The Green New Deal In Canada: Challenges For Indigenous Participation

This postingis heavily edited for brevity. You are encouraged to read the full posting HERE

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AS WE MOVE THROUGH another colonial election year at the federal level, there is one arena that challenges most politicians: climate change and what we do about it.

Those paying attention to political debates know that taking action on climate appears to be at odds with the economic paradigm created and practiced over the last century and a half.

Rooted in a philosophy of extractivism, Canada’s economy relies on the theft and plundering of Indigenous lands and territories and peoples.

Most of the goods and services created from these extractive industries are the very drivers of climate change itself. Think tar sands, fracked gas, coal, forestry (and as such deforestation), water diversion to support it all, etc.

Considering this extractive economy, it will require a major overhaul for Canada itself to take meaningful action on climate and address the legacy of ongoing colonization, through a transformative economic, social and political shift. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore this truth. Droughts, floods, forest fires, super storms, erratic weather patterns, melting sea ice, decline in plant and animal species, and on and on, are increasingly top stories in the daily news (though the media often fails to connect these events to climate change).

While Indigenous peoples have been raising alarms about the state and health of Mother Earth for decades, if not centuries, decrying the abuses heaped upon her, Western science is now catching up, too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that we have less than 11 years to cut global GHG emissions in half – while protecting our remaining cultural and biological diversity – or face catastrophic climate crisis.

It is also becoming increasingly understood that current plans and strategies, including the Paris Agreement, are failing to include or address the legacy of social injustices created by colonization, capitalism, and militarism; forces that destroy the cultural diversity which is key to mitigating climate change. Correspondingly, high level international and state policies and proposals also fail to include the full participation of Indigenous peoples despite the recognition of the important roles we play in addressing the climate crisis.

This includes the much heralded Green New Deal.

So what is this Green New Deal thing I keep hearing about?

As I write, environmental groups and centre-left political parties in both Canada and the U.S. are advocating for something called the Green New Deal (GND). Both versions of the GND are predicated on stabilizing current economic systems while simultaneously taking action on climate change, along with challenging current systems of injustice. The narrative of GND is an intentional throwback to the New Deal, an economic stimulus package created after the great depression in the U.S. by President Roosevelt.

As Julian Brave Noisecat writes in his Guardian piece No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice, The “Green” New Deal discussions happening in contemporary America “envisions a society where people have universal access to energy, jobs, healthcare and housing [and] is a call for renewed commitment to the equal distribution of opportunity and justice.”

To achieve these ends, the GND calls for major economic shifts toward a green energy economy.

Meanwhile in Canada, the discussions are more preliminary and revolve around conceptualizing a Northern version of a GND. It includes 150 organizations and prominent Canadians, including CUPE Ontario, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Climate Action (that’s us!), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The campaign’s current tagline is ripped straight from the IPCC report mentioned above and calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

…The fact is that the GND is still being created in silos of elitism and is aimed primarily at influencing, and putting pressure on, colonial and corporate power to lead change.While it’s true that governments should be stepping up, history has indicated a stubborn attachment to the status quo, absent the will and commitment of the people. Indigenous Climate Action and other Indigenous organizations and communities are striving to ensure there are measures of accountability and true transformation embedded in moving things forward on the GND to avoid repeating history..

But they are advocating for systems change, aren’t they?

Yes, but they are also advocating for the same forces that drove us into a climate crisis to please pave the way out for us. Asking oppressors for liberation has not proven an effective strategy.

Currently, the GND proposals are focused on changing the energy infrastructure while redistributing wealth but ultimately failing to center the destructive intertwined roles of capitalism, consumerism, militarism and colonialism as foundations to the current crisis.

In other words, the GND in its current iteration is not a structural solution.

Without an acknowledgment of the severed spiritual and mental connection to the natural world we will continue to make the same mistakes.

It is Indigenous communities, locally, nationally and internationally, that continue to push for an actualization of instilling deeper spiritual connections the Mother Earth to help us relearn what systems of colonization, capitalism, and extractivism have severed.
Without these as tenets to a call for systems change it is merely a regurgitation of the same broken structures that perpetuate disconnection and individualism.

The current proposals for the GND, if ever taken up by those politicians, could have lasting impacts for generations to come, paving the way for new social, political and economic systems providing a new baseline.

We cannot afford for history to repeat itself.

A Green New Deal for Canada — what’s next?

OPINION: TO SUCCEED, THE GREEN NEW DEAL MUST TAP THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE ACTION

The Green New Deal offers valuable insights on how to drive transformational change. Does it have what it takes to pull it off?

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If you’re paying attention to climate change or politics, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Green New Deal. It’s ambitious. It’s inspiring. It takes on two of the biggest crises of our time — climate change and economic inequality — and proposes a way forward that just might be up to the task of dealing with both. And it calls for transformational change: changing the structure of how a system works.

But can it deliver? Based on my research on how to drive transformational change, I think it can. But in order to do so, it needs to continue to gain traction on two key elements that make such change possible.

People can feel big change is needed, but the path forward is not clear. The Green New Deal offers a potential path forward.

The first key ingredient in transformation is fertile ground — a widespread understanding that things are becoming untenable and something has to change. The timing is ripe in the case of the climate crisis. Massive, global scientific reports on the dangers we face have recently been published (examples here and here), youth climate activism around the world is on the rise, and climate change is becoming an increasingly salient issue for U.S. voters. It’s also ripe with respect to wealth inequality, which is at historic highs in the United States.

The success of the Green New Deal will depend on continued and increasing frustration about climate and inequality. In short, people can feel big change is needed, but the path forward is not clear.

The Green New Deal offers a potential path forward. Importantly, it starts by asking what is necessary, rather than what seems possible. By definition, transformation means a fundamental change in the system, so asking what is possible in the current system is not a likely path to transformation.

The second key ingredient is the presence of a “collective” — a large, intentionally organized group — at the center. Transformative change takes more than an individual, or even a group of individuals. It doesn’t simply capture the imagination of many people; it offers ways for people to contribute. In a collective, individuals are involved as more than members or employees. They make identity with the collective a core part of who they are and what they do. A collective develops a shared identity around a shared purpose, and can take the grassroots energy bubbling up around an issue and focus it in ways that turns it into powerful transformational work.

The collective at the roots of the Green New Deal is the Sunrise Movement — an American element of a thriving global youth climate movement. The Sunrise Movement grabbed onto the Green New Deal idea and took bold action — most memorably occupying the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the orientation of new members of Congress. Since then, Sunrise has been organizing around the Green New Deal all over the country, recently wrapping up the Road to the Green New Deal Tour that included more than 200 town hall meetings.

Importantly, the energy and action behind the Green New Deal has grown beyond the Sunrise Movement. The Green New Deal exists at the federal level not as an overly prescriptive policy proposal, but rather as a resolution that balances broad, shared purposes (addressing climate change and economic inequality) with some, but not all, specifics (e.g., fast decarbonization through rapid expansion of renewable energy, building upgrades and energy efficiency combined with millions of good-wage jobs).

At the same time, local- and state-level green new deal proposals also have been introduced around the country. These changes are examples of how the Green New Deal is already changing mainstream conversation and practice. The changes are early evidence of the Green New Deal’s transformative power. MORE

We’re in a climate emergency — let’s act like it

This letter is by Cameron Fenton. Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Cameron has worked on climate justice issues all across Canada. He currently works as the Canadian Tar Sands Organizer with 350.org. Please sign this urgent petition.

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Drone footage via the Government of Alberta shows large clouds of smoke from the wildfires threatening areas of northern Alberta. Global News: Evacuation alerts and orders in place across the province

Friends,

After tediously debating it for the past week, the Canadian House of Commons is poised to declare a climate emergency.1 If and when it’s passed, Catherine McKenna’s climate emergency motion will commit Canada to “meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement” and go even further to“to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Frankly, this confuses me. If Canada is in a climate emergency, where is the emergency response plan?

That’s why today, I’m asking you to call on the Federal Leaders’ Debates Commission to organize a debate on climate change and Canada’s Green New Deal ahead of this fall’s federal election. Sign the petition.

Temperatures are rising across the country, and with it, the threat of another record-breaking wildfire season. Fires have already forced evacuations in communities like High Level and the Dene Tha’ First Nation in Northern Alberta.2 Just this week, smoke from these fires arrived in skies above Vancouver and blocked out the sun in Edmonton.3

I was born and raised in Edmonton, and for the past six years I’ve lived in Vancouver so I can say without question, that this is not normal. Honestly, I’m terrified. This could be the third record-breaking wildfire season in a row in British Columbia, and it’s average global temperatures have only risen 1ºC. Justin Trudeau’s current climate plan has us on a path to, in the best case scenario, warm the planet by another of 4-5ºC on average.

That would be devastating, and that’s why every person in this country needs to know which one of our major political parties has a real plan to tackle the climate emergency. The best way to that happen is with a federal leaders’ debate on climate change and Canada’s Green New Deal. Add your name to the petition.

In 2015, more than eleven million people watched the leaders’ debates, and there was only one question on climate change. This is unacceptable, especially for a country in a climate emergency.

This is the first election with a designated Leaders’ Debate Commission.4 And since they’ve been tasked with organizing election debates in the public interest, we have a chance to change the debate and make sure responding to a climate emergency is center stage.

Sign the petition to make sure climate change and Canada’s Green New Deal are at the center of the upcoming federal election.

This petition is just the start. When temperatures rise this summer, so will we. As climate impacts continue to strike our communities, we will keep building the movement for Canada’s Green New Deal and demanding a federal climate debate.

We need to change the debate. This is our time to do it.

With urgency,

Cam

PS – The movement for Canada’s Green New Deal is taking off. Over 100 town halls have already happened across the country to build a shared vision for a Green New Deal — and dozens are coming up. To find a town hall near you click here.


Resources:

1. Declaring a Climate Emergency is Meaningless Without Strong Policy
2. We’ve been through it before’: Dene Tha’ First Nation practiced evacuation years before recent wildfire
3. Smokey skies arrive as haze from Alberta wildfires reach Metro Vancouver
4. Canada Leaders’ Debates Commission