ways to make a difference.

“The only way we can stop global warming is to work hard and work together!”

The final speaker and the showstopper was the son of the late Harry Leslie Smith, John Smith.

His father advocated for the working man and against right wing government policies for decades and died last November in Belleville in his mid-90s.

John Smith, son of Harry Leslie Smith, speaks during the 2019 climate change rally at Belleville City Hall on September 20. (Photo: Amanda Smith/Quinte News)

“I’m the son of a great man!  My dad was known as the oldest rebel!  He spent his life railing against the politics of austerity and the rise of fascism!”

“He understood that global warming was bringing people to the same kind of juncture as the rise of Hitler brought to people years ago.”

“The choice we face is the same!  It’s either darkness or light!  And just like the people did against Hitler we have to fight to change!  Politicians aren’t doing anything!  We need peaceful civil disobedience!”

“We can’t let the greed of the 1% line their pockets while they ruin your future and that of generations to come!”

“If we really move on this and get results, we could be known as the greatest generation by our grandchildren!”

Climate change rallies were held worldwide today.  Another local rally is scheduled for next Friday outside Quinte West city hall.

Lincoln, 6, and Finley Wood, 4, attended the climate change rally at Belleville City Hall on September 20, 2019. (Photo: Amanda Smith/Quinte News)

(Photo: Quinte News)

(Photo: Quinte News)

(Photo: Quinte News)



For the sake of life on Earth, we must put a limit on wealth

It’s not just the megarich: increased spending power leads us all to inflict environmental damage. It’s time for a radical plan

 Illustration: Bill Bragg

It is not quite true that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Musicians and novelists, for example, can become extremely rich by giving other people pleasure. But it does appear to be universally true that in front of every great fortune lies a great crime. Immense wealth translates automatically into immense environmental impacts, regardless of the intentions of those who possess it. The very wealthy, almost as a matter of definition, are committing ecocide.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from a worker at a British private airport. “I see things that really shouldn’t be happening in 2019,” he wrote. Every day he sees Global 7000 jets, Gulfstream G650s and even Boeing 737s take off from the airport carrying a single passenger, mostly flying to Russia and the US. The private Boeing 737s, built to take 174 passengers, are filled at the airport with around 25,000 litres of fuel. That’s as much fossil energy as a small African town might use in a year.

Where are these single passengers going? Perhaps to visit one of their superhomes, constructed and run at vast environmental cost, or to take a trip on their superyacht, which might burn 500 litres of diesel an hour just ticking over, and which is built and furnished with rare materials extracted at the expense of beautiful places.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that when Google convened a meeting of the rich and famous at the Verdura resort in Sicily in July to discuss climate breakdown, its delegates arrived in 114 private jets and a fleet of megayachts, and drove around the island in supercars. Even when they mean well, the ultrarich cannot help trashing the living world.

‘Superyachts, built and furnished with rare materials, can burn 500 litres of diesel per hour just ticking over.’ The superyacht Aviva off the Cornish coast. Photograph: Simon Maycock/Alamy Stock Photo

A series of research papers shows that income is by far the most important determinant of environmental impact. It doesn’t matter how green you think you are; if you have surplus money, you spend it. The only form of consumption that’s clearly and positively correlated with good environmental intentions is diet: people who see themselves as green tend to eat less meat and more organic vegetables. But attitudes have little bearing on the amount of transport fuel, home energy and other materials you consume. Money conquers all.

The disastrous effects of spending power are compounded by the psychological impacts of being wealthy. Plenty of studies show that the richer you are, the less you are able to connect with other people. Wealth suppresses empathy. One paper reveals that drivers in expensive cars are less likely to stop for people using pedestrian crossings than drivers in cheap cars. Another revealed that rich people were less able than poorer people to feel compassion towards children with cancer. Though they are disproportionately responsible for our environmental crises, the rich will be hurt least and last by planetary disaster, while the poor are hurt first and worst. The richer people are, the research suggests, the less such knowledge is likely to trouble them.

Another issue is that wealth limits the perspectives of even the best-intentioned people. This week, Bill Gates argued in an interview with the Financial Times that divesting (ditching stocks) from fossil fuels is a waste of time. It would be better, he claimed, to pour money into disruptive new technologies with lower emissions. Of course we need new technologies. But he has missed the crucial point: in seeking to prevent climate breakdown, what counts is not what you do but what you stop doing. It doesn’t matter how many solar panels you install if you don’t simultaneously shut down coal and gas burners. Unless existing fossil fuel plants are retired before the end of their lives, and all exploration and development of new fossil fuel reserves is cancelled, there is little chance of preventing more than 1.5C of global heating.

But this requires structural change, which involves political intervention as well as technological innovation: anathema to Silicon Valley billionaires. It demands an acknowledgement that money is not a magic wand that makes all the bad stuff go away.   MORE

Climate change number 1 concern for Canadians, poll says

Part of the Climate Strike in New York City on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Fatima Syed

Not long ago, Catherine McKenna told National Observer she thinks the Liberals have done everything they could to fight climate change over the past four years.

A new poll suggests that 50 per cent of Canadians disagree.

Half of the 1,599 Canadians polled said the current federal government has not been bold enough in addressing climate change. The survey, which spanned eight countries, found only 21 per cent of people felt their governments were doing enough to combat climate change.

Most of the Canadian respondents said that climate change was top of mind. When asked to list the three most important issues facing the world today, their top choices were “climate change,” “rising cost of food and energy” and “the environment or pollution.”

And 77 per cent of respondents said they either strongly or partially agreed with the statement “The world is facing a climate emergency and unless greenhouse gas emissions fall dramatically in the next few years global warming will become extremely dangerous.”

Climate change has been central to the 2019 election, as the Liberals defend their environmental record after face criticism from environmentalists for purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Green Party has been polling higher than past elections, sitting at 9.5 per cent according to CBC at the time of publication. And Elections Canada caused an upset in August by saying climate change may be a partisan issue since Maxime Bernier has expressed doubt about its existence, and called on charities to register as third parties if they want to publish paid ads about whether climate change is real.

Just over half of the Canadians polled also said they would be more likely to vote for a political party or candidate who promised to cut the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As well, 43 per cent said they strongly felt politicians put the interests of big oil companies before communities.

Graph showing global opinions on whether the world is facing a climate emergency. Data provided by Hope Not Hate, in a survey conducted by Focaldata between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9, 2019, including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Data visualization by Stephanie Wood
Country divided on drilling for oil and gas

Canadians’ opinions appeared to be more fractured when it came to how exactly to combat climate change.

While 53 per cent strongly supported building more clean energy, a smaller amount (28 per cent) said they strongly supported the idea to stop digging for and burning coal, and stop drilling for more oil and gas.

A total of 17 per cent said they strongly support increasing taxes for frequent fliers, and 30 per cent strongly supported carbon taxes on polluting products, while cutting taxes on clean products.

The pool was also divided on the Liberals’ federal carbon tax, with almost equal portions saying they strongly supported, partially supported, or did not support or oppose carbon pricing. MORE


Why Detroit Could Be the Engine for the Green New Deal

The city exhibits all of the problems the framework is meant to heal.

frontline-detroit-rally-1.jpgThousands of people took to the streets of Detroit at the Frontline Detroit March and Rally on July 30, ahead of the Democratic presidential debate. Photo from The Aadizookaan

In Detroit, more than 8,000 residents live in what has been called one of the most polluted ZIP codes in the state. Located in the city’s southwest corner, 48217 is known for its persistently poor air quality, where hundreds suffer from asthma, cancer, and other related health issues. The surrounding area has 26 industrial sites whose greenhouse gas emissions are being monitored by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. And one of the largest polluters, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, whose processing plant is headquartered in 48217, has received several violations from the state’s environmental regulatory agency over the years.

Just last week, two contract workers were hospitalized after an oil vapor leak at Marathon. The leak, which produced a pungent smell, residents said, led to temporary road closures. And during a congressional field hearing this week on air and water quality issues and their adverse effects on communities of color, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), who grew up in Southwest Detroit, rebuked Marathon for its polluting history.

Calling them “corporate polluters,” Tlaib said the big oil company is unlikely to face any meaningful consequences. “They’ve just written off these leaks as a cost of doing business,” she said, while residents are “still searching for answers. “What was released? Is it safe to breathe the air?”

Other nearby communities also continue to be harmed by air pollution. In the Delray neighborhood, the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge will increase air and noise pollution, experts say. The city’s housing swap program has offered to relocate the residents because of the construction. Also, Fiat Chrysler’s assembly plant expansion on the east side of the city is raising alarms that it will exacerbate the current air pollution.

And still, throughout the city, thousands of residents continue to battle water shutoffs, an ongoing process that five years ago left about 50,000 residents without running water. And this past school year, some schools had to restrict water use because of lead. About 70 miles north, the city of Flint, with a similar demographic of Detroit, has made national headlines over the past several years for the water crisis created when the state switched its water source to the toxic Flint River.

So when it was announced that the second round of the 2020 presidential debates would be held in Detroit, residents from Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities, environmental activists, union workers and lawmakers across the state came together to form Frontline Detroit Coalition. Their goal is to bring radical transformation to how the city functions, pivoting from reliance on fossil fuels, creating jobs rooted in a green, sustainable economy, and advocating for an equitable distribution of resources so that all Detroiters may thrive. The coalition is led by dozens of organizations, including the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, the Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, the Climate Justice Alliance, Soulardarity, We the People Michigan, and several others.

National media outlets covering the two-night event spotlighted one of the ground zeroes of the climate crisis in the United States, Detroit, whose urban infrastructure and economic development was based on auto-manufacturing and fossil fuel industry jobs. Thousands descended on downtown Detroit in July on the eve of both nights of the debates to bring attention to Detroit’s problems—environmental and otherwise. Frontline Detroit’s call was to Make Detroit the Engine of the Green New Deal, referencing the policy resolution introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), which seeks to address climate change and economic inequality. MORE



Why a ‘just transition’ doesn’t have to pit jobs against the environment

Many labour groups support Paris targets, global climate strikes

A study by Clean Energy Canada found that the clean-energy sector was growing at a faster rate than the rest of the economy. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

One of the recurring themes among some politicians and business leaders is that climate change presents a binary choice between preserving jobs or the environment.

But that’s not the way Dwaine MacDonald sees it. MacDonald is one of the co-founders of Trinity Energy Group, a company based in Stellarton, N.S., that makes commercial and residential buildings more energy-efficient, through better insulation and thermal barriers. And business is very good.

To give a sense of Trinity’s expertise, in 2010, the company worked on a 14-bedroom farmhouse that every year required 14 cords of wood and two barrels of oil for their heating needs. Trinity’s retrofit brought it down to four cords of wood and half a barrel of oil.

Dwaine MacDonald established Trinity Energy Group in 2006, and the business has grown to 80 employees since then. (Submitted by Shelby MacDonald)

This example shows why the International Energy Agency has identified energy efficiency as one of the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions. It also shows why a concerted transition to a low-carbon economy can be beneficial to both the environment and blue-collar and unionized workers, including those in the fossil fuel industry.

Since MacDonald and his partners launched the company in 2006, Trinity has grown to 80 full-time employees — and he estimates that about a quarter of them are people who were let go from, or simply left, jobs in the Alberta oilsands.

“I could be hiring more people if I could keep up with the demand,” said MacDonald. “It’s slowing us down right now, just trying to find the right people.”

As a sign of labour’s stake in the environmental challenge, Unifor, the largest private-sector union in Canada, voted to join the global climate strikes scheduled to take place across the country and around the world, on Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.

Major unions in France, Germany and Italy have also announced their intent to join the climate strikers.

Changing tone

The working class is increasingly on-side with climate action, said Jamie Kirkpatrick, program manager at Blue Green Canada, an organization that advocates for workers and the environment, and is aligned with Unifor and the United Steelworkers.

But Kirkpatrick acknowledges there is “fear and concern” among some workers about what a transition to a low-carbon economy means for them. Part of that has to do with the sometimes abrasive tone of climate activists.

Trinity’s specialty is making homes and businesses more energy efficient, which the International Energy Agency has identified as one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions. (Submitted by Shelby MacDonald)

“I think a lot of environmental efforts were focused on ‘shut this thing down,’ ‘phase this out,’ ‘get rid of that dirty, nasty industry,'” said Kirkpatrick. “And I think we’ve learned a lot about how everybody involved is a human being, and we could talk about [a transition] in a more human way.”

You can see that more measured tone in the messaging of the federal Green Party, for example. The party’s platform includes halting federal subsidies to the oil sector and cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project as part of a larger effort to drastically reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has stressed “we are not at war with fossil fuel workers. We are not at all willing to leave any part of Canada or any community behind.”

Kirkpatrick said his organization strives to “make the connections, and make it true that you can have a good job and a healthy environment.” SOURCE


Greta Thunberg has talked about a ‘carbon budget.’ What is it, and why does it matter?

(Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

“If we are to have a 67 per cent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees [C], we had, on Jan. 1, 2018, 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. And of course, that number is much lower today. We emit about 42 gigatonnes of CO2 a year. At current emission levels, that remaining budget is gone within 8 1/2 years.”

Those words were delivered by youth climate activist Greta Thunberg to the French parliament on July 23, 2019. She said she has not heard much on the subject of a “carbon budget,” either from politicians or the media. But what’s left in our carbon budget is of utmost importance if we hope to limit global warming.

Simply put, this budget refers to how much carbon — which includes CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane — we can emit into the atmosphere before we pass the point of warming the Earth to 1.5 C or 2 C.

The carbon budget was discussed in the first of three special reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in October 2018. The final instalment, the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), will be discussed in Morocco this weekend, with a summary due to be released next Wednesday.

The Paris Agreement seeks to limit a global temperature rise to 2 C above pre-industrial levels this century (with a goal of keeping it to 1.5 C). The key to understanding the carbon budget is that even if countries keep in line with the Paris accord, if the budget is depleted by then, it won’t matter. The damage will already be done. And it will be irreversible.

“If you think about annual emissions and reducing emissions without thinking about the carbon budget, you could really blow past the Paris Agreement,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists. “That’s the trouble.”

After a few years of stable global CO2 emissions, they rose in 2018, and there are concerns they may rise again in 2019.

If we don’t pay attention to the carbon budget, it increases the chance of a host of global problems: the loss of coral reefs, no summer sea ice in the Arctic, more severe weather events and changes in crops that could lead to further food scarcity.

If it sounds dire, Ekwurzel said we have the power to change the trajectory.

“Whenever we’ve been faced with a problem before and really … lean into it, we make big changes,” Ekwurzel said. “And a lot of those changes we’re calling for, we can do.” MORE


Youth Activists Tell Washington “We’re Coming for You” on Climate Change

Sabirah Mahmud speaks at the Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike in March 2019.YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE

This crisis will take away our ability to live unless we do something,” Sabirah Mahmud, a 16-year-old youth climate organizer, told me earlier this month.

I had invited Mahmud — the Pennsylvania director for Youth Climate Strike, a national youth-led organization committed to climate justice for marginalized communities in the U.S. and globally — to share her thoughts on the climate crisis. As we sat together on a shaded patio in West Philadelphia in the muggy September weather, Mahmud turned to me with a look of determination on her face and explained why youth leadership is essential for the climate justice movement.

“We have a right to a future, and now that future is in jeopardy,” she told me. “We have all of these big dreams and we are always being asked: ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ I can’t have a response to that question because of this crisis. I don’t even know if we will have a future or what kind of future that will be.”

Alongside Mahmud are hundreds of other youth climate organizers in Pennsylvania who are striking from school as part of Fridays for Future, taking to the streets in acts of dissent against the fossil fuel industry, developing protest art, educating the public, and demanding decision-making power in domestic and international deliberations about the fate of the planet.

Reil Abashera, a 16-year-old high school student and resident of Philadelphia, decided to join the struggle when she learned of the scientific reality of the climate crisis and understood the urgency of this moment.

“We don’t have 10 years to turn things around,” Abashera told me. “We have 18 months.”

The fact that these conversations are taking place in Philadelphia is not insignificant. The “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” has a long history of environmental racism that goes hand in hand with its history of state violence against Black people, disinvestment in public education, the criminalization of poverty and the segregation of communities of color. According to the Public Interest Law Center, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the city have long been disproportionately impacted by air pollution from oil and gas operations. This air pollution has resulted in increased rates of childhood asthma, cancer, depression and schizophrenia for many Philadelphians. As recently as July 2019, Philadelphia’s City Council approved the construction of a $60 million LNG plant in South Philadelphia — a section of the city already heavily impacted by environmental toxins. Mahmud and her peers, along with youth organizers from the Sunrise Movement, were actively involved in the fight against the LNG plant. They took part in street demonstrations, elevated dissenting voices from South Philadelphia, and attended public consultations organized by the city government. MORE

‘Beyond what our instruments can tell us’: merging Indigenous knowledge and Western science at the edge of the world

Residents of remote Tuktoyaktuk — which may become the first community in Canada to relocate due to coastal erosion and sea level rise — are taking climate data gathering into their own hands

Climate Tuktoyaktuk Community-based monitoring Werokina Murray

“First, we are going to check out the berries,” Obie David James Anikina says.

It’s a warm, buggy day out on the tundra about 10 kilometres outside of Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories. The height of summer brings a lush green to these parts.

I follow Anikina and Eriel Lugt through knee-high shrubbery and after a short walk we arrive at a marked blueberry patch.

Eriel pulls out an iPad and a camera, takes notes and a few photos, before we move on to known patches of cloudberries. Then to wild rhubarb.

Climate Tuktoyaktuk Eriel Lugt Weronika Murray
Climate monitor Eriel Lugt measures the height of wild rhubarb. The information she collects will provide insight into the effect climate change is having on edible plants around Tuktoyaktuk. Photo: Weronika Murray / The Narwhal

Anikina and Lugt are a part of the local climate change monitoring team working under the umbrella of the Tuktoyaktuk Community Climate Resilience Project, launched in 2018 by Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation.

The project, currently funded by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, is an inter-agency effort to establish a community-based monitoring program that would allow for long term, continuous measurements of climate change indicators.

That’s where the berries come in. The warming climate is moving ecological borders, changing and endangering unique plant life in the tundra.

The monitoring program is a method of monitoring the easily overlooked ways the world is being altered by a new climate reality.

But it’s also designed to act as a knowledge-sharing platform in which Western science-based research and traditional knowledge can compliment each other. Community participation is built into the program to ensure the needs and values of local Indigenous people are recognized and integrated in the monitoring and field work.

Climate Tuktoyaktuk Anikina Lugt Weronika Murray
Obie David James Anikina and Eriel Lugt collect edible plant yield data in a blueberry patch along the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway. Photo: Weronika Murray / The Narwhal
Gathering ‘quantitative data’ might sound like a dry, technical endeavour. But when it’s done to measure ice thickness, the days of the month when ice forms or thaws, the turbidity of water, permafrost depth and the leaf and bloom dates of edible plants, it amounts to work that for remote northern communities can touch on pressing issues of life and death. MORE

Greta Thunberg: ‘The People in Power Refuse to Listen… We Will Make Them Hear Us’

A dispatch from New York, where young climate strikers are planning a revolution they say world leaders can’t ignore.

Greta Thunberg at the NYC climate strike
Greta Thunberg speaks to climate strikers in New York City: ‘We will hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and will make the world leaders act. We can and we will.’ Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AP Photo.

The millions of young people who skipped school on Friday to protest the failure of world leaders to fix the climate emergency had a message for politicians like Justin Trudeau — prove that you actually care about an entire generation’s future or else suffer the consequences.

“What’s the point in educating ourselves and learning the facts when the people in power refuse to listen, to be educated, and pay attention to the facts,” I heard Greta Thunberg tell a crowd in New York’s Battery Park that organizers of the Global Climate Strikes at one point estimated at 250,000 people. “Everywhere I have been the situation is more or less the same, the people in power who write beautiful words are the same, the number of politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies are the same, and the promises are the same and the lies are the same.”

Thunberg earlier this month travelled to New York on a zero-emissions boat. Several days earlier she told U.S. congressmembers that “this is the time to wake-up.” The 16-year-old climate change icon from Sweden said the leaders gathering next Monday for a UN emergency meeting on climate change ignore young people at their peril.

“Do you think they will hear us?” she asked the crowd of schoolchildren, teens and their adult allies. “We will make them hear us.”

Trudeau could easily fit the cynical description of politicians offered by Thunberg. In June, the Liberal government passed a motion declaring that we are in a climate emergency, deeming the warming that’s affecting Canada two times as fast as the rest of the world a “real and urgent crisis.” It then approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline the very next day.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer would likely also qualify for putting forward a climate plan that includes no actual commitments or targets for reducing emissions. Then again, so might NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green party leader Elizabeth May, some observers argue, for failing to call out the fossil fuel industry with the forcefulness required.

The hundreds of thousands of youth who marched in New York, as well as the millions more in 150 cities around the world (including hundreds of people in Vancouver), are sick of politicians lying to them.

851px version of Climate strikers in NYCHundreds of thousands of youth marched in New York on Sept. 20. Photo by Geoff Dembicki.