Australian governments have denied or downplayed the existence and risks of human-caused climate disruption. There, coal is king. In our outdated economic systems, short-term jobs and financial indicators mean more to politicians than keeping the planet habitable for human life!
The worst bushfires in Australia’s history have consumed more than 11 million hectares, killing dozens of people and more than a billion animals, displacing many more, and destroying thousands of homes. While the fires rage on, smoke chokes the air and coral reefs bleach and die, Australia’s leaders are touting development of yet another huge coal mine, the Adani Carmichael mega-mine in Queensland, designed to produce 2.3 billion tonnes over 60 years of mostly low-quality, high-ash coal.
Australia’s fires cover an area 15 times larger than those in the Amazon, which are also bad. More than 30 years ago, my wife Tara and I, along with others, worked with the Kayapo in Brazil to help protect their traditional territory in the rainforest from development. Together, we convinced the World Bank to pull funding for a massive dam system, which put the project on hold.
As Brazil’s economy improved and World Bank money was no longer needed, the project went ahead under a new name. Flooding is just one threat to this precious forest. Clearing and burning to make way for agriculture and industrial development are also fuelling rapid destruction.
Some call the Amazon the “lungs of the world,” because the rainforest breathes in carbon and exhales oxygen. Canada is home to what some call the “northern lungs” — the boreal forest.
Some call the Amazon the “lungs of the world,” because the rainforest breathes in carbon and exhales oxygen. Canada is home to what some call the “northern lungs” — the boreal forest stretching from Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador, covering 55 per cent of Canada’s land mass. The amount of oxygen forests produce is difficult to calculate and often exaggerated, but there’s no doubt forests are important for human survival.
The boreal is also under threat from rapid development and global heating. As with recent massive wildfires elsewhere, climate change is increasing the boreal fire season and fuelling intense burning over larger areas than ever — regardless of whether fires are set by lightning, arsonists or sparks from machinery or a train wheel. Warmer winters have also facilitated the spread of tree-destroying insects like mountain pine beetles that cold winters once kept in check.
Intact forests produce oxygen and provide many other services beneficial to humans. They sequester carbon, which helps regulate global temperatures. They prevent runoff, slides and flooding. They maintain and filter water. They provide food and other necessities for people, and habitat for plants and animals.
In the midst of its fires, Australia has been hit by extreme weather events, including terrifying massive dust storms, battering hail and flood-producing torrential rains. Smoke from the fires is also a potent greenhouse gas. So, as a heating planet causes more forests to burn, the fires release even more carbon into the atmosphere, creating feedback loops that accelerate warming.
Our economic systems still run on endless growth and consumerism, creating unconscionable waste and devastation.
What will it take for politicians and others to listen? As Greta Thunberg warns, our home is on fire. It will get worse if we fail to change our ways, quickly. But politicians and industry keep expanding fossil fuel development, trying to cash in before markets fall in the face of better alternatives and climate chaos. Our economic systems still run on endless growth and consumerism, creating unconscionable waste and devastation. We judge how well the economy is performing in part by how quickly we are tearing up the world.
It makes no sense.
Why is Australia going ahead with a massive coal mine? Why is Canada considering approving a 24,000-hectare open-pit oilsands mine, the Teck Frontier project in Northern Alberta? Why is the U.S. reversing environmental protections and facilitating fossil fuel expansion? Haven’t they heard we’re facing a global crisis the likes of which we’ve never experienced? Or do they ju st not care? Are money and power really more important to them than the health and well-being of citizens and the future of our children and grandchildren?
We’re not being held back by a lack of solutions — there are plenty existing and more being developed. We’re hostage to a lack of political will and imagination. Wake up humanity! All that money and power won’t mean anything if we destroy our only home.
Bumblebees are vanishing from huge swaths of their historic range, particularly in regions that have gotten really hot in recent years. And they’re not mass migrating into cooler areas, raising troubling questions about the resilience of these crucial plant pollinators in a rapidly warming world.
Local extinctions: By comparing records for 66 bee species across two periods—1901–1974 and 2000–2014—researchers found that the probability of bees still occupying any given site fell 46% in North America and 17% in Europe, according to a new study in Science. “If declines continue at this pace, many of these species could vanish forever within a few decades,” lead author Peter Soroye, a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa, said in a statement.
The driver: The major factors appeared to be how often and by how much temperatures exceeded historically observed limits for these species. Indeed, the frequency of extreme heat waves seems to matter more than increases in average temperatures. Other scientists have argued that diseases, parasites, pesticides, and habitat loss are also factors, potentially creating “combined stress” that’s driving the die-off of bees around the globe.
Plasticity: Species can often adjust to shifting conditions up to a point, by altering their behavior or relocating to different areas or elevations. But an accompanying Science piece by University of Bristol researchers said the new study highlights the constraints on this “plasticity,” even for winged species that can cross highways or towns to reach cooler northern regions. “As climates exceed these critical limits, the widespread declines now observed for bumble bee species will manifest in more and more organisms and places,” they wrote. SOURCE
Hillsides scorched last year near La Torre de L’Espanyol in Catalonia, Spain.Credit…Edu Bayer for The New York Times
TIVISSA, Spain — Forests are getting some high-profile attention lately.
President Trump expressed his support on Tuesday night for a global effort to plant one trillion trees, which itself was announced at a gathering of business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, in January. A trillion trees, it was said at that meeting of the World Economic Forum, would go a long way in addressing climate change.
But while trees — and particularly forests full of trees — are vital for swallowing up and storing carbon, currently absorbing 30 percent of planet-warming carbon dioxide, they are also extremely vulnerable in the age of climate disruptions.
In a hotter, drier, more flammable climate, like here in the Mediterranean region, forests can die slowly from drought or they can go up in flames almost instantly, releasing all the carbon stored in their trunks and branches into the atmosphere.
That raises an increasingly urgent question: How best to manage woodlands in a world that humans have so profoundly altered? “We need to decide what will be the climate-change forest for the future,” is how Kirsten Thonicke, a fire ecologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, framed the challenge.
A forest revival in Europe is forcing that discussion now.
A firefighting helicopter near Hastveda, Sweden, in April.Credit…Johan Nilsson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Marc Castellnou, a 47-year-old fire analyst with the Catalonian fire services, has seen that shift firsthand here in the hot, dry hills of Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, where his family has lived for generations in a medieval village overlooking the Ebro River.
His mother’s family grew almonds up here. The terraces they once hacked into these hard rocks still remain, along with the brick oven of the old farmhouse and a row of juniper trees, which, by local custom, signaled to anyone walking up from the coast that they could barter their fish for bread there.
The almond orchard has long been abandoned. In its place, a scrubby forest of short oaks and white pines has come up. Where goats once grazed, there is now a carpet of dry grass. A perfect landscape for fire.
What happened with his ancestors’ farm has played out across Europe, profoundly altering the countryside over the past half century. As farmers walked away from the land in favor of less backbreaking, more profitable ventures, forests came back.
Now Mr. Castellnou has been setting some of those forests ablaze, getting rid of the grasses and low-lying shrub so the flames can’t as easily race up to the crowns of the young, frail pines. The last thing he wants his two young children to inherit is a hillside strewn with dry, flammable brush.
“Climate change is changing everything,” Mr. Castellnou said. “We’re trying to build some vaccination into the landscape.”
In Europe last year, wildfires raged as far north as Sweden. Drought and beetle infestations killed swaths of forests in Germany, prompting a debate over what trees to plant in their place. Britain had more wildfires last year than ever before on record. Spain saw one of the sharpest increases in the number of individual fires. The European Union described forest fires as “a serious and increasing threat.”
The forests of Europe have been shaped and reshaped by human hands over centuries. Trees were cut for fuel and timber, then terraced so farmers like Mr. Castellnou’s forebears could plant whatever would fetch the most money.
His ancestors chose a steep hillside and planted almonds. The grandparents of his wife, Rut Domènech, 39, cultivated hazelnuts. Nearly everyone had olives to supply oil for the year. Some grew grapes to make wine. Every bit of hill was under cultivation.
By the second half of the 20th century, Catalonians began abandoning the steepest, hardest-to-farm hillsides in favor of the valleys, where machines and fertilizers made farming easier and more productive.
Mr. Castellnou’s father gave up working on other people’s almond orchards altogether. He helped construct a new highway, then a new nuclear power plant in the next town, then went to work in a factory making wooden picture frames.
With the nuclear plant nearby, locals prospered. Ms. Domènech’s father found construction work. Her mother opened a boutique in the next town.
Farming fell out of favor. The shepherds sold their animals.
Across Europe, between 1950 and 2010, amid rapid postwar reconstruction, woods and grasslands grew by roughly 150,000 square miles.
“I’m really sad my grandmother didn’t want to show me the value of the land,” Ms. Domènech, a researcher at the Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia, a government backed institution, said as she walked past one of the many abandoned stone farmhouses.
It’s as though, she added, they weren’t proud of who they were.
Wispy white pines took over the hillsides, crammed tightly next to each other. Grasses grew tall.
As Catalonians migrated to cities, the fingerprints of climate change also emerged. Heat records were broken, one after another. The grass turned dry. The white pines began to drop their needles.
Farmers in the Montsant wine region of Catalonia now harvest earlier in the season; the heat sweetens the grapes too early, leading to higher alcohol content, and some worry whether they’ll have to switch to dessert wines.
On an exceptionally hot day last summer, on a poultry farm, a pile of manure caught fire, as mounds of animal waste have done before. But so fierce was the wind that the embers traveled across the hills, causing fires up to 13 miles away.
Fire, Mr. Castellnou pointed out more than once, is nature’s way of reshaping the landscape for the future. What will come up on these denuded hills will be less homogeneous, he said, and more resilient for a new climate.
He favors what he calls managed burns, getting rid of low brush in order to prevent the next fire from raging out of control. And sometimes, he favors letting fires burn. It’s part of the natural ecology of the forest, he said. The white pines, for instance, reproduce only during fires, when their seed pods explode in the heat.
“Instead of fighting fire, making peace with fire,” Mr. Castellnou advised.
The only way to keep the woods from becoming dry brush by the time his two children are grown, he said, is to manage the landscape. He can see what climate change has already wrought on the hills he has lived in his whole life. The seasons are unpredictable. The heat and high winds are like nothing he has seen before.
“You can’t read the signals anymore,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s like feeling estranged at home.”
Meet three young activists taking their elders to school on the climate crisis.
Learning by doing. Rebecca Hamilton (at right) speaking to climate strikers at the Vancouver Art Gallery on March 18, 2019. Photo by Jackie Dives.
On a Vancouver fall evening, a handful of teenagers met for dinner to make last-minute preparations for the climate strike they’d been planning for the next day. As they ate chili and peered at their event page on Facebook, they wondered how many would show up to join them when they walked out of classes and took to the streets.Our lineup of captivating speakers will explore this place we call home. Feb. 18 in Vancouver.
They’d organized a similar strike in May, and a few thousand people had turned out. But this one, slated for Sept. 27, felt different.
As Grade 12 student Naia Lee rode the 99 B-Line home from dinner that evening, she spied a stranger holding a large sign and asked if she would be striking. Yes, she would, and she was bringing her friends, too.
Later that night, 17-year-old Rebecca Hamilton was working on her speech when her mother guessed she might be addressing 40,000 people, even more. “Don’t talk about it,” she told her mom. “No, that’s crazy.”
The morning dawned clear and bright. As Hamilton approached city hall, where the march would begin, her SkyTrain car was jam-packed, and when she emerged from the station, the streets were teeming, a sea of people stretching across the Cambie Street Bridge.
The crowd was officially estimated to be 100,000. The teens put the number closer to 150,000. Either way, this would be one of the largest mass mobilizations in Vancouver’s history, linked with similarly huge protests in cities across the world over the past two years, coordinated by Global Climate Strikes and FridaysForFuture.
“We couldn’t even comprehend the amount of people there,” says Hamilton, thinking back at the rush she felt joining the meandering mass as it coursed through downtown Vancouver.
Samantha Lin, a Grade 12 student, remembers being shocked at what she’d helped pull off. “There wasn’t really any precedent for what was going to happen just the next day. There was nothing to prepare me in my mind for the amount of people that I would see.”
Their lives are busy with classes and exams, meetings, and interviews with journalists. They could be playing volleyball, dancing, or, as Lee laughs, “spending a lot more time with my family.”
But “the urgency of the climate crisis,” says Lin, “wasn’t something that was going to wait. And I didn’t see any action happening from governments.”
Hamilton finds it “really confusing” to see so many adults complacent in the face of the climate crisis. “People go on just living their daily lives, and the politicians talking about other things, and we go to school and learn math, and nobody’s really acknowledging that we’re living in a really pivotal time in human history.”
She knew she had to do something. “I had this one moment when I realized, if we can’t live on our planet, nothing else matters.”
Even well-meaning environmental efforts at school didn’t seem to match the urgency students like Lin feel. Growing up in Vancouver, she came to appreciate the outdoors and the beauty of nature. As she grew older, she became more aware of the massive levels of waste generated by our economy. “Just seeing our overconsumption, our world system. We’re not sustainable.”
Lin started working and organizing events around sustainability with people in her school, but she felt like a lot of it had what she called a “very non-urgent” perspective on the climate crisis. “It was very ‘let’s reduce waste’ or ‘let’s think of how we can make changes in our school’ instead of the climate justice lens that we’re looking at it through now.”
Hamilton agrees with the sentiment. “It was really hard to figure out how to get involved because all the youth groups I could find were talking about, like, recycling.”
In spring 2018, Lin and Hamilton crossed paths at a climate activism workshop. After the school term and over the summer, the two attended a climate activism camp. A friendship was born.
In fall 2018, a teen emerged on the world stage who projected a fiercely pragmatic, the-time-is-now message about the climate crisis. She was 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, gaining notoriety for spending her school days climate striking outside the Swedish parliament. Thousands of daring Australian students, too, were marching through the streets of major cities. They paid no mind when a federal cabinet minister scolded them, saying their futures would see them “up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge of your life and getting a real job.”
“There was just a great public consciousness around the climate crisis and just how much of a crisis it was,” Lin recalls.
And it was inspiring. “My parents have always raised me to be very aware of what’s going on. And not only to be aware, but also to understand that I need to care about what’s happening,” Lee says. “It was just a matter of time before I started to really take that on myself.”
Lee had already been involved in a housing justice initiative and also runs a gender equity club with one of her best friends from school. About this time last year, she was walking out of school in support of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders in opposition to the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline in northern B.C. when she met a bunch of teens who had gone to the December strike. She became friends with Hamilton on Facebook and joined the Sustainabiliteens.
Lee is quick to credit members of older generations for preparing the way. “It’s the work of frontline communities and most-affected individuals who’ve started this movement and who have been pushing it for decades,” she says.
“This isn’t a movement that we started,” agrees Hamilton. “We’re really following in the footsteps of Indigenous land defence, which has been going on for 500 years. And the continued assertion of Indigenous presence on their land has really stemmed, I think, what could be a much worse situation and has halted a lot of destruction.”
Hamilton used to think about climate change as a really scary thing that is coming at all of us. It is, but now she understands that “the big and scary thing” had come for some people already.
For some it has meant surviving historic-level floods. Others have experienced the melting away of their previously frozen homelands. Others find themselves on the frontlines of forest fires. For these people, many of them Indigenous, the climate crisis isn’t about saving the future, it’s already a matter of life and death.
You can’t separate environmentalism and climate justice from advocating for human rights or issues that affect marginalized communities, notes Lee. Climate change “exacerbates other issues, and other issues exacerbate climate change,” she says. “We’ve just really tried to make that a core pillar of how Sustainabiliteens interacts and engages with the movement.”
Hamilton would like older people who find teenagers like her inspiring to not assume “OK, the kids have got it from here.”
“The point of us being inspiring is for you to act. It’s not about just us doing our thing and doing it well,” she says.
A week before the Sept. 27 strike, Thunberg delivered a speech to a United Nations summit that rang in the ears of world leaders. “How dare you,” she’d said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet, I’m one of the lucky ones.”
“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line,” she said. The world leaders applauded. None of the major goals of the summit, nor any of those required to reduce carbon emissions in any meaningful way, were pledged.
Right now, Hamilton says, adults need to be speaking up in their communities and organizations they’re a part of, working to transform every level of society and transition to a post carbon future. They should ask themselves, “What does this transition look like for our industry?” And, “Is what we’re doing in alignment with the recognition that we’re living in a climate crisis?”
The Sustainabiliteens are trying to move beyond just mobilizing people for strikes, and into creating long-term organizing structures. The group set up a school leads program to ensure high-school students across Vancouver have access to a strong community that is taking action on climate justice in their schools.
In October, the group organized their ninth climate strike, a stop on Thunberg’s world tour. Recently, the teens helped launch a walkout in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en land defenders.
The three climate activists have grown to be very close friends in the year they’ve been organizing together. They are thinking of taking a gap year to travel B.C. and meet other communities of climate strikers.
“What’s important in a group, I think, is having trust between everybody, and having relationships that extend outside of organizing,” Hamilton says.
“I’m really grateful, having met Naia and Rebecca because they are two of the closest friends that I have to this day,” says Lin.
“And I’m really grateful for them, because I know that there’s a certain sense of shared responsibility that we all feel and that’s the reason why we organize together. We just very much enjoy our time together and I’ve come to really trust them as people and just trust their intentions.” SOURCE
How Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis are helping AOC reboot US politics.
Echoes of the ‘Leap Manifesto’: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, May 13, 2019. Photo by Cliff Owen, AP Photo.
Avi Lewis put the final touches on his script draft, hit send, and waited to find out if he’d be making history with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Lewis is the filmmaker and former CBC host who has collaborated on documentaries with his spouse Naomi Klein, famously the author of global bestsellers No Logo, The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC as her many supporters call her — broke all the rules when she knocked off a powerful, 10-term Democratic member of Congress by running as a “democratic socialist” to win her Bronx and Queens seat.
At age 29, AOC was the big story on election night in November 2018 and still is, thanks to her deft use of social media and her bold policy proposals, notably the Green New Deal, her resolution to transition the American economy off fossil fuels by 2030 and guarantee a green job to anybody who wants one. When Klein proposed she be central to a short film about what could result, Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest.
Not long after Lewis sent off his try at a script, he received a call from AOC.
“One day my phone rang,” Lewis tells The Tyee, “and it was a Facetime with her communications director and I answered it and all of a sudden I was in her office with her.” The final product, released in April, was a video called A Message from the Future, meant to win public support for a Green New Deal.
Though AOC has been in Congress less than a year, her gigantic social media following helps make her one of Washington’s most influential politicians. These days, during any given news cycle, major Democratic contenders for president say that they support her Green New Deal vision in principle. Prominent Republicans scramble to offer their own plans in response. Global temperature rise, for the first time, is a defining issue of a U.S. presidential election primary.
Less known is how Lewis and Klein contributed to this moment, driven by last October’s dire report from the United Nations, which calculates we must roughly halve global emissions by 2030 to preserve any kind of climate resembling normal. “The stakes are incredibly high,” says Lewis.
Fox News is one media outlet to zero in the Canadian connection — albeit with its own torque. Justin Haskins argues in an opinion piece on Fox’s website that “there is strong evidence to suggest that much of the draft text of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is merely a revised version of the ‘Leap Manifesto,’ a socialist green-energy plan pushed by far-left environmentalists in Canada.”
Haskins, who is the executive editor and a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based think tank that questions whether humans are causing climate change, is not totally out to lunch. His piece fails to mention that the term “Green New Deal” was first used by Thomas Friedman in 2007; that the idea of a Second World War-style mobilization to fight climate change was described as early as 2009 by Bolivia’s Angelica Navarro Llanos in a speech to the United Nations; or that the movement for a Green New Deal properly began when young activists with the U.S.-based Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office after the 2018 U.S. midterms.
But Haskins is correct that several of the Canadian thinkers responsible for the Leap Manifesto, a 2015 plan to completely shift Canada away from fossil fuels by 2050, are now playing pivotal roles in shaping and promoting the U.S. Green New Deal. First and foremost: Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis.
The Canadian power couple have “been pushing far-left environmental policies in the United States for quite some time,” the Fox News contributor wrote in an email to The Tyee. “Although Lewis, Klein, Bill McKibben and others aren’t household names, they are incredibly influential in eco-socialist circles, and it appears that their fame and influence are growing in the United States in the wake of the rise of politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
The clearest example of Lewis and Klein’s impact on the U.S. climate debate is A Message from the Future, which quickly went viral. In it, Ocasio-Cortez describes what U.S. society could be like if the ambitions of the Green New Deal were ever fully realized. The idea for the video came out of a conversation last December between Klein and Molly Crabapple, an illustrator, writer and filmmaker.
“The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?” Klein recounted on the Intercept, where she is a columnist. “We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed.”
She and Crabapple discussed creating a short film that could “help win the battle for hearts and minds that will determine whether [the Green New Deal] has a fighting chance in the first place.”
Around that time the Intercept ran a widely-read piece by journalist Kate Aronoff describing in vaguely utopian prose the life of a young woman named Gena in the hypothetical Green New Deal world of the year 2043.
“Crabapple and I decided that the film could do something similar to Aronoff’s piece, but this time from Ocasio-Cortez’s vantage point,” Klein wrote. “It would show the world after the Green New Deal she was championing had become a reality.”
The Intercept said it would produce the film. Ocasio-Cortez agreed to narrate. And Lewis was brought on to write the script with AOC. To Lewis it was an exciting and daunting opportunity. “My co-writer was literally one of the most famous people in the political world,” he told The Tyee.
The goal was to have the film done for April, so that it could debut in Boston for the first stop of a U.S. tour promoting the Green New Deal that was being planned by the Sunrise Movement. Taking a cue from Aronoff’s Intercept piece, Lewis focused his first draft mainly on the generous social programs and environmental progress that Americans in the future might see under a Green New Deal. “It was a totally different creative muscle than I’ve ever exercised,” he says.
Lewis sent the draft off to Ocasio-Cortez. Then came the Facetime phone call. She liked the draft but thought it needed work. “‘We have to do not just the vision of the future,’” Lewis recalls her saying. “‘We have to do the past, how we got here, the present, the fork in the road, the deciding point that we’re in now.’”
A few weeks later her communications director texted Lewis a photo — it was a printout of his script with Ocasio-Cortez’s comments in handwriting. “Over the next couple months I got like line-by-line edits from her as photographs,” he said.
The hard work seemed to pay off. “By the time I met her in Washington, D.C., at the Intercept’s studio, it was her words,” Lewis said. “I was really pleased when we recorded the narration. She was able to locate a more internal and reflective tone.”
This was crucial for the narrative of the film, Lewis explained, “because the whole thing really does take place in her head.”
The video debuted on the Intercept on April 17. That morning, Ocasio-Cortez sharedA Message from the Future on her Twitter account. “Climate change is here + we’ve got a deadline: 12 years left to cut emissions in half. A #GreenNewDeal is our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for. How did we get here? What is at stake? And where are we going? Please watch & share widely,” she wrote.
The post now has more than 96,000 likes and the video has been viewed 6.7 million times.
With those views came national media coverage. “AOC sends a stark climate message from the future,” reported Mashable. TeenVogue described it as a “powerful video offering a vision of a Green New Deal future.” Outlets like the Washington Post, Fox News, Huffington Post, the Hill and the Washington Examiner offered takes. Slate reached out to futurist Amy Webb to dissect it.
Meanwhile the Sunrise Movement took it on the road during an eight-city tour attempting to make the Green New Deal a top priority in the 2020 election. “At most of the tour stops across the country we were showing the video,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a Sunrise spokesperson. At the final sold-out tour stop in Washington, D.C., 1,500 people squeezed into the Cramton Auditorium at Howard University.
Among the speakers that night were Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic senator Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders. Klein also spoke. Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, introduced the Canadian author as “a personal hero of mine.”
Klein told the crowd, “We have all been raised in a culture bombarded with messages that there is no alternative to the crappy reality we have today.” She added, “If we’re going to win a Green New Deal we’re going to have to start telling different stories about who we are and about the kinds of futures that are within our grasp.”
For years, right-wing politicians in Canada and their fossil fuel industry backers have been obsessed with the fact that some environmental groups have received a portion of their funding from U.S. sources. Fox news contributor Haskins frets about the “grave threat” that “radical environmentalism” poses “to individual liberty.”
Lewis argues that the true threat to our freedom is an economic system that’s destabilizing the foundation for all life on Earth. “I think we’re all carrying a huge amount of climate grief and fear about what we know we’re doing to our only home.”
Some viewers of A Message from the Future told Lewis they cried while watching the video. “It’s just so interesting psychologically and such an important clue for activists that hearing more bad news and watching walruses hurl themselves off cliffs on Netflix — that somehow doesn’t move us the same way as letting ourselves actually having a brief flicker of hope that we could do something about it,” he says. “That seems to open the floodgates of our repressed grief and emotion.”
Lewis marvels at the speed of the political changes he’s witnessed and participated in over the past several months. The Overton window is the name given to the range of views taken seriously in public discussion. When it comes to climate change solutions, Lewis says, “I’ve been thinking that the Overton window hasn’t been cracked open, it’s been knocked off its freaking hinges, in terms of permissible political speech.” He pauses and adds, “Of course, turning this stuff into concrete action is the epic work of many lifetimes.”
We don’t have lifetimes. If we’re not able to achieve the unprecedented emissions cuts called for by the United Nations, we could be locking ourselves into global catastrophe — the implications of failing are unthinkable. You don’t have to tell Avi Lewis. “It’s got to happen,” he says, “in 10 years.” SOURCE
You may have heard the fable about “the boiling frog”. It’s a simple experiment in two steps: Take a frog and place it in a pot of hot water. The frog will react immediately and jump out of the pot. Take another frog, place it in a pot of lukewarm water. This will feel like a nice warm bath but, then put it on a hot stove and heat it very gradually. The water will reach boiling point but, unfortunately, the frog will not perceive the danger and it will be cooked alive.
As I woke up on that day, 31st of December 2019 at 4 am, in the small town of Ulladulla, a beautiful corner of New South Wales, Australia, I wondered if we had reached that point of no return, a tipping point. The sky was dark, the air smoky, and the flames bloody orange. What climate scientists had been predicting for years was becoming a reality.
That day marked the end of a fiery decade for the planet, and hopefully the start of a new era with the emergence of an ecological civilization. Can nature come back to life after so much destruction? Is there space for recovery, rebirth, regeneration in the aftermath of the large-scale inferno of mega-fires?
2020 is also the start of my 40th year of life on Earth. A time to look back and rethink the next steps. In my entire life, I had never experienced such a deep feeling of fear and emergency.
I had lived some intense challenges and risky situations: working as a humanitarian volunteer near the Afghan border in Tajikistan when I was 21; climbing difficult rocky peaks with my future husband; facing adversity when giving birth to our daughter, or crying out a mix of joy and pain on the finish line of the Jungfrau Marathon in freezing conditions. I had seen despair and poverty in the eyes of lonely women living in the forgotten suburbs of San Fabio de Alican in Chile, but, I had never seen anything like that. It felt like the apocalyptic end of the world.
It felt like the entire world was committing climate suicide, starting with Australia where people were either feeling too lethargic to get out of their comfortable sunbaths (including ourselves as holidaymakers), or feeling the heat of fires to the point that they had to take refuge on the beach.
Luckily on that day, some of our best friends who live in Canberra (and escaped the flames in Sydney), sent us a map of the expanding fire hazards advising us to leave as soon as possible.
In an effort to stay calm and rational, we packed our bags, put the sleepy kids in the car and left before sunrise. The weather forecast was predicting intense heat and strong winds, the perfect ingredients to heat up the stove on a stock of wood fuel perfectly prepared by three years of droughts. Three hours later the roads were closed in both directions, North and South, leaving the people of Ulladulla, in an isolated enclave, to shortages of food, water and fuel, power cuts, a lot of despair, and finally the unavoidable escape to the ocean.
“What were you doing there on New Year’s Eve?” you may ask. Being born and raised in France, I met my husband Matthew in Canada on an exchange programme between the University of British Columbia and Sciences Po, Paris. My sister-in-law, Aija, met her husband Danny, they got married in New South Wales, Australia and had three children. They are therefore cousins of our two children: Lucas and Leïla. Despite my reluctance to get on an aeroplane that would be emitting so much carbon (even if compensating by investing in reforestation projects), we decided to stick to our plans and hold our family reunion in Newcastle, Australia, as my mother-in-law was also joining us for the occasion.
In a way, our family is a pure product of globalization from the 2000s, the “happy decade” when everything was still possible. At that time, we could still change the world. Can we still do that today?
As I was watching the flames greedily absorb the beautiful Australian bush, I asked myself if this was real, and it was.
I had started studying and working on climate change about 20 years ago. At that time, I found the discovery challenging but also fascinating. In addition, there was no Greta Thunberg to tell the younger school students about the reality of climate science. My studies and work changed my perspective on humanitarian action, which I had been passionate about. It became clear that we could only achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development if addressing the root causes of natural disasters. Putting stitches on open wounds would not be enough. After witnessing the impacts of drought and soil erosion on agriculture and food systems in Tajikistan, I went back to studying the environment at the London School of Economics. I wanted to learn about how we could rebuild the bridge between development and the environment.
As I was advising the green Members of the European Parliament this brought me to my first UNFCCC COP in Montreal in 2005. One thing I remember clearly was visiting the ice-breaker with my friend Agnès Sinaï, a climate journalist and writer. We were given the opportunity, as COP delegates to observe the graphs which showed the evolution of the melting ice in the Arctic. At that time, we were convinced that the Kyoto Protocol was going to save us with a legally binding agreement and quantified emission targets for all industrialized countries.
Kyoto failed. Copenhagen failed. But then there was Paris, in “The City of Light”. The success of COP21 brought so much hope to the world, demonstrating the capacity of all nations to come together in a model of shared leadership and solidarity to tackle the “defining issue of our times”. Humanity and light in a time of horror and terror, as if millions of candles had been lit to brighten the sky for future generations.
I sometimes compare the Paris Agreement to a giant sailing boat, travelling towards the safe horizon of carbon neutrality by 2050, with all of us on board. The US President may have decided to jump ship, in a self-jeopardizing act of selfishness, but the boat is still there, going through episodes of storms and sun. Because there is no plan B for humanity. There is only plan A, also for all of the other living species on Earth which we have taken with us onboard this Noah’s Ark of Paris.
Today, in 2020, is the boat sailing fast enough to safely reach it’s destination, staying below 2 or even 1.5°C?
Global warming has been creating its own feedback loops. The oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic, reducing their capacity to absorb carbon. Forests are drier and burn more easily, particularly in Australia, Brazil, Canada, California and the Arctic. In Siberia, the permafrost is melting and releasing vast quantities of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas that will speed up global temperatures. In parallel, human beings have never been so numerous, on the planet, and so greedy in oil, gas and coal consumption. Global emissions keep increasing, reaching top-roof levels.
In Australia alone, as of January 2020, more than 5.5 million hectares have already been burnt and this is only the start of the summer; thousands of people have lost their homes; several firefighters and volunteers have been killed; one-third of the koala population has been decimated. An estimated one billion animals have lost their lives and at this scale, we can start talking about ecocide. The fires are also adding the equivalent of half of the total volume of greenhouse gases normally emitted by the country in a year, reducing its capacity to naturally absorb carbon in forests for next year and accelerating the 6th mass extinction crisis with the loss of critical endemic species and ecosystems.
First wave of RCMP injunction enforcement resulted in 6 arrests early Thursday morning
On Thursday, the RCMP began its anticipated enforcement of an injunction against a blockade by the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters. People at the Gidimt’en checkpoint expect police to show up again soon. (Jesse Winter/VICE)
People staying at the Gidimt’en checkpoint in Wet’suwet’en territory don’t know when the RCMP will show up again, but they expect it will happen soon.
The checkpoint, located at the 44 kilometre mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road, is a gated occupation site where an unknown number of people are staying in defiance of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction order — opting to instead dig in and assert Wet’suwet’en law, at the direction of the nation’s hereditary chiefs.
Coastal Gaslink, a subsidiary of TC Energy, applied for the injunction in late 2018. On Dec. 31, 2019, the court ruled the company is fully permitted by the province to work on constructing a $6-billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline from northeastern B.C. to the coast in Kitimat and granted an interlocutory injunction.
On Thursday, the RCMP began its anticipated enforcement of the injunction.
Six people were arrested Thursday morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. in an early morning police operation, with the RCMP announcing they were establishing an “exclusion zone” in the area.
The RCMP had established a checkpoint on the road on Jan. 13, citing safety concerns for restricting movement through the area.
But in announcing the exclusion zone on the morning of Feb. 6, the force said only police would be allowed to pass a specific point on the road while enforcement actions take place. RCMP said exceptions would be made for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and elected leaders at the discretion of a senior commander.
In a press release, the RCMP said the individuals were arrested for obstruction. Officers also removed journalists from the area, drawing condemnation from groups like the Canadian Association of Journalists and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
The RCMP said members of the media, along with others, “were transferred out for safety reasons, but not arrested.”
In a video posted to a Wet’suwet’en Facebook page Thursday night, the six people who had been arrested stated they were released without charge.
Those at the checkpoint aren’t sure what to expect next, but Saint said people remained calm on Thursday night.
She made clear the group is unarmed and intends to remain peaceful through whatever happens next. But she also plans to stand firm where she is.
She said for her, this is a fight for her land’s sovereignty and Indigenous rights.
“The hereditary chiefs had this governance system before Canada was even Canada,” she said.
She wants to protect that governance system, along with their connection to the land and water in the territory.
Enforcement draws outrage, disappointment
Initial enforcement actions on Thursday morning drew swift and widespread outrage from Indigenous leaders and First Nations across the country.
“We are in absolute outrage and a state of painful anguish as we witness the Wet’suwet’en people having their title and rights brutally trampled on and their right to self-determination denied,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said in the hours after the enforcement began.
There were also several solidarity demonstrations in urban centres.
Premier John Horgan spoke to reporters about the enforcement actions on Thursday, saying “certainly it’s not the outcome we had hoped for, or had been working toward.”
“We are continuing to be hopeful that there will be a peaceful resolution,” he said.
In an open letter posted on the Coastal GasLink website on Thursday, company president David Pfeiffer called the situation “disappointing.”
“This is not the outcome we wanted. We have made exceptional efforts to resolve this blockade through engagement and dialogue,” said Pfeiffer.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs spent much of Thursday on the forest service road while RCMP continued to move ahead in their enforcement actions.
In the view of Na’moks, one of the chiefs, the people who are standing in support of the nation on the territory “are doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. We’re protecting the land, the air, the water; our rights and title; our authority as hereditary chiefs. And we’re exercising our jurisdiction.”
Na’Moks, a hereditary chief with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who also goes by John Risdale, said there was no reason for police to remove supporters from the land. (Dan Mesec)
While the hereditary chiefs assert their authority, the RCMP continue to assert theirs. And those at the Gidimt’en checkpoint will likely be next to encounter the police.
Given their isolated location on the forest service road, there is nowhere for the group to retreat to.
Beyond that checkpoint is the last of the Wet’suwet’en re-occupation sites on the road: the Unistot’en healing village. People from the nation have been operating a checkpoint at that site since 2009, asserting nobody is allowed through without the consent of the hereditary chiefs. SOURCE
The Trans Mountain Expansion Project pipe going in the ground west of Edmonton.Postmedia file photo
CALGARY – With the last legal challenge to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project all but eliminated, experts say opposition to the pipeline now will move from the courts to the streets.
“We always said we’d do what it takes to stop this pipeline,” said Rueben George, manager of the TWN Sacred Trust and a member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, one of three First Nations that filed the legal challenge.
“We will take steps to make sure that Canada stays the way it is,” George said at a press conference that included chiefs and elected councillors from all the Indigenous groups involved in the case.
The Federal Court of Appeal Tuesday dismissed the case filed by Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, Squamish First Nation and Coldwater Indian Band, who argued the federal government failed to properly consult on the $10 billion oil pipeline which would pass through their territories.
It was the second such appeal by the opposed Indigenous groups of the pipeline. But where they won their first appeal in August 2018, this time the appeals court found the government had consulted properly.
Those Indigenous groups and aligned environmentalists opposed to the pipeline reiterated Tuesday that they’re committed to blocking the project. George said the decision would be appealed to the Supreme Court.
“We are deeply disappointed with the decision today but, as stated earlier, this is but one step available to us,” said Dustin Rivers, a spokesperson for and elected member of the Squamish Nation Council.
“B.C. has a long history of civil disobedience,” he added.
First Nations have 60 days to file an appeal.
We are deeply disappointed with the decision today but, as stated earlier, this is but one step available to us
Dustin Rivers, Squamish Nation Council
It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will be willing to hear an appeal given the sharp wording of the decision, which was rendered unanimously and ordered the Indigenous groups to pay compensation to the defendants — the federal government, Canada Energy Regulator as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Lawyers, pipeline executives and professors say they believe the legal challenges before the Trans Mountain pipeline project that runs between Edmonton and Vancouver are largely over, but most expect opposition to now take the form of on-the-ground protests.
Indeed, environmental organizations on the West Coast said they would continue to oppose the pipeline. Stand.earth said it had 27,000 pledges from people who would do “whatever it takes” to stop the pipeline.
“As long as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to build the Trans Mountain pipeline, we will continue to fight,” Stand.earth international program director Tzeporah Berman said in a release.
Despite the threat of delays, Tuesday’s court decision is “good news for workers,” said Progressive Contractors Association of Canada president Paul de Jong.
He added: “There could be more opposition in terms of physical resistance along the pipeline right of way (but) this project has taken far too long to move to construction.”
Construction work in Alberta and at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, B.C. has been underway for months.
Public opinion in the Lower Mainland is divided over the project, said Simon Fraser University professor Shahin Dashtgard, who passes by the construction on the oil terminal on Burnaby Mountain every day.
“There are a substantial number of people that are either OK with it, or don’t have an opinion,” Dashtgard said, though he noted that polling consistently shows that between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the population in the Vancouver region are opposed to the project and this could provide “a source of people” to protest the project.
Tuesday’s Appeals Court decision and the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous dismissal last month of B.C.’s case against the pipeline is likely to discourage civil disobedience to the project, he said.
“We have a country that believes in the rule of law and this was taken to the highest courts,” Dashtgard said.
A ramp-up in construction on the project is expected later this year.
Trans Mountain Corp. filed an updated construction schedule on Monday with the Canada Energy Regulator that showed the Crown corporation would begin “clearing and pipeline construction” in the Kamloops, B.C. area in March. The company has already been putting pipe in the ground in Alberta, and has been welding those pipes together since the end of 2019.
In an emailed statement, the company said it had hired 2,200 people for the project by the end of the third quarter of 2019 and would provide updated employment numbers in the coming weeks.
Overall, Tuesday’s decision provides a greater sense of optimism that the Trans Mountain project will be completed despite continued opposition and expectations of protests.
“It’s hard to predict what kind of civil disobedience could happen,” Canadian Energy Pipeline Association president and CEO Chris Bloomer said in an interview, adding that the court decision made clear that “we can’t keep having endless interventions.”
Tuesday’s decision does dismiss the idea that all of the concerns of Indigenous communities need to be resolved before a project can be approved.
“If we accepted those submissions, as a practical matter there would be no end to consultation, the project would never be approved, and the applicants would have a de facto veto right over it,” the decision reads.
Still, there is a specific area in which the appeals court decision might allow for a successful appeal to the Supreme Court, said University of Calgary assistant law professor David Wright.
“The court makes comments on the interplay between the duty to consult and the infringement analysis,” Wright said, adding that “there’s a lack of clarity in the law” between those two legal principles.
“This case is interesting because the court is speaking to that foggy area directly. It’s too early to say how good of a job they’ve done,” Wright said, adding that’s one area where the Supreme Court might be willing to listen to an appeal, even though the appeals court ruling was unanimous. SOURCE