A TALE OF TWO CRISES

As a public health professional who has worked on environmental issues for over 30 years, I have watched the response of the public and our political leaders to COVID-19 with double vision.  Like others, I am terrified by the harm that COVID-19 can do in a very short period, but I am also amazed, and frankly impressed, by the depth and relatively rapid response of many of our leaders in Canada.  It has me wondering why our leaders have been willing to take the dramatic steps needed to contain COVID-19 when many are so unwilling to do take the steps needed to avoid climate change

Both COVID-19 and climate change present public health crises which pose catastrophic risks for humanity.  Without proper containment, COVID-19 has the potential to overwhelm healthcare systems, claim millions of lives, and cripple economies in countries around the world.  Climate change is now disrupting ecosystems around the world and posing health risks to millions of people each year in the form of droughts, food shortages, floods, hurricanes, heat waves, air pollution, and vector-born diseases such as Malaria.  If unchecked, it has the potential to claim hundreds of millions of lives; to make the world uninhabitable within the lifetime of children being born today.

While there will be criticisms about our preparedness for, and response to, COVID-19, it is hard to believe how deep and fast the response has been by many of our leaders. Who could imagine they would close schools, daycares, all non-essential services and borders?  Who could imagine they would  provide employment insurance to everyone laid off from work, self-isolated, or staying home to care for children?

Why are our leaders capable of taking these dramatic steps to respond to COVID-19 but unwilling to lay out a measured and controlled response to climate change?  In part, it is because of the speed of the crisis and the direct relationship between its cause and effects. COVID-19 spreads quickly; its impacts are deadly and apparent.  We can link the disease directly to the harm done.  When people become sick, hospitalized, or die from COVID-19, we will know what caused the harm.  And that harm will be done within the term of the political leaders who must respond to it.

Climate change, on the other hand, is a slow creeping catastrophe with a multitude of contributors, spread all around the globe.  The health impacts are not directly linked to the causes.  People must follow a long chain of steps that are separated by time and geography to understand how emissions from our cars in North America in the 1990s have contributed to the flight of refugees from drought-stricken lands in Central America in the second decades of this century.

Marcus Kauffman, Unsplash.

 

There is however, more to it, than just this. The two crises differ greatly in their causes and in their relationship to corporate interests. COVID-19 is a new infectious disease introduced unintentionally to humans because of our increasing encroachment on wildlife and/or human consumption of exotic animals.  Climate change is a global condition that has developed in response to our ever-expanding reliance on fossil fuels, our destruction of climate sinks such as the Amazon rainforest, and our growing demand for red meat.  While both crises are fuelled by population pressures and land development practices, there is no powerful corporate interest invested in the denial of infectious diseases.

With climate change, there are many powerful players with a strong financial interest in the status quo. These players have the resources to hire experts who can spin the uncertainties inherent in science to create the illusion that there we are unclear about the causes of climate change, its role in extreme weather events, and its impact on people and society.  These players also have the resources to influence who gets elected and the actions those politicians take once elected.

Right now, it is all hands-on deck for COVID-19.  We need our political leaders to focus on the containment of this public health crisis; to ensure that front-line responders and essential-service workers are protected; that populations are tested; that a vaccine is developed.  We need them to focus on the policies needed to ensure that Canadians are fed and housed; to plug the holes in our social safety net; to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

But once we have this public health crisis under control, we must turn our attention to the public health crisis which threatens all life on this planet. COVID-19 is giving us a taste of the calamity that will be if we allow climate change to continue unchecked.  Within decades, it could produce hundreds of millions of refugees as people flee drought and starvation, it could bring ruin to the global economy, and its impacts will be irreversible.  COVID-19 is reminding us that we are all inter-connected; that the world is much smaller than we think.  It is teaching us that we can work effectively across borders and nations to fight a common threat.

The response that will be needed to kick-start our economies once this public health crisis has passed will provide us with the opportunity needed to avoid the long-term crisis that is climate change.  It could be our moment to transform our economy; to develop renewable energies, increase our energy efficiency, invest in sustainable transportation systems, and cultivate sustainable food systems. We could create a healthier world; one with less air pollution, one which fosters physical activity and social equity, one with less disease and fewer injuries.  The sacrifices of this pandemic do not have to be for nought.  SOURCE


 

Prepared by Kim Perrotta.  April 7, 2020

For more information on climate change and health, check out the CAPE Climate Change Toolkit for Health Professionals produced and edited by Kim Perrotta, with contributions from CHASE Associates and Director, Ronald Macfarlane, Helen Doyle and Carol Mee.

9 reasons to eat a lot of beans

The bean’s big comeback. From longevity and weight control to being a better choice for the planet, here’s why the humble bean is so mighty.

Ah, the humble bean. They star in favorite dishes from around the world – cassoulet, feijoada, red beans and rice, pasta e fagioli, the list goes on and on. Beans are as cheap and durable as they are delicious and nutritious; it’s no wonder that they’ve been such an important part of our diets throughout history.

And it’s also no wonder that during the coronavirus pandemic, beans have taken center stage. As The New York Times notes, “… amid all the panic shopping, the growing demand for beans has stood out as an especially potent symbol of the anxious and uncertain times. At supermarkets, shoppers are stocking up on canned beans from familiar brands like Goya Foods, as well as thick bags of dry beans that usually lie largely untouched on store shelves.”

So if you find yourself with a kitchen stuffed with a stockpile of beans, be happy. Aside from being one of the greatest comfort foods ever, here’s what else the mighty bean has going for it.

1. Superb practicality

Beans provide protein, fiber, folate, iron, potassium and magnesium while containing little or no total fat, trans-fat, sodium and cholesterol. Compared to meat, Harvard Medical School puts it plainly: “beans are a much better nutritional bargain than steak.” Beans are inexpensive; and whether canned or dried, they have a long shelf life. Lastly, for those of us who are soothed by stirring a pot of a simmering something over the course of a day, beans are meditation, therapy, and dinner, all in one.

2. A longer life

Michelle McMacken, a board-certified internal medicine physician and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine, writes at Forks Over Knives that beans and other legumes (like lentils and chick peas) are “the most important dietary predictor of longevity in people of different ethnicities.” All this time we thought the fountain of youth was comprised of some ethereal and mysterious potion – and it’s really just beans?McMacken tells of one study in which nearly 800 older adults in several countries increased their daily bean and legume consumption – for each 20-gram increase, there was a 7 to 8 percent lower risk of dying during the study period. “No other food groups consistently predicted survival,” she notes.

3. Less diabetes

The American Diabetes Foundation calls beans a “diabetes superfood” for their vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Meanwhile, the Harvard Medical School notes that a cup of beans or lentils each day, when combined with a low-glycemic diet, helped lower blood sugar levels and coronary artery disease risk in patients with type 2 diabetes. “Legumes, because they pack a lot of protein, help dampen the blood sugar response, and lower blood pressure. And as a good source of fiber, beans can help lower cholesterol, too.”

4. A healthier heart

Research shows that eating beans and legumes four or more times a week versus less than once a week leads to a 22 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. That is really significant. Research also shows that these power foods also lower blood pressure – McMacken points out that a single serving of beans a day can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by 5 percent.

5. Less cancer

While of course The Bean Institute is going to sing the praises of beans, on their site they list all kinds of references to scientific studies backing up their claims. The research they cite shows that regular bean consumption may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, noting that: “Beans unique composition of fiber, as well as important micronutrients and antioxidants, makes them an important food choice for many reasons, including their possible anti-cancer properties for certain types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and prostate.” See more on each of these and the research at The Bean Institute.

6. A smaller waistline

Earlier we reported on a study which found that beans and peas were more satiating than pork and veal-based meals. More satisfaction means less eating of nutrient deprived junk foods, which lead to weight gain. One study is so sure of this that they titled their research: “Bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight, and a smaller waist circumference in adults.” Sold!

7. A great source of protein

Looking to give up or reduce your consumption of meat? As mentioned above, beans are more satisfying than meat, and are such a good source of plant-based protein – containing between 21 to 25% protein by weight – that they have been identified as a meat alternative by the U.S. government guidelines.

8. More options, less waste

Beans are the perfect pantry staple. They are dirt cheap, last for ages, and can be cooked into a million different dishes. Their long shelf life makes for minimal waste since they don’t spoil. Cooking dried beans from scratch is a breeze (see how here), but having a few (BPA-free) cans in the cupboard for quick dinners is still a good option.

9. Less end of civilization

We reported on this research before and it’s eye-opening, to say the least. If Americans swapped beef for beans, the US would immediately realize 50 to 75 percent of the greenhouse gas reduction targets that we had set for 2020. Just beef – not eggs or chicken or pork or dairy. Since the current administration does not appear to believe that climate change is a problem, here is an excellent way to take those targets into our own hands and fight the good fight by simply swapping beans for beef! More beans, less eco-apocalypse … sounds good to me.Last updated: March 31, 2020

10+ actions you can take to respond to COVID-19

New Poll: Canadians Want to End Public Subsidies for Oil and Gas ...

We are in the midst of a global crisis. COVID-19 has put the health, livelihoods, homes, and safety of billions at risk. Times are difficult, but one thing remains certain: there are things each of us can do – right now – to help those hit hardest by this pandemic.

First, though, we want to be clear that the most important thing you can do if you’re not a frontline worker is to stay at home. Flattening the curve, through physical distancing, is the most immediate step we can all take to reduce the spread of this pandemic. But it’s only the first step of many on the long road to recovery for frontline workers, individuals, and communities impacted by COVID-19.

In addition to doing your part to flatten the curve, here are resources, actions, and perspectives the OCI team has found helpful as we work to respond in this moment of crisis:

1) Resources to support those in your community who need help:

  • ACTION: Join UFCW in asking governors to declare grocery workers “essential” which will give them access to enhanced benefits as they take on increased risk, and UFW in calling for these same benefits for undocumented farmworkers.
  • ACTION: Join the MoveOn petition to demand personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. And learn more about steps to protect healthcare and other workers facing increased risk from COVID-19 from National Nurses UnitedAFL-CIO, and NELP in the U.S.
  • ACTION: Help the Migrant Rights Network in Canada make sure the federal government’s response leaves no one behind.
  • Here’s an overall explainer on mutual aid from The Guardian. You can also learn more about how to start a neighborhood pod in Canada or the U.S., and read up more on collective care.
  • COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK provides information on the UK’s local support groups, accessing community resources, and campaigns around rights for workers, renters and medical staff.

2) Resources to support grassroots, Indigenous, and at-risk communities in facing this crisis:

  • WEBINAR: Thousand Currents is hosting a webinar today on April 8th around grassroots Global South responses to COVID-19, tying together work on climate justice, food sovereignty, economic justice and the pandemic.
  • DONATE: Support grassroots mutual aid and just recovery efforts around the world via Thousand Currents’ solidarity fund, and the Blue Planet Project’s crowdfunder.
  • Indigenous Climate Action has put together this list of frontline organizations serving Indigenous communities you can support during COVID19. Indigenous Environmental Network is also offering mutual aid funding relief in the form of small grants to Indigenous communities to support buying essentials, transportation, and home businesses.
  • Never Again Action has a pledge and toolkit on mobilizing to make sure all immigrants who are in detention centers are released immediately.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline has resources on creating safety plans for yourself or others who are victims of domestic violence who have to shelter in place.

3) Perspectives on what a globally just response to this crisis looks like, particularly across the global south:

4) Resources to protect human rights as government responses to this crisis threaten civil liberties:

5) Amidst the pandemic – the fossil fuel industry is speeding up its dirty energy agenda. Here are a few resources to learn more and stop the worst from being pushed through:

We’re all at risk from this virus, while systemic racial, economic, and other injustices make some of our communities more vulnerable than others. The way we’ll get through this is by supporting each other whenever and wherever we can. 

This moment is a hard one and we’re still figuring out how to do the most good possible. If you have ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Yours in love and solidarity,

– Elizabeth, Alex, Bronwen, Matt, and the whole Oil Change International team

You can read our full organizational response (and what we’re doing to adjust internally) in our official statement on COVID-19 here.

8 natural & homemade insecticides: Save your garden without killing the Earth

yellow aphids

CC BY 2.0 Barbara Eckstein

These natural and DIY pesticides are effective at helping to rid your crops of harmful critters, but safe enough to keep from poisoning you and your family.

There’s nothing like having a home garden to make you begin to appreciate the trials and tribulations of the farmers who grow our food. Between weather, weeds, and insects, not to mention the challenges of soil fertility, it can be an incredibly humbling experience to try to put food on the table with a home garden – especially when adhering to organic protocols that don’t rely on quick, yet potentially harmful, solutions, such as herbicides, pesticides, and conventional fertilizers. We’ve written previously about homemade herbicides, which can help you get a handle on noxious or invasive weeds without as much labor as hand-weeding. This time around, we’re taking aim at insect pests, which have the potential to turn your formerly lush garden into their own insect all-you-can-eat buffet.

When it comes to keeping your crops healthy in the face of massive quantities of plant-munching insects, there are a number of approaches that can help turn the tide in favor of your own harvests. And while removing insects by hand is one time-tested method, it can also be incredibly challenging to do so, or can be too little too late. Another, far less time-intensive method of knocking back insect populations is by applying natural or homemade insecticides, which can reduce their numbers or eliminate them all together. Not all insects are harmful, so applying insecticides indiscriminately, especially harsh pesticides that affect even the beneficial insects, can have a detrimental effect on your local garden ecosystem.

[N.B.: Just because these are “natural” or homemade insecticides, that doesn’t imply that they couldn’t harm your soil, your garden, or your person. An insecticide is defined as “a substance used to kill insects,” and as such, they have the potential to “significantly alter ecosystems” and can be toxic to humans and other animals, so before going all out with any pesticide or insecticide, be sure to do your homework and choose the most effective, least harmful (to you and your garden) option.]

Natural and homemade insecticides

1. Oil spray insecticide

A homemade insecticide made from vegetable oil mixed with a mild soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s castile soap) can have a devastating effect on certain troublesome insects, such as aphids, mites, thrips, etc. To make a basic oil spray insecticide, mix 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of soap (cover and shake thoroughly), and then when ready to apply, add 2 teaspoons of the oil spray mix with 1 quart of water, shake thoroughly, and spray directly on the surfaces of the plants which are being affected by the little pests. The oil coats the bodies of the insects, effectively suffocating them, as it blocks the pores through which they breathe.

2. Soap spray insecticide

A very similar homemade pesticide to the oil spray is a soap spray, which is also effective for controlling mites, aphids, whiteflies, beetles, and other hungry little insects. To make a basic soap spray insecticide, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of a mild liquid soap (such as castile soap) with 1 quart of water, and spray the mixture directly on the infected surfaces of the plants. A soap spray insecticide works in a similar fashion as an oil spray pesticide, and can be applied as necessary (though it is always recommended to NOT apply it during the hot sunny part of the day, but rather in the evenings or early mornings).

3. Neem oil insecticide

An oil extracted from the seeds of the neem tree is a powerful natural insecticide, capable of disrupting the life cycle of insects at all stages (adult, larvae, and egg), making it a great resource for the organic gardener. Neem oil acts as a hormone disruptor and as an “antifeedant” for insects that feed on leaves and other plant parts. Neem oil is biodegradable and is nontoxic to pets, birds, fish, and other wildlife, and is effective against a variety of common garden insect pests, as well as being a natural fungicide that can combat powder mildew and other fungal infections on plants. It can be found at many garden stores or natural foods markets. To use neem oil as an insecticide, either follow the instructions on the bottle, or start out with a basic mixture of 2 teaspoons neem oil and 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap shaken thoroughly with 1 quart of water, and then sprayed on the affected plant foilage. Neem oil can also be used preventatively by spraying the leaves of plants that are often ravaged by pests, before they’re actually infested.

4. Diatomaceous earth as a natural pesticide

This natural substance with a somewhat unwieldy name is made from a sedimentary rock created by fossilized algae (diatoms), and which is a rather abundant resource (diatomaceous earth is said to make up 26% of the earth’s crust by weight). Diatomaceous earth has a number of uses in and around the home, and acting as a natural insecticide is just one of them. This material works not by poisoning or smothering the insects, but instead by virtue of its abrasive qualities and its affinity for absorbing the lipids (a waxy substance) from insects’ exoskeleton, which then dehydrates them to death. Diatomaceous earth is often available at garden stores, although many times only in large bags, so if you’ve got a small yard, consider splitting it with a neighbor. To apply, simply dust the ground around your plants, or even sprinkle it on the foliage, where it will help control snails and slugs as well as other crawling insects. Due to its dried nature, in order to be an effective natural pesticide, diatomaceous earth needs to be reapplied after every rain.

5. Garlic insecticide spray

Garlic is well-known for its pungent aroma, which is delectable to some and yet repellent to others, and it is this strong scent that comes into play when used as a natural insecticide. Actually, it’s not really clear if garlic spray and chile spray (below) are actually insecticides or are more likely insect repellents, but either way, these common kitchen ingredients can be used to knock down, or even knock out, insect infestations in the garden. To make a basic garlic spray, take 2 whole bulbs (not just 2 cloves) and puree them in a blender or food processor with a small amount of water. quart of water. Let the mixture sit overnight, then strain it into a quart jar, adding 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (optional), 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap, and enough water to fill the jar. To use this homemade insecticide, use 1 cup of mixture with 1 quart of water and spray liberally on infested plants.

6. Chile pepper insecticide spray

Similar to garlic spray, chile pepper spray is a great homemade natural insect repellent that can be used for a variety of different pests. Chile spray can be made from either fresh hot peppers or chile pepper powder. To make a basic chile spray from pepper powder, mix 1 tablespoon of chile powder with 1 quart of water and several drops of mild liquid soap. This mixture can be used full-strength on the leaves of affected plants. To make chile spray from fresh chile peppers, blend or puree 1/2 cup of peppers with 1 cup of water, then add 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Let sit until cooled, then strain out the chile material, add several drops of liquid soap to it and spray as desired. [Caution: Hot chile peppers can be very potent on humans as well, so be sure to wear gloves when handling them, and keep any sprays made from them away from eyes, nose, and mouth.]

7. All-in-one homemade insecticide spray

From the folks at Rodale’s Organic Life comes this all-in-one DIY natural insecticide, which is said to be a combination of many different recipes submitted by readers. To make it, puree 1 bulb of garlic and 1 small onion, add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder and let steep for an hour. Strain the mixture and add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and mix well. To apply this homemade insecticide, spray it full-strength onto both the upper surface of the leaves, as well as the undersides, and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to a week if desired.

8. Tomato leaf as a natural insecticide

I have to admit that this one is new to me, but I’ve seen enough mentions of it now to warrant its inclusion here as a natural pesticide. Tomato plants are part of the nightshade family, and as such, contain alkaloids such as the aptly named “tomatine,” which can effectively control aphids and other insects. To make tomato leaf spray for a natural insecticide, chop 2 cups of fresh tomato leaves (which can be taken from the bottom part of the plant) into 1 quart of water, and let steep overnight. Strain out the plant material and spray onto plant foliage.

Make, use, and observe, then modify

Although there are many more natural pesticides available, such as Bt (a soil microbe toxic to certain insects), milky spore (also a microbe), nicotine (extracted as a tea from bulk tobacco), pyrethrum (derived from a variety of daisy), and iron phosphate (a natural mineral toxic to slugs and snails), the above natural and homemade insecticide recipes should give you a good starting point for creating your own version. Every organic gardener seems to have their own particular blend and ratio of ingredients, so by paying close attention to the effects of a specific recipe, it’s possible to modify it to best suit your own insect battles.

Just remember, killing off all of the insects in your garden is not the desired result here, as any healthy ecosystem requires an abundance of beneficial insects, microbes, and fungi, both in the soil and on the plants themselves, so introducing other predatory insects (ladybugs, praying mantis, etc.) or creating good habitat for them, as well as building soil fertility, can also be an effective pest management approach. SOURCE

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Please resist the urge to clean up your garden until temperatures are consistently above 50F (10C). Many pollinators are currently overwintering in the dead leaves and hollowed out stems of last year's plants. If you clear these now, you will literally be throwing away this year's butterflies, bees and other beneficial pollinators. aprin time ට'

 

Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing

The renewable-energy business is expected to keep growing, though more slowly, in contrast to fossil fuel companies, which have been hammered by low oil and gas prices.

Credit…Deanne Fitzmaurice for The New York Times

The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group, estimates that half of the 250,000 workers in the industry could lose their jobs at least temporarily because of the coronavirus outbreak. The association has downgraded projected growth by as much as one-third of the more than 19 gigawatts of new solar capacity that was expected this year.

But independent experts, including Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consulting firm, say those projections could be overly pessimistic. “It’s still too early to call,” Ravi Manghani, head of solar at research at Wood Mackenzie. “The situation is changing on a daily basis.”

His firm estimates that solar and wind power will continue adding capacity this year and next. New wind installations might be down only about 3 percent from earlier projections, largely because wind turbines are typically erected outside urban areas, and many states have deemed construction an essential activity during the pandemic.

In a report last week, Raymond James analysts estimated that renewable energy sources would provide 20.7 percent of the nation’s electricity this year and at least 20 percent through 2022.

Although hydroelectric plants have long helped power homes and businesses, solar and wind power emerged as major energy sources only over the last 15 years or so. A sharp drop in the price of solar panels has helped the industry expand. Last year, solar capacity increased 23 percent from the year before. It added 13.3 gigawatts, exceeding new wind and natural-gas generation, according to industry data.

“We blew through all of the projections,” said Caton Fenz, chief executive of ConnectGen, a wind, solar and electricity-storage developer based in Houston. “We’re surfing a long-term wave,” he said. “We just can’t get specific things done because of the pandemic, but I don’t think that affects the broader trajectory.”
Credit…Iliana Mier/Associated Press

 

His company, which is 22 months old, has 3,000 megawatts — the equivalent of three large power plants — under development in 11 states. About 40 percent is wind projects, 40 percent solar and the rest electricity storage.

Among the company’s backers is 547 Energy, an investment firm that specializes in renewable energy. Gabriel Alonso, who runs 547 Energy, said his firm received its funding from Quantum Energy Partners, which had long been an investor in oil and natural gas.

“As an investor in clean energy, renewable energy, the fundamentals that drove us to invest have not changed,” Mr. Alonso said.

Even as the pandemic spread, Mr. Alonso’s company won a bid last week for part of a new electricity project in Greece. His company will develop a wind farm in the northern regions of Imathia and Kozani. The auction, on Thursday, was part of a larger effort by Greece to retire fossil fuel plants and replace them with renewables.

Many renewable companies have projects around the world and have benefited from government efforts to address climate change. That has helped drive down costs of wind and solar equipment and made the industry more resilient to economic swings.

In addition, because developers can build wind and solar farms more quickly than natural-gas, coal and nuclear plants, Mr. Alonso said, the renewables have become more attractive financially. In difficult economic times like these, he said, private equity investors like Quantum are eager to seize on businesses that can quickly scale up and start earning money.

That said, solar businesses in particular are worried that the disruptions caused by the pandemic are serious enough that they are seeking help from Congress. Lobbyists for renewable energy are asking lawmakers to make it easier for their industry to take advantage of tax credits the government provides for wind and solar power.
Credit…Deanne Fitzmaurice for The New York Times

Developers usually enter into partnerships with banks and other financial institutions that can more efficiently make use of the tax credits than the contractors building renewable energy projects. The banks receive the tax credit and a share of the cash flow from the project typically for six to 10 years.

But because demand for loans has shot up as businesses across the economy struggle, banks have been less able to finance new projects, said Josh Goldstein, chief operating officer at 8minute Solar Energy, a developer of large solar farms. Solar and wind industry officials want Congress to streamline the process for obtaining tax credits and make the credits refundable so that their businesses could benefit directly.

“Their credit committees are in crisis mode,” Mr. Goldstein said about banks. “This disruption can have a particularly damaging effect.”

8minute Solar was recently forced to suspend work on the Lotus Solar Project, a 67-megawatt solar farm north of Fresno, Calif., that it is building for Allianz Global Investors. Officials said it was unclear whether the work, which employed about 50 people, was considered “essential.”

But the Department of Homeland Security included electricity production on its list of essential activities last month, affirming legal advice that 8minute had received, and the company sent workers back to finish construction.

The solar industry expected to add more panels in 2020 than in any other previous year, said Abigail Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. That won’t happen now, but the industry is still poised to add capacity.

“We believe, over the long run, we are well positioned to outcompete incumbent generators,” Ms. Hopper said. SOURCE

 

Coronavirus Delays Key Global Climate Talks

01CLI-SUMMIT1-jumbo.jpg (1024×683)

Credit…Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

This year’s United Nations-sponsored climate talks, widely regarded as the most important climate meeting of the past four years, were postponed on Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The session, known as the Conference of Parties, had been scheduled to take place in Glasgow for a week and a half in mid-November. It was postponed to 2021, the world body’s climate agency and the host government, Britain, confirmed late Wednesday.

“In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of Covid-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible,” the British government said in a statement.

The conference venue in Glasgow, an arena where tens of thousands of delegates from around the world were to have gathered, is being turned into a field hospital for people with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Covid patients are also being housed in the convention center in Madrid where the Conference of Parties took place last December; Spain has one of the world’s largest outbreaks.

The decision to postpone this year’s conference, known as COP26 because it’s the 26th such annual meeting, was made at a virtual meeting of the rotating decision-making board for the conference.

The conference is vital to the world’s ability to avert the worst effects of climate change, including fatal heat waves and flooded coastal cities.

It took more than 20 such conferences for countries to negotiate the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, pledging to keep global average temperatures from rising well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to preindustrial levels.

Countries have announced voluntary targets to rein in their emissions of greenhouse gases. Even so, emissions are rising and the world as a whole is on track to warm by more than 3 degrees Celsius, on average, an increase that scientists say heightens the likelihood of extreme weather events and sea levels rising to dangerous levels.

The conference scheduled for November was particularly important because the goal was to spur countries to revise and strengthen their targets for greenhouse-gas reductions, as required by the Paris agreement every five years.

Japan was the first of the world’s seven richest countries, the Group of 7, to quietly announce this week its revised target, which was to effectively maintain its original target.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of U.N. Climate Change agency, urged governments to rebuild their economies after the pandemic with climate goals in mind.

“Soon, economies will restart,” she said. “This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.” SOURCE

How to grow a vegetable garden, according to legendary chef Alice Waters

Worried about your food supply during COVID-19? Three experts, including celebrated Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters, share tips for growing your own fruits and vegetables.

Like much of the world, I’ve spent the past few weeks glued to my phone—riddled with anxiety, simultaneously bored and busy, desperately wanting to be useful but paralyzed by the vastness of the COVID-19 crisis.

Despite stocking up on canned beans and frozen meat, I quickly ran low on vegetables, and every time I darted into a grocery store for scallions, cilantro, or spinach, I wondered if I was signing my death warrant.

i-2-90487006-how-to-grow-a-vegetable-garden-according-to-legendary-chef-alice-waters.jpg (596×754)
[Image: J. H. Burdett/National Garden Bureau/United States Library of Congress]

It didn’t take me long to start mulling a garden, and I’m not alone. The concept of a “victory garden” has returned in full force, after first coming to prominence during World War 1 when people were encouraged to grow their own food to prevent shortages. While supply lines are running smoothly for the most part, that could change if the economic fallout from the coronavirus continues.

“I’m a huge believer in garden therapy right now,” says Alice Waters, chef and founder of the iconic Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants. “It’s occupational therapy while we’re isolated and in quarantine, but the bigger picture is absolutely climate change.”

Gardening has positive effects on the climate in a variety of ways: Plants add nutrients to the soil and help prevent soil erosion; trees and shrubs help capture carbon dioxide from the air; and the more you’re growing your own food, the less you’re buying produce that was transported across the country, creating emissions as it went.

Waters’s own garden. [Photo: courtesy Alice Waters]

Waters has a garden in her backyard in Northern California, but she recently started her own victory garden in the parkway in front of her house. She wanted it to be visible to anyone passing by. “The reason that I’m doing this—yes, it’s for my own sense of food security, for beauty, but the most important is about climate. Growing food organically and regeneratively pulls the carbon down and puts it in the ground where it belongs,” she says. “If there’s one thing we could all do that would address climate in a gigantic way, it would be making compost and making a victory garden.”With Waters’s encouragement and some nuts-and-bolts advice from gardening experts, I wanted to demystify gardening—not just for myself but for anyone else who has refreshed Twitter one too many times and wants to do something else with their hands. The dirt outside is waiting.

WHERE TO START

It’s natural to want to go big and plant everything. But it’s important to be realistic and start small, and not just because the productivity trap can be debilitating at a time like this.

“Right now we have enough on our plate. Start modestly and in a way that you can manage it,” says Missy Gable, director of the University of California’s Master Gardener Program. “If you’ve never done this before, don’t transform a quarter acre.”

Before doing anything else, she recommends getting really familiar with your outdoor space in order to understand what you’re dealing with—whether that’s an apartment balcony or a plot of soil in your front or backyard. “Get to know the space, and watch to see how light moves around.”

The Rodale Institute Founders’ Campus Garden. [Photo: courtesy Rodale Institute]

Most plants need about six hours of direct sunlight a day, so you want to assess what patch of land (or corner of your balcony) is best suited for that. Then figure out what kind of soil you’re dealing with: Is it dry or rocky? Does it have the consistency of clay? Is there good drainage or does the water often pool? None of these results are “bad” or should dissuade you from planting there, but understanding what you’re starting with will inform what you do next.

Because soil quality and composition varies depending on region and location, Gable recommends looking up your local master gardener extension program. These programs, which exist in all 50 states, offer classes and resources for home gardeners as well as knowledgable volunteers who are plugged in to local climate and soil particulars. Right now, some master gardener programs, like the one at Oregon State University, are also offering virtual classes. (OSU waived its fee for April and already has more than 17,000 participants.)

Regardless of the soil composition, “you’re always going to want to add organic material,” says John Long, the greenhouse manager for the Rodale Institute, an education hub and research facility that’s been advocating for organic farming for decades. He notes that especially with new homes, construction has often stripped the top soil; and if the space has been grass or lawn in the past, the soil could be compacted.

For beginning gardeners, especially if you’re starting with a small plot, it’s probably best to buy organic compost to add to the soil. (If you have some space and are thinking a little more long term, it’s worth looking into starting your own compost pile, although it takes about a year to yield usable material.)

Long notes that an easy way to get organic material is to save your fall leaves. He creates a small fenced-in area to dump his leaves in at the end of the season, letting them rot until he can add them to his garden: “It’s a safe and easy way to get organic compost in your garden every year.”

And if you don’t feel like figuring out what’s in your soil or would rather have raised beds, you can build them yourself. Materials for a basic bed can run as low as $50, and each one shouldn’t take more than an hour to construct. Once you have the structure in place, add a mix of soil and compost, and you’re ready to go.

WHAT TO GROW

When you’re deciding what to fill your plot with, Gable recommends starting with fruits and vegetables that you love to eat—things you’re excited about planting and harvesting.

“For a starting gardener, depending on what your family is most interested in, I always recommend the standards: tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, carrots, radishes, Swiss chard, eggplants. Those are fun and easy.” (She notes that it’s also important to be aware of what you can’t grow because of your particular climate.)

Thinking about what she most wanted to cook and eat was how Waters got started gardening years ago. “I wanted things planted that I couldn’t get easily at a farmers’ market,” she says. “Lots of vegetables take room. So I decided what I really wanted was to be able to go pick parsley and rosemary and thyme and the herbs that transform cooking for me.”

[Photo: MichellePatrickPhotography/iStock]

Waters is the queen of sustainable eating and a huge proponent of seasonal cooking. While she says she has a “small garden,” she has mastered the art of using everything that comes out of it. “I love plants where when they’re little you eat the leaves in the salad, when they get bigger and stronger you cook the leaves, then it goes to seed and blossoms and you can put the blossoms in the salads and you can reseed and it comes back up again,” says Waters, citing rocket, frisee, and cilantro as prime examples.

Deciding what to plant has the obvious caveat that it depends on where you live and what time of year you’re starting. If you want to start planting next weekend, look for crops that do well in relatively cool weather. Long recommends lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, spinach, radishes, beets, and other root vegetables.

For summer vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and beans, he says you want the soil temperature to be at least 60 degrees. In many parts of the country, that means you probably have a couple months to go. Here, again, Gable suggests connecting with your local master gardener group to get their recommendations for what crops do well and when to plant them.

[Photo: Damien Creatz/Unsplash]

If you have kids, Gable recommends including some plants that have a shorter yield time, so they can see the results faster. “Radishes are a really nice place to start,” she says. “They mature really quickly, and it’s a fun way for kids to see the fruits of their labor quickly so then they’re invested in the plants that take a little longer like tomatoes.”

Waters is a big believer in getting kids on board as well. She launched The Edible Schoolyard Project 25 years ago to teach children about growing food and help them connect with nature. “I can absolutely confirm that if kids grow it and cook it, they all eat it, no matter what it is,” she says. “And they will always be environmentalists. They fall in love with nature.”

HOW TO PLANT

Once you have your space picked out and have decided what to grow, you need to decide whether you want to plant seeds or transplants (also called seedlings or starts). For beginners, Gable largely recommends transplants (and underscores several times the importance of reading the labels to determine when and how to plant).

[Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash]

Still, starts tend to be more expensive, and Long notes that root vegetables don’t transplant well, so you’ll likely want to direct sow those. If you have access to a greenhouse, or can create a greenhouse environment with heat and LED lights, Long suggests creating your own starts. (This is slightly more advanced gardening, but still achievable with the help of online tutorials!) This lets you plant vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants when outside temperatures are still too chilly for them in the ground.

If you’re in an apartment or have a small patio, you’ll likely be doing container gardening, which shouldn’t limit your options. “Basically anything can grow in a container,” Long says, as long as you make sure to water regularly and get the right size to give the roots space. Herbs are also natural for container gardening and don’t need as much water (which is a big benefit, as containers tend to dry out faster).

As for how to get your gardening materials, you should be able to find what you need even with the recent run on seeds. Heirloom varieties from smaller seed companies might be harder to come by, but your run-of-the-mill seed packets are likely still available in grocery stores and online outlets. In many states, nurseries are considered essential businesses, so they remain open even under shelter-in-place orders.

HOW TO MAINTAIN

Once you’ve got your garden in, it’s not time to sit back and relax. But that’s actually a good thing, as working outside has been shown to have mental and physical benefits that are especially critical at a time like this. “Research shows that when we are out in an outdoor environment, serotonin levels go up and norepinephrine—that’s our fight or flight response—goes down,” Gable says. “Plus, muscle tension goes down, heart rate goes down, blood pressure goes down. And you can have incredible physical activity with gardening, working on fine motor skills and joint health. It’s really important as we’re trying to figure out what our new normal is.”

i-7-90487006-how-to-grow-a-vegetable-garden-according-to-legendary-chef-alice-waters.jpg (596×894)
[Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash]

Gable says ideally you’d get out in the garden every day, whether that’s to water, monitor for pests, or just check the plants’ health. Down the line, you’ll want to keep an eye out so you know when they’re ready to harvest. Here, again, Gable says to read the package instructions to know how long it takes the plants to mature; keeping some sort of a gardening journal can be useful to track this.

And then, soon enough, you’ll get to start enjoying the fruits of your labor. Waters said she’s been cooking a lot of dried beans with greens and herbs from her garden. “I go pick a little sprig of rosemary, savory, tops of parsley that aren’t good for chopping up and eating right now, bay leaves. I tie it with a string and put it in with beans and carrots and celery and onions—it makes the most delicious meal.”

Waters’s victory garden is in its early stages—she just started planting a couple weeks ago—but it’s already having the desired effect: One neighbor left a note under her door saying she was inspired to start a garden of her own.

“It’s hard to believe that there’s anything more hopeful than this,” Waters says. “The fact that we can grow food and address climate and be healthy and happy is astonishing.” SOURCE

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‘Dare to be Great’

Relaunch of Polly Higgins’s book Dare to be Great encourages self-care, resilience and courage in unprecedented times

Our communities are being called upon to face monumental change and find inner strength as never before. The tools of earth care and self care have never been more necessary.

Polly Higgins, a world-renowned earth lawyer and figurehead of the environmental justice movement, tragically died of cancer a year ago, aged 50, but her mission to make ecocide a crime is very much alive and gathering momentum.

A new edition of her third book, Dare To Be Great, has just been published. In it, Polly highlights the connection between what holds us back internally and the hurdles that we perceive outside ourselves. She offers tools of earth-care – the law of ecocide and creating a legal duty of care – accompanied by tools of self-care: the language of care, nourishment, self-authorising, setting intent, from intent to manifestation, planning your demise and the power of story.

Rallying 

These tools to help us meet the planetary emergency could not be more relevant during the unprecedented and related health crisis we are living through.

As the UN’s environment chief, Inger Anderson, has pointed out: nature has issued a warning. Pandemics could become more frequent if we return to the destructive practices of business-as-usual, because as we are now experiencing, commercial exploitation and the destruction of natural habitats are upsetting nature’s balance and directly affecting our health.

Jojo Mehta, Polly’s closest friend and colleague, who with Polly co-founded Stop Ecocide and Ecological Defence Integrity, said:  “Ecocide is the missing piece of law to assist in reframing the system so that we don’t return to destructive business-as-usual. Just imagine how much easier it would be to protect what we love and what supports life – if it were a crime to destroy ecosystems.

“It would make all the difference. It’s why Polly wrote this book: to invite each and every one of us to step up and do something great.”

The book is a rallying cry for a changing world. A spokesperson from Stop Ecocide said: “In one sense, this is an important conversation with one of history’s truly big thinkers, someone with an uncompromising knowledge of the basis and rule of law. In another sense, Polly is our friend and companion, as we ourselves dare to be great, taking on the quest of inner reflection, imagination, resilience, regeneration and courageousness that could not be more pertinent.”

Launch 

The book is published on Friday 10 April. There will also be a live Twitter chat on the day after Earth Day, on 23 April, to mark Polly’s anniversary and discuss key themes arising from the book.

If you would like any further details, please contact Stop Ecocide.

This Article 

This article is based on a press release from Stop Ecocide.


 

We’ve Got a Better World in Mind

How to get from here to there in the next 10 years

The climate is in crisis. Mass extinctions and mass migrations mark our days. Cities are running out of water or deluged by it. Inequality and polarization are political cronies, their twisted outbursts manifested as information warfare. Our carbon, like our money, is always flowing out of us—up, away, into the atmosphere.

This is not the first time that things have felt hopeless. And we, as humans, have often made our greatest progress in the face of our greatest despair.

But our species has an annoying habit of procrastinating.

Technically, the solutions to our problems already exist. Since 2015, Costa Rica has generated more than 95% of its electricity from renewable energy, reaching 99% in 2017. Sweden is targeting 100% renewable energy use by 2040. As this issue went to press, IBM unveiled a new battery that runs on seawater rather than rare-earth metals, and a Canadian company celebrated the first electric seaplane voyage.

We have the technical and policy tools to implement sweeping changes to existing human systems. The problem has been that, until recently, we haven’t had the political will.

But that too is changing….

Our connections to place, culture, common purpose, and each other create a sense of belonging that every person needs to thrive.

…At the dawn of this decisive new decade, we at YES! feel compelled to step back, take stock, and identify the core values and guiding principles of systems change that, if widely adopted, could turn the tide. At the risk of oversimplification, root causes regularly appearing in YES! stories include extractive capitalism and consumerism; the troika of colonialism, racism, and patriarchy; dominion over nature and each other (militarism, at its most extreme); and social disconnection. Often, these systems intersect in ways that amplify harm to communities. The result has been to concentrate wealth and power for a few at the expense of everyone else, and the planet we depend on for survival.

Ultimately, the goal is to dismantle these destructive systems and replace them with restorative, generative systems that create lasting well-being for all people and the planet. By naming the underlying values and operating principles of those new systems, we hope to empower readers with an important tool to advance lasting change.

The principles outlined here are a work in progress…

Well-being

When we put the well-being of people and communities first, over and above profit, we create a more peaceful world. Well-being requires material sufficiency to ensure a sense of security, health, and the pleasure of those material things that truly delight us. But the majority of our well-being comes from non-material things, including our capacity for wonder, curiosity, love, and appreciation. As a society, we can strive for abundant well-being for all, while, at a minimum, ensuring that everyone has what’s needed for survival. To get there, we must identify, measure, and improve key indicators of well-being at every level of decision-making.

Community self-determination

Much of the global despair and destruction can be attributed to decisions by a handful of people that affect billions of others. A decision by a manager at a multinational corporation on a random Tuesday can affect the prospects of thousands of communities for decades. We must flip the model to ensure a higher level of community self-determination, because people and places thrive when democratic communities determine their own social, cultural, and economic needs and solutions. We need solutions that shift economic and political control from global corporations and national bodies to communities. At the local level, we need democratic decision-making processes to ensure bottom-up, community-led solutions that maximize community benefit over private gain. To build local wealth, we’d emphasize local and community ownership of resources and enterprises, with local businesses focused on meeting local needs first, before exporting excess.

Equity

We believe that every human should have access to the opportunities and resources needed to reach their fullest potential. To do so, we must actively correct for the devastating level of past and present injustice and inequity. This means adopting solutions, policies, and approaches that shift power from the few to the many, and supporting leadership by historically marginalized communities, with those who’ve traditionally held power stepping back into supporting roles. It also means
 embracing the “curb cut effect.” Rather than design solutions to meet the needs of the majority (e.g. people who cross the street with two working legs), design them to meet the needs of those with the least access (e.g. people using wheelchairs), thereby meeting the needs of everyone. To ensure economic equity, we can adopt solutions that democratize sources of wealth, rather than simply redistribute wealth. Lasting equity doesn’t mean ensuring everyone has the same amount of butter, but making sure everyone has their own cow.

Stewardship

From the air we breathe, water we drink, food we gather and grow, to the climate that supports life as we know it, our human existence and well-being depend on a thriving natural world. It’s our responsibility to care for it for ourselves and for generations beyond. Embracing opportunities that help us recognize and cultivate our connection to all living things can generate that deep sense of collective responsibility. With this understanding, we can prioritize material sufficiency over excessive consumption, and adopt solutions that foster sustainable use and restoration of our natural resources. Indigenous knowledge and practices can guide us.

Connection

What do the rise of depression, loneliness, polarization, and mass shootings have in common? Social disconnection. Our connections to place, culture, common purpose, and each other create a sense of belonging that every person needs to thrive. Historically, our day-to-day work, play, and commerce required us to connect with many different people on a personal level. With the rise of automation and the Internet, we’ve lost vital opportunities for human connection. We can rebuild our sense of connection and belonging by intentionally designing spaces and approaches to value personal relationships over anonymous transactions; foster a sense of common purpose; cultivate compassion, empathy, and appreciation; and retain, restore, and develop cultures and traditions.

Inclusion

When everyone is invited to identify problems and participate in solutions—especially those people most impacted—we can create positive, enduring change. Inclusion can slow a process, but the results are better and last longer. Fostering inclusion means inviting everyone to the party, and cultivating meaningful contributions from new, unlikely allies. It means embracing difference, illuminating intersections, and generously sharing knowledge and ideas. Developing lasting solutions that work for all requires us to collaborate and cooperate more than compete.

Resilience

Things change. And when they do, communities built on rigid ideas, infrastructure, and hierarchies struggle and fail. Adaptive communities—those designed to expect change—can create lasting peace and prosperity. Building resilience means cultivating diversity at every level, and adopting an attitude of continuous learning, creativity, and innovation. It means finding holistic solutions that fix the system (not just the symptoms) and solve multiple problems at once. Resilient communities utilize natural resources, assets, and skills unique to their place. The best part? Solutions designed for resilience can often be adapted for other communities, especially those that share similar conditions.

Integrity

Trust can take a lifetime to build and a minute to destroy. And yet, deep trust within and between communities is the foundation of lasting peace and shared prosperity for all. Ultimately, trust requires a society-wide culture and practice of integrity, especially among those in positions of influence. We build and practice integrity through moral intention backed with action—walking our talk. High-integrity communities champion transparent, inclusive decision-making. When they screw up, they acknowledge the harm caused, actively working to repair and reduce it. They have structures ensuring accountability and measuring progress toward goals. They encourage members to speak their truths, demonstrate courage, and experiment boldly. Most importantly, they don’t give up on their dreams for a better world, even when it gets hard.

Building the world we want will be one of the hardest things any of us will ever do. But guided by these principles, and working together, we can make 2020 the year that everything changed.  Full article HERE

As Other Leaders Support Public Workers, Kenney Kicks Them When They’re Down

Mass layoffs in education system are both immoral and economically destructive.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ‘is adding to the COVID-related unemployment carnage with carnage of his own,’ writes Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. Photo via the Alberta government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described the fight against COVID-19 in heroic military terms.

He says it’s the biggest “civic mobilization since the Second World War” and “we all have a moral obligation to take care of each other.”

The good news is that most provincial leaders seem to feel the same way. The bad news is that one premier is not supporting the “Team Canada” approach — in at least one important respect.

That premier is Alberta’s Jason Kenney. He’s failed to answer “the call of duty” when it comes to keeping people on payroll during the COVID-19 crisis.

While the prime minister and other premiers are holding up their end of the bargain by avoiding layoffs and exhorting employers in the private sector to do the same, Kenney is adding to the COVID-related unemployment carnage with carnage of his own.

For example, with little warning or consultation, Kenney recently announced that 25,000 K-12 education workers will be laid off. He’s also proceeding with an austerity budget that has already led to thousands of layoffs at universities, colleges and municipalities.

But that’s not all. Shockingly, the provincial government is also cutting doctors’ salaries by as much as 30 per cent, even as they gear up to confront COVID-19. Some doctors say they will have no choice but to close their practices.

And the government still plans as many as 6,000 layoffs for nurses, paramedics, lab techs and other frontline health-care workers — after the pandemic crisis passes, of course.

The education layoffs are said to be temporary, but the other cuts are intended to be permanent. While other provinces are rallying to support their citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta’s United Conservative Party is using the crisis as a pretext to pursue an ideological agenda of shrinking and privatizing public services.

This stands in stark contrast to Canada’s other provincial Conservative powerhouse, Ontario’s Doug Ford, who echoed Trudeau’s sentiment that governments shouldn’t be making a bad situation worse by adding to the ranks of the newly unemployed.

After Kenney’s education bombshell, Ford was asked if he, too, would consider laying off public service workers during the crisis. He responded with words Alberta education workers would have loved to hear from their premier, but didn’t.

“I want to try and pay as many people as possible. It’s not their fault,” Ford said. “They have mortgages to pay, they have rent to pay, they have to put food on the table and I’m not comfortable with laying provincial frontline people off. I just can’t do it to families. I just can’t.”

Ford is not alone in his sentiments. Other than Kenney, literally no other provincial government is laying off significant numbers of workers at this time. In B.C., jobs have been guaranteed at least until the end of this month as the government and stakeholders develop plans.

Kenney’s justifications for his wanton acts of job destruction in the midst of a crisis are weak and sometimes offensive.

For example, his first line of defence has been to say that the laid-off workers were “not working” after the province closed schools. But the truth is that almost all of the administrators and educational assistants who got pink slips are busier than ever helping school boards prepare for the transition to online classrooms.

Kenney has also outrageously blamed his decision on Alberta’s popular, steady and hyper-competent chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw. It’s true Hinshaw ordered the closure of schools to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But that’s not the same thing as ordering 25,000 layoffs. That was Kenney’s choice, and his alone.

Kenney has also been talking out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand, he says Alberta can’t afford the $128 million needed to keep education workers on payroll. But, on the other hand, he doesn’t blink when announcing $7.5-billion in direct investment and loan guarantees for a pipeline (a project that was rejected by private investors as too risky).

Finally, Kenney has justified mass layoffs during a crisis by saying that public sector workers should not be treated differently than the private sector workers who have been losing their jobs in great numbers, and that the provincial government is faced with the same financial realities as other employers, including municipalities that have also been announcing layoffs.

This is where Kenney demonstrates that he just doesn’t get it.

The fact that hundreds of thousands of private sector workers have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis is exactly why provincial and federal governments should avoid layoffs which would add even more Canadians to the unemployment lines.

The goal of all governments in the short to medium term should be to keep as many people attached to their jobs and incomes as possible until the crisis has passed — as opposed to setting them adrift or saying, as Kenney has, that they can apply for employment insurance or the new federal emergency response benefit.

Should Canadians living in other provinces foot the bill for Kenney’s decision to cut Alberta public servants loose during a crisis, thereby offloading Alberta’s costs to the federal government?

Imagine if other provinces did the same. Federal relief programs that are already stretched would become overwhelmed because provinces refused to shoulder their fair share of the burden.

Perhaps most importantly, Kenney fails to acknowledge that provincial and federal governments are fundamentally different than private sector employers (and even municipal governments), both in their roles and in the options they have to deal with a crisis.

Municipal governments, for example, are forced by legislation to balance their budgets every year. So without the help of higher orders of government, they often struggle to keep people working during a crisis. And private firms have a hard time getting money for operations when their income and access to credit start drying up so layoffs become unavoidable.

This situation for provincial and federal governments is dramatically different. Unlike private firms, which are focused on profits, the role of government is to defend the public interest, especially during times of crisis. Governments can also raise and spend money much more easily than private firms during a crisis. They need to exercise these powers for moral reasons (they have an obligation to help their citizens through tough times) and economic reasons (they need to shore up consumer and business purchasing power so that recessions don’t become depressions and recoveries can begin more quickly).

The bottom line is that during turbulent times like these, layoffs by private firms are often inescapable. But public sector layoffs are a choice for governments — a choice they should never make if they are really focused in putting the interests of their citizens first.

That’s why I’m pointing the finger at Jason Kenney. Nothing is forcing him to add to the pain of his citizens. That’s his choice. Unlike his counterparts in other provinces, including other Conservatives like Doug Ford in Ontario, he has failed to “answer the call of duty” and, in doing so, he is failing his citizens during their time of need. He should be ashamed of himself.  [Tyee]

SOURCE