David Suzuki decries pipeline approval, calls for unity on ‘existential crisis’ of climate change

‘If the Raptors could get all of Canada united, then what the hell?’ says Suzuki


Environmentalist David Suzuki joins Green Party Leader Elizabeth May during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, June 14, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Environmentalist David Suzuki says Canadians have little time to reach greenhouse gas emissions targets recommended by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last October.

The report detailed that annual carbon dioxide pollution levels, which are still rising now, would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050.

“We’ve got very little time to make a major shift in our energy use … basically reduce our emissions by 50 per cent. That’s a big ask,” Suzuki said.

Speaking with Cross Country Checkup on Sunday, Suzuki, host of CBC-TV’s The Nature of Things, criticized the federal government for re-approving an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan on Tuesday.

That announcement came just a day after the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion declaring that Canada is in the midst of a “national climate emergency.”

Suzuki spoke with Checkup host Duncan McCue on Sunday about the politics of climate change and he took calls from listeners.

Here’s part of that conversation.

What was your reaction when the Canadian government re-approved the Trans Mountain pipeline?

I didn’t know what the hell is going on. I mean, we have our Parliament now declaring a climate emergency, which is right on, and at the same time, approving pipelines.

So long as we’re down there discussing pipelines — and the threats to the southern resident whales, the possibility of spills, carbon taxes being too big — we’re not going to do what has to be done.

Your caller Geoffrey said it right at the beginning: read the IPCC report that came out in October of last year. And that said, we’ve got very little time to make a major shift in our energy use … basically reduce our emissions by 50 per cent.

That’s a big ask.

Environmentalist David Suzuki says Canadians have little time to reach greenhouse gas emissions targets recommended by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last October.

The report detailed that annual carbon dioxide pollution levels, which are still rising now, would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050.

“We’ve got very little time to make a major shift in our energy use … basically reduce our emissions by 50 per cent. That’s a big ask,” Suzuki said.

Speaking with Cross Country Checkup on Sunday, Suzuki, host of CBC-TV’s The Nature of Things, criticized the federal government for re-approving an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan on Tuesday.

That announcement came just a day after the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion declaring that Canada is in the midst of a “national climate emergency.”

Suzuki spoke with Checkup host Duncan McCue on Sunday about the politics of climate change and he took calls from listeners.

Here’s part of that conversation.

What was your reaction when the Canadian government re-approved the Trans Mountain pipeline?

I didn’t know what the hell is going on. I mean, we have our Parliament now declaring a climate emergency, which is right on, and at the same time, approving pipelines.

So long as we’re down there discussing pipelines — and the threats to the southern resident whales, the possibility of spills, carbon taxes being too big — we’re not going to do what has to be done.

Your caller Geoffrey said it right at the beginning: read the IPCC report that came out in October of last year. And that said, we’ve got very little time to make a major shift in our energy use … basically reduce our emissions by 50 per cent.

That’s a big ask.


Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Canadian government’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project lies at a stockpile site in Kamloops, B.C., on June 18, 2019. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says there’s no inconsistency: we can expand Trans Mountain and meet Paris emissions targets. What do you make of that?

As long as we’re in the political arena, then we’re not going to be serious about dealing with the IPCC challenge.

The problem, you see, is that the issue now, the timeframes are so long.

Even [former prime minister Stephen] Harper, who was someone that didn’t want to even talk about climate, was forced ultimately to set a target — but he set it way the hell away. He knew he wouldn’t be around when the time came to say, ‘Have we met these targets?’

The Liberals accepted the Harper targets and … we’ve never met any of the targets we’ve declared that we’re committed to and we punt. We put off the decisions.

Well, time has run out. We don’t have time to wade through the next election and then have an argument to the next election after that. We’ve got to start now and we’ve got to make the commitment.

This is no longer a partisan issue. If the Raptors could get all of Canada united, then what the hell? Why can’t we all be united on an existential crisis now? This is no longer a political issue.

I agree with Jason Kenney. He needs a war room, but he’s got his guns aimed the wrong way. MORE

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Over 110 Alberta businesses pledge to maintain $15 minimum wage as youth wage cut takes effect Wednesday


Katy Ingraham, owner of the neighbourhood pub Cartago, is a vocal advocate of paying all employees a living wage. ED KAISER / POSTMEDIA

A growing coalition of businesses in Alberta have pledged not to cut youth employees’ pay when UCP government changes to the minimum wage for youth take effect on Wednesday.

The UCP-championed changes will make it legal for employers to pay $13 per hour to students under 18, compared with $15 for non-students and adults. The government has said the lower rate is designed to address an unemployment problem among young Albertans by giving businesses a greater incentive to hire youth.

But the more than 110 businesses — from Costco to small auto shops and restaurants — have signed onto Alberta15, a public online pledge to maintain a $15 minimum wage for all employees, rejecting the notion that youth should be paid less for the same work.

“Everybody deserves a liveable wage,” said Andrew Cowan, co-owner of restaurant Northern Chicken, on June 10. “And you can’t discriminate based on age or anything like that.”

Brian MacKay built the online Alberta15 platform — where consumers can view a list of companies who have signed onto the pledge and employees can anonymously report violations — after a Reddit post about the UCP decision in late May “struck a chord.” Having moved out at age 16, MacKay said he knows what it’s like to be a young employee working to pay his own bills.

“I was one of those kids working in a restaurant (and) I know how hard it is to get out of that hole,” said McKay, who owns the Edmonton-based web design company Tooq. “It’s really tough to get an education when you’re barely scraping by.”

Katy Ingraham, co-owner of Cartago restaurant in Edmonton, said she supports the pledge and sees a living wage as “integral” to reducing poverty. She also noted that $15 per hour is just the beginning, as a recent study sad it is not even a living wage in Edmonton or Calgary.

“We’re going to keep being vocal and letting everyone know that (wage cuts) aren’t something we support,” she said. MORE

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BEIS Strategy Committee question Extinction Rebellion

The UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee hears from Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion, Isabella O’Dowd, Climate and Energy Specialist, WWF and Baroness Bryony Worthington, of the Environmental Defense Fund on Tuesday 18 June, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London , UK

Following the Prime Minister’s commitment to the UK cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) report, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee examine the rationale for going faster to hit the net zero target, hearing from witnesses including Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion, Isabella O’Dowd, Climate and Energy Specialist, WWF, and Baroness Bryony Worthington, Environmental Defense Fund. The session tests whether the CCC’s net zero advice, and the draft net zero legislation laid by the Prime Minister, go far enough to fulfil the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and to protect our environment for current and future generations. It also scrutinises the rationale for, and feasibility of, alternative targets proposed by environmental organisations. On Wednesday 8th May, the BEIS Committee questioned the CCC and business stakeholders on the net zero target and actions needed to achieve net zero emissions. A hearing on net zero with a Government Minister will be scheduled for a later date. The hearings are part of the Committee’s ongoing work on the Clean Growth Strategy and complement its current inquiries on financing energy infrastructure and on energy efficiency. The Committee has also carried out inquiries on Carbon Capture Usage and Storage and on Electric Vehicles. SOURCE

Fields of Dreams

THE MICROSCOPE IN TANNIS AND DEREK AXTEN’S FARM OFFICE IN MINTON, SASK., IS A GOOD CLUE THESE THIRD-GENERATION GRAIN GROWERS ARE MANAGING THEIR LAND A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY THAN THEIR NEIGHBOURS.


Derek and Tannis Axten farm 5,000 acres of land in Minton, Sask. The family keeps their acreage green for more than 200 days of the year with cover crops that protect the earth from sun and wind and feed the soil with their roots.RANDY RISLING FOR THE TORONTO STAR

A more obvious sign is found while walking the rows of flax and lentils, mustard and forage peas, chickpeas and flax. In a province known for fields of gold thanks to a monoculture mentality that prizes growing a single crop in a given area, the Axtens are seeding 13 different combinations of grains and legumes.

While many of their neighbours stay true to a 100-day growing season, leaving the land almost bare after fall harvest, the Axtens work to keep their acreage green for more than 200 days of the year with cover crops such as sweet clover, chickling vetch and oats whose main jobs are to protect the earth from sun and wind and feed the soil with their live roots.

When the couple took over Derek’s family farm in 2006, part of which his grandfather worked more than a century ago, they inherited a rich history but also some incredibly fragile soil and no dependable source of water.

The 5,000 acres they’re farming is almost smack dab in the heart of North America’s “geographic centre,” which (according to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey) is Rugby, N.D., — 422 kilometres southeast of Minton following Highway 18.

You can’t get any farther from the ocean.

Climate variation between seasons on the prairies is among the most dramatic on Earth, characterized by repeated wet and dry cycles. With warming temperatures, future droughts are projected to be “more frequent and intense” across the southern Canadian Prairies, according to Canada’s Changing Climate Report, which was released in 2019 by the federal government.

International and Canadian researchers are predicting warmer winters for the region, potentially one of the few great news stories to come out of climate change research because it would bring a longer growing season, the promise of significantly higher yields for farmers and a big bump to the national economy. But a hotter climate without adequate moisture in the soil could also spell disaster. Moisture is a transformative element driving the physics, chemistry and biology of healthy soil. Water brings life. Without it, you’re looking at a pile of lifeless, and increasingly useless, dirt.

That’s why the Axtens are among a small but growing group of farmers across the province — some supported by commercial agricultural players known as “Big Ag” — who are working overtime on this challenge. A big part of their solution requires turning their soil into the world’s biggest sponges. MORE

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Romeo Saganash: Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

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NDP MP Romeo Saganash stands during question period in the House of Commons on Sept. 25, 2018.

Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

In 2011, I set myself the task of advancing Indigenous rights, as defined by knowledge keepers and elders, into Canadian politics. I introduced a bill, now known as C-262, in two separate parliaments, under different Prime Ministers, and worked with the hundreds of people elected to represent Canadians. Over the past two parliamentary mandates I have been given, I have worked diligently to promote human rights and Indigenous values not just in bill C- 262 but in every piece of legislation that passed my desk.

After travelling to speak about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with people in community centres, auditoriums, on picnic tables in baseball parks and in art galleries, people from coast to coast to coast have become champions of justice. Millions of people have had a conversation about Indigenous rights, what they mean, and how they will bring us forward into a beautiful new future.

I am devastated and regret that my bill, that so many people have worked so hard to promote and educate on, will not become law.  Nonetheless, I have been inspired and reassured by the broad representation from civil society in the support for this bill: churches, labour unions, human rights organizations, environmental organizations, Indigenous leadership and grassroots that have made it possible to get to the recognition and respect that we see today.

I do know that we have made tremendous advances in human rights by getting this far in the legislative process. It is rare for non-governmental bills to pass through the House of Commons and to get as far in the Senate as it did. This is an indication of how important bill C-262 is, of how much has changed, and of the general willingness of everyone to move towards a new future together. We cannot go back to how things were before. New understandings of human rights and what they mean and who they include means that society is can only get better because of the work that we have done.

The struggle for human rights is a long one; it takes us away from our families and loved ones; we work too many hours, we sacrifice our health and spirit. Yet our ancestors took a path before me, one that is for dignity, justice and a good life.  Others have not only followed the path but imagined new possibilities. I am grateful for the sacrifices they also have made in the belief that Indigenous law, rights, and ways of being will be one day be restored to these territories. I am honoured to follow in their work, and I dedicate any accomplishments I have made to my family.

I want to thank the countless people who have worked so hard with their whole body, heart, mind and spirit because they believe in the values listed in the Declaration. I remain strongly convinced of the potential for the UN Declaration to be the framework for reconciliation; as a set of standards created by Indigenous peoples for Indigenous peoples, and as a reminder to nation-states like Canada, that we are still here, and we not only deserve but we demand the rights that have been denied us for so long.

There are and always have been obvious flaws in a governing system that is designed to maintain a status quo and deny rights to people who power rejects. The process of bringing C262 along the legislative path has highlighted this for me and I believe there are many parts in this struggle and many people lead; its not enough to create legislation that holds the colonial governments accountable to International human rights standards and to Indigenous ways of being; it will take structural and institutional change in order to see justice on stolen lands. Let us rise with more energy. Let us stand with a greater determination. On behalf of the millions who are building resistance and beauty in our communities: our spirit is not broken.

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Canada Reckons With Genocide

A damning new report on the deaths of indigenous women highlights post-colonial nations’ failures.

A sign at a Canadian First Nations protest in Toronto references the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada on April 21, 2018.

A sign at a Canadian First Nations protest in Toronto references the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada on April 21, 2018. ROBERTO MACHADO NOA/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

Every page of testimony from Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is heartbreaking.

It is a mammoth effort—and one that might provide a way forward for the United States and other post-colonial countries, such as Australia and Brazil, trying to grapple with the past treatment of indigenous peoples.

But for Canadians, it’s also a challenge, one that calls for their country to decolonize and fundamentally change its relationship with indigenous peoples. The report demands the country recognize its role in perpetrating a “deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide”—language that already has irked some commentators.

The public inquiry into the deaths or disappearances of thousands of indigenous women was one of Justin Trudeau’s first acts after becoming prime minister of Canada in 2015. The stories contained in the report, gathered by four years of fact-finding work, are harrowing and frustrating. They detail police inaction, cycles of intergenerational violence, and failed government policies that have broken families and locked indigenous peoples into poverty.

The inquiry heard from 1,484 family members and survivors, but it also initiated a forensic document review, poring over police records to identify gaps and problems in the law enforcement response. Officially, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified 1,017 homicides of indigenous women between 1980 and 2012—a homicide rate nearly five times higher than that of non-indigenous women—as well as 164 disappearances. The report maintains the real number is much higher.

The stories of these cases play out through the report, detailing tragedies from every corner of the country.

The calls to action in the report—not merely recommendations, as the commissioners underscored—are aimed at achieving nothing short of decolonization

On the West coast, the inquiry heard from Robin Rain, who lost her daughter Isabella Rose in 2005. She was killed by Rain’s partner at the time, an abusive man who she remained with out of financial necessity, she told the inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Even when I was sitting in the hospital beside my daughter’s corpse, the detective told me to get away from her body,” she said. “He stood guard over her body to make sure that I didn’t touch her. I couldn’t even hold her hand. I could only sit across the room and look at her little lifeless body.”

In Quebec, Gilberte Vachon told the inquiry about the night her daughter Adèle-Patricia headed out the door. “She came back after and told us ‘I love you.’ That was the last time I heard her voice.” Her daughter was found, beaten, outside a community center in Pessamit. She died in a hospital. MORE

How a flock of sheep protects one B.C. First Nation’s land


The Saulteau First Nation teamed up with Australian and French shepherds to replace toxic chemical sprays with the services of sheep. Photo by Emilee Gilpin

Did you know sheep can protect vulnerable tree seedlings better than chemical sprays?

The Saulteau First Nation sure does. Last year, the B.C. band invested in a herd of sheep and teamed up with two shepherds experienced in sheep veg-management to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in their territory.

Vegetation management is an important reforestation activity in that it involves preventing wild plants from stealing sunlight needed by young tree seedlings. The seedlings are planted in most new forest sites established in areas that have been logged or affected by wildfire, insects and disease. Toxic chemical sprays are one form of vegetation management, but there are non-chemical options available and growing in B.C.

The Saulteau First Nation invested in a non-chemical vegetation management plan that uses flocks of sheep, rather than toxic chemicals to protect young tree seedlings planted by forestry companies in their region. #FirstNationsForward

Sheep-based vegetation management is one of many positive ways their people resist the violent implications of oil and gas, mining and forestry companies. The Saulteau First Nation is located in the heart of the Peace River Region in northeastern B.C., also known as “the industrial zone,” Juritha Owens told me during an interview in her home. MORE

Extinction Rebellion: Our Demands

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Extinction Rebellion is an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

We have three demands in the UK:

01 TELL THE TRUTH

Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.

02 ACT NOW

Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

03 BEYOND POLITICS

Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

WHAT IS A CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY?

A citizens’ assembly brings people together to learn, deliberate and make recommendations on an issue of public concern. Similar to jury service, members are randomly selected from the population by a process called sortition. Quotas are used to ensure that the assembly is representative in terms of key characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, education level and geography. Assembly members learn about critical thinking before they hear balanced information from experts and stakeholders. The members spend time deliberating in small, facilitated groups and then they draft and vote on recommendations. Citizens’ assemblies are conducted by non-partisan organisations under independent oversight. They are transparent, inclusive and effective.

The UK Parliament already uses deliberative democracy processes, such as citizens’ assemblies, for example the Citizens’ Assembly on Social Careworked with House of Commons Select Committees and there are three deliberative democracy projects currently running as part of the Innovation in Democracy project. Citizens’ assemblies around the world – for example in IrelandCanadaAustraliaBelgium and Poland – have demonstrated that the general public can understand complex information, deliberate on options, and make fair and impartial choices.

Citizens’ assemblies are often used to address issues that are deemed too controversial and difficult for politicians to deal with successfully by themselves. In recent years, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly has broken the deadlock on two controversial issues: legalising same-sex marriage and the repeal of the ban on abortion. The recommendations of the citizens’ assembly informed public debate and emboldened politicians to advocate for change regarding these issues. The recommendations of their citizens’ assembly on Making Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change is currently being incorporated into the Government’s action plan.

Why is Extinction Rebellion demanding a citizens’ assembly?

This is an emergency. The challenges are big, wide-ranging and complex. And solutions are needed urgently.

Extinction Rebellion believes that part of the problem is the way our parliamentary democracy operates:

    • In the UK’s form of parliamentary democracy, power is in the hands of a few representatives (MPs) who are elected by the public. Over the last 40 years, this form of government has proved itself incapable of making the long-term policy decisions needed to deal effectively with the climate and ecological emergency. The five-year electoral cycle in the representative system of democracy discourages governments attending to long-term issues like climate change.
    • Democratic representatives are lobbied by powerful corporations, seek sympathetic media coverage, and calculate their policies based on potential media and public reactions, as measured by opinion polls. This means politicians often feel unable to propose the bold changes necessary to address the emergency.
    • Opinion polls often gather knee-jerk reactions to loaded questions, and they do not inform the respondent or enable them to explore the implications of different options with others. For an issue as complex as the climate emergency, opinion polling is of limited value.

Here is how a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice can break the deadlock:

  • A citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice will break this deadlock by giving politicians access to public judgements that have been reached in a fair and informed way. This will help politicians to commit to a transformative programme of action justified by the mandate they receive from the citizens’ assembly, reducing the potential public backlash at the ballot-box.
  • Citizens’ assemblies are fair and transparent. Assembly members have an equal chance of being heard and information regarding experts, stakeholders and the materials given to assembly members is shared publicly. This produces informed and democratically legitimate judgements.
  • Citizens’ assemblies can be used when difficult trade-offs are necessary. For example, experts might propose policies on how to meet a 2025 target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the assembly would then decide which one they prefer. For example, they might consider how to mitigate the effects of any changes in economic policies for those in society on low incomes.

You can find out much more on our citizens’ assembly page.

MORE

Indigenous drummers lead pipeline protesters on 22-km march in Victoria

First Nations drummers led 300 anti-pipeline protesters along the route that passed through Victoria to Island View Beach


Demonstrators march down Government Street during a protest against the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Victoria on Saturday, June 22, 2019.Dirk Meissner / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA — The government approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion won’t stop efforts in British Columbia to halt the project, protesters gathered outside Victoria’s city hall said Saturday.

About 300 demonstrators were adamant in their commitment to fight the pipeline twinning project, approved this week by the federal Liberal government, as they prepared to embark on a 22-kilometre march to a beach south of Victoria.

Indigenous drummers led the anti-pipeline protest along the route that passed through Victoria to Island View Beach, located near Victoria International Airport. The demonstrators, some carrying placards saying, “Don’t be Crude,” and “What part of NO do you not understand,” walked down the middle of downtown streets escorted by police vehicles with their lights flashing.

Embedded video

Luisa Alvarez@LuisaAlvarez95

A Protest against the trans mountain pipeline expansion is underway down Douglas st @CHEK_News

Eric Doherty said he was prepared to walk more than 20 kilometres to join what he believes will be a public groundswell against the pipeline expansion.

“Governments approve all sorts of things and then they face the people on the street and they get cancelled,” he said. “That’s how societies turn around is people hit the streets.”


Kanahus Manuel, a leader of the Tiny House Warriors, speaks to reporters prior to a demonstration against the Trans Mountain pipeline in Victoria. The Tiny House Warriors are one of the organizing groups for the protest. (Dirk Meissner/The Canadian Press)

Victoria Indigenous leader Rose Henry told the demonstrators Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pipeline approval decision could hurt his government’s chances of re-election this fall.

“We can stop it,” said Henry. “We can stop it by saying, ‘No,’ to this unwanted pipeline. You know in the next few months we have two elections coming up.” MORE