In response to Canadian MP’s voting to declare a climate emergency, then approving the TransMountain pipeline Cameron Fenton, an organizer with 350.org in Canada issued this response:
“If we’re in a climate emergency, we need an emergency response plan, not a pipeline. You can’t have a real climate plan if you keep ignoring what scientists are telling us – that we need to stop building dangerous fossil fuel projects. This is exactly why we need Green New Deal for Canada to tackle climate change, respect Indigenous rights and make sure no communities or workers are left behind.”
Gabrielle Gelderman, an Edmonton-based organizer with the youth-led Green New Deal campaign Our Time added:
“Young people have spent our entire lives knowing that climate change is an emergency. Approving TransMountain is part of a climate plan that puts us on a dangerous path to exceed 4ºC of warming, that’s why we need a made-in-Canada Green New Deal and a federal leaders debate on climate change to let us know who is going to fight for it.”
This is a story about us being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.—Tim Jackson
We can build solar panels. We can build windfarms. We can supply the world with near-free energy and electrify everything. And if we stop there, we will simply have sped up the death of Mother Earth.
The cheaper electricity becomes, the more we use. This behaviour is so predictable that there is a name for it, Jevon’s Paradox.
When we start modifying the fabric of the web of life there are always consequences, unanticipated and sometimes severe, violent and harsh. Mother Earth is not amused.
Our capitalist system of accounting celebrates the rise of GDP. The costs of ripping non-renewable resources from Earth or the life-sequence costs of new ‘breakthrough’ technologies don’t appear on our national accounts. The value of leaving resources in the ground, undisturbed, is never considered. That life-value remains largely unknown. But that value is part of all Canadians’ heritage.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.” — Greta Thunberg
Non-renewable resources are one-shot deals. When we use them we should use them with our eyes wide open. Our actions must respect limits to growth on our finite planet. What would be wrong with negative growth, where life-value where life-value can be our guiding principle?
We have to wake up. We have to reject a consumer culture where buying junk is considered a ‘lifestyle’ choice. Because of our failure to distinguish between want and need, we are drowning in stuff. In the process, we are despoiling the planet. What were we thinking? Our children are telling us, we weren’t.
Naomi Klein, one of the founders of the Leap Manifesto, explains, “The Leap came out of a meeting that was held in Toronto in May of 1915, attended by sixty organizations and theorists, from across the country, representing a cross section of environmentalists: labour, climate, faith, Indigenous, migrant workers, antipoverty, and incarceration, food justice, human rights, transit, and green tech.”
The Leap remains a homogenous, justice-based attempt to replace the myth of endless resources with the reality of climate limits — a vision of a sustainable, life-affirming economy, one not reliant on othering people and producing the sacrifice zones required by our fossil-fuel-based, extractive economy. A vision for climate justice. A vision widely held by the majority of Canadians. It is a forerunner of the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal, a plan to fight climate change, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. That’s what it would take to limit global warming to less than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It’s the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious climate goal.”
But Thumberg doesn’t think the Green New Deal goes far enough.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in ten years only gives us a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. A fifty percent risk is simply not acceptable to us, we who have to live with the consequences.”
The real bottom line
This is an emergency. We are part of the web of life, not apart from it. We can’t negotiate with nature. We needthe sacred air, the life-giving water, the bounty of a fecund earth, and climate justice– all part of Indigenous’ beliefs that have served them well, living sustainably for thousands of years.
Above all, we need a livable planet for our children. For a green economy, we have to abandon mindless consumption.
The history of Petro-Canada’s creation in the 1970s offers inspiration for our current political moment
After the votes were counted, Trudeau had fallen from a majority to minority parliament while trouble was brewing in Alberta.
This might sound like a few days ago, but it was actually 1972. And while the situation was different, what happened under that Trudeau minority government offers a lesson on how our minority Parliament can deliver on a Green New Deal for Canada — a transformative plan to tackle both growing economic inequality and the climate crisis at once — and how the NDP and Green parties can help make it happen.
Flashback to 1973: the Liberals held 109 seats, the Tories 107, and the NDP 31 (out of a then-total 264 seats in the House of Commons). Since the Progressive Conservative opposition of the day was itching for another chance to go to the electorate, the NDP knew that Pierre Trudeau needed their votes and so they dug in their heels and demanded that the Liberals support an NDP motion calling for the creation of a national oil company.
Petro-Canada is an example of how Liberal minority parliaments, pushed by the NDP, have passed major progressive legislation.
It worked. Thanks to a wave of rising economic nationalism — not dissimilar in scale to the current rise in public opinion around climate action — the Liberals supported the motion, and after the Liberals won a majority government again in 1974, Petro-Canada was founded by an act of Parliament. On Jan. 1, 1976, against the wishes of an already powerful oil lobby based in Calgary, the Crown energy company started operations.
Knowing what we know now — Exxon Mobil first learned about the fact that digging up and burning CO2 could wreck our planet back in 1977 — using the powers of our federal government to drill for more oil wasn’t the best call. And had the NDP retained the balance of power when Petro-Canada was formed, its story might have looked a lot different. Nevertheless, Petro-Canada is an example of how Liberal minority parliaments, pushed by the NDP, have passed major progressive legislation. We also have this kind of balance of power to thank for universal healthcare, the Canada Pension Plan, the 40-hour work week and increases to the minimum wage.
In 2019, this kind of balance of power could help us rise to tackle the climate crisis. But, that requires nothing less than taking control of our energy economy and turning it hard towards 100 per cent renewable energy.
The same factories that built planes, trains, and automobiles could build the electric public transit infrastructure we need to make free transit a reality all across the country.
Imagine if, like in 1973, the current NDP (with the support of climate-friendly parties like the Bloc and the Greens) drew a line in the sand and made their support for the Liberals’ first budget contingent on a big, bold first step towards the transition. A step like founding Renewable Canada, a massive publicly-owned Crown utility tasked with rapidly expanding the renewable energy industry. Its mandate could be based on the 57 recommendations that policy experts outlined in a 2015 report explaining how Canada could get to 100 per cent renewables. And, as they did with Petro Canada, they could open the head office in downtown Calgary, with a fossil fuel worker transition centre on the ground floor as a concrete expression of a clear promise that this new energy economy won’t leave workers or communities behind.
And that’s just one idea. The government could also found a “No-Crown” corporation, run by First Nations, that had the money and mandate to end boil water advisories and transition the 86 per cent of remote communities currently dependent on diesel power for their electricity to renewables. And we could nationalize faltering auto plants and train manufacturers in central Canada. And we could start to approach getting people moving on rail with the same fervour as moving oil by rail. The same factories that built planes, trains, and automobiles could build the electric public transit infrastructure we need to make free transit a reality all across the country.
Climate change is too complicated to solve with one Crown corporation. And while the NDP, Greens, Bloc, and Liberals promised bolder climate action, none of their election platforms actually met the scale of the climate crisis. Even the NDP, who continue taking steps towards embracing a fulsome Green New Deal, put out a platform that fell short of the economic transformation we need.
Part of that is that this challenge is bigger than what we faced in the 1970s, and frankly bigger than any government has faced since. But that doesn’t mean Parliament can’t take big steps, and even leaps, to transform our economy. We’ve done it before, whether by passing big progressive legislation under previous minority governments, or during World War II, when Canada founded 28 new Crown corporations to dramatically overhaul our economy.
People, especially youth, are ready for and demanding solutions of this scale. The lesson from Petro-Canada can give us a roadmap for one way to get started, and to get started fast.
This Parliament could put Canada to work on a Green New Deal. It’s just a question of whether we’re willing to dream, and demand, big enough ideas. SOURCE
Flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Noah Berger/AP
WE WERE JUST TAKING PICTURES. Of the ash, stray bricks, and weeds. Of twisted metal and charred patio furniture. Of the pine trees still standing on the edge of the lots, their towering trunks now charcoal black. Of the lonely white brick fireplace in the middle of it all, the only surviving structure, metal pokers hanging expectantly by the grate.
“Get the hell off my property!”
The words came bellowing from a burly man who had just pulled up to the pile of ash that once was his home in Paradise, California. As he shouted a litany of complaints, it became clear that his rage wasn’t only reserved for us trespassers — and there have been plenty who have gone to Paradise to gaze at the eerie emptiness where a thriving community once stood, before it was decimated by California’s deadliest fire one year ago.
The target was myriad forces that had conspired to twist the knife, again and again, on his already wrenching property loss — from the insurance company that wouldn’t pay up, to the county that wouldn’t let him clean up, to the state that wanted his (now contaminated) well to be sealed up. His rage was also directed at the absence of decent temporary housing for fire victims like him, not to mention the electric utility that had started the blaze and was still evading responsibility.
When the complaints petered out, I approached the man to introduce myself and apologize for our intrusion. But as I got closer, I felt his volatility: I have been in many disaster-struck communities and know how quickly the gale-force of emotion these events churn up can direct itself at the closest available target. We wished him luck and left.
The encounter was a reminder of the kind of stress that is in the air in the parts of California recently scorched by fire, as well as in the communities that have welcomed thousands of newly homeless neighbors to towns now bursting at the seams. The intersecting hardships experienced by so many in the region also explain why, days before the one-year anniversary of the deadly Camp Fire that burned down Paradise and killed 86 people, local politicians in neighboring Chico unveiled a plan calling for the small city to adopt its own Green New Deal.
Like its national inspiration, the Chico Green New Deal framework marries rapid decarbonization targets with calls for more affordable housing; a safe and sustainable food system; investments in “clean, 21st century” public transit; green jobs creation, including projects earmarked for the poorest residents; and much more.
Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy.
“Your city council has heard the call of its community that has resounded locally and across the nation,” said Chico Vice Mayor Alex Brown when the plan was announced. “We are choosing to walk the walk of this movement and to take the leadership being demanded of us.” In an interview, Brown told me that the Camp Fire’s impact on both Paradise and Chico was a glimpse of the future unless action is taken to both radically lower emissions and build “communities that are more resilient to these shifts.” Brown is well aware that a small city like hers isn’t going to make much of a dent in global emissions. But, she said, “We can demonstrate what a Green New Deal looks like at the local level.”
The Chico plan is one of many similar local initiatives that have sprung up in the year since the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of then-prospective House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with young demonstrators demanding that the Democratic Party embrace a sweeping Green New Deal to meet the twin crises of climate disruption and deepening inequality. Since then, as the Green New Deal proposal has picked up momentum in the Democratic primaries, several states and big cities have unveiled their own frameworks, including Maine and Seattle, where city council recently passed a resolution that included the city’s most ambitious climate justice targets to date. It also pledged to create an oversight board to hold the city to its commitments, a body that will be made up of representatives from communities directly impacted by racial, economic, and environmental injustice, as well as climate experts and representatives from trade unions and green groups.
And yet the contribution now coming from humble Chico — a scrappy northern California college town with a population of approximately 100,000 — may be the most politically significant. Because the Chico Green New Deal is based directly on this region’s hard-won experience of living through the 2018 inferno; it was forged, quite literally, in fire.
Ever since the Green New Deal landed on the political map, liberals have attacked it for its supposedly impractical scope and ambition. Fighting poverty, racism, and homelessness are worthy goals, we have been told — but what do they have to do with lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Surely a carbon-centric approach — like a simple tax or cap-and-trade and some narrow regulations on polluters — would be more likely to succeed. And besides, connecting greenhouse-gas reductions with building a fairer society just confirms Republican beliefs that climate change is a vast left-wing plot: Better to focus exclusively on pollution and worry about the rest down the road. Conservative Chico city council members have gone on the offensive against the Green New Deal with precisely this kind of attack.
An aerial view of a destroyed neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., on Oct. 21, 2019, one year after the Camp Fire. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Yet Chico’s lived experience over the past year is a devastating rebuke to this line of criticism. As the community that housed the vast majority of people displaced by the Camp Fire, Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy, one that is willing to make major nonmarket investments in housing, transit, health (including mental health), water, electricity, and more. MORE
Klein, who has done more to popularise the inseparability of capitalism and climate change than perhaps any other author, talks Extinction Rebellion and mainstream environmentalism.
KALPESH LATHIGRA FOR NEW STATESMAN
Twenty years ago, Naomi Klein’s No Logo was published on the crest of swelling unease about economic globalisation. Her analysis raged against corporate greed, sweat-shop labour and an increasingly voracious marketing culture that seemed to absorb all forms of critique.
In November 1999, while the book was still at the printers, thousands of activists shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in protest at a financial system of deregulated capitalism that was taking the world by storm. No Logo became a manifesto for the anti-globalisation zeitgeist that would define grassroots politics for the next decade.
The book foreshadowed crazy ideas: corporations were becoming more powerful than governments, and one day you could become your own global brand. Yet the world that Klein foretold has now come into being.
“What’s more powerful now… is the idea that every single person has to be their own brand, and the application of the logic of corporate branding to our very selves. It’s an insidious change that has everything to do with social media,” Klein tells me when we meet in London. The superbrands of the late Nineties were easy to identify; now, digital technology has made it less possible than ever to live a life unmediated by corporate power.
Klein is in London promoting her new book, On Fire, a crescendo of essays from the past ten years that concludes with an argument for the Green New Deal. The proposal, which encompasses dramatic increases in green energy investment and green jobs creation, is gaining political sway on both sides of the Atlantic.
We meet for coffee in the bar of an expensive hotel that smells like pot-pourri; outside, Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters are defying a ban initiated by the Metropolitan Police. The fortnight preceding our meeting, XR activists seized central London in a string of colourful uprisings. “It feels like one of those moments where everything could tip very quickly,” she tells me. “This is not tapping into people who saw themselves as climate activists – it’s tapping into something much broader.”
Klein, 49, has done more to popularise the inseparability of capitalism and climate change than perhaps any other author. In a series of books published over the past decade, she documented the human costs of ecological plunder and argued that environmental breakdown is rooted in capitalism’s quest for perpetual growth. “We have a handful of years to turn this around, and in those handful of years, I’m all in, all the time,’’ she says. Listening to her, it’s possible to feel a sense of calm; where much of the discourse about climate change redounds to the apocalyptic script of a climate-fiction novel, she has a resolute sense not only of what’s at stake, but of how we might fix it.
Klein has long railed against the dangers of “disaster capitalism”. In The Shock Doctrine (2007), she traced how elites exploited national crises and natural disasters to push through free-market policies. Today, she worries that without a concrete plan, climate activists may leave open the door to a similar possibility. “I’m extremely wary of just asking powerful interests to declare [a] climate emergency, and deferring the question of what we mean by climate action,” she says.
Though Klein commends XR, which has forced the UK government to declare a climate emergency and commit to citizens’ assemblies, she worries that “asking those in power to declare an emergency and waiting to articulate what their solutions should be” could open up a “vacuum”. “The time for simply calling for ‘action’, amorphous action, has passed,” she adds.
Mainstream environmentalism has long been criticised for being too elite, too concerned with pristine wilderness and charismatic species, and too apathetic to the reality that environmental harms are distributed along poverty and race lines.
In the US, for example, people of colour live with 66 per cent more air pollution than white citizens. Klein’s contention is that we should be learning from the movements at the front lines of environmental change.
One senses her frustration at big environmental groups that have avoided talking about the economic roots of climate breakdown. “The most well-funded green groups in the world are more focused on wilderness; they’re more focused on animals, on conservation. They take a tonne of money from fossil fuel companies, mining companies, and their whole business model is to shake down the extractive sectors and banks, and to… protect patches of wilderness,” Klein says.
Fixating on “nature” and “wilderness” rather than the ground under our feet can descend into something more troubling: the protection of a nativist social order. In On Fire, Klein argues that we’re already living through the dawn of climate barbarism, with terrorists such as the Christchurch gunman openly identifying as “eco-fascists”. “There’s a strong strain of ‘close it down, protect our own’,’’ she says. “Hypernationalism and native protectionism [are] a very likely outcome in many majority-white countries.”
“People know, whether they link it to climate change or not, that we are in an era of mass migration and that the space in which it is going to be safe for humans to live on this planet is contracting. It will continue to contract,” she says. “This is why it’s important to have a plan.” SOURCE
In the 2015 federal election, author and journalist Linda McQuaig ran for Parliament as an NDP candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre. Her opponent was Liberal candidate Bill Morneau, who won the riding and went on to become minister of finance.
During the campaign, Morneau and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau championed the idea of creating a Canadian infrastructure bank, which would “provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects.” The bank would help finance things like public transit and housing, by borrowing the funds from the public through the sale of bonds to Canadians or their pension funds. People in Canada would finance the construction of infrastructure they benefit from (and own it, collectively).
“I thought it was a good idea,” McQuaig told me in a recent phone interview. “But he was being dishonest.”
After meeting the Wall Street tycoon Larry Fink, who manages BlackRock (one of the world’s largest investment funds) at a Davos meeting in 2016, Trudeau quickly changed his tune. Private capital could have a role in public infrastructure — in fact, he asked BlackRock to help his government design the bank.
“Private finance looks for investments that make profits of seven to nine per cent,” says McQuaig. “Governments can borrow at low costs. You throw out that advantage if you bring in private finance.”
You also hand over any potential future profits, which otherwise could be reinvested in public programs. That’s exactly what happened when, in 1999, Mike Harris sold Ontario’s Highway 407 for $3.1 billion, in what McQuaig calls “the worst deal of the century.”
The toll highway, built in a public-private partnership, had been constructed by the NDP government of Bob Rae, who promised that the tolls would only be used to pay off the building costs, which might take about 30 years. Since its sale to the consortium 407 International, tolls have risen by more than 300 per cent. In 2014, 407’s owners reaped almost $900 million — all of it from Ontarians driving on a publicly financed highway. The highway has been valued at upwards of $27 billion.
As the book’s subtitle makes clear, McQuaig is interested in more than just our disastrous history of privatization. The bulk of The Sport and Prey of Capitalists tells a different, little-known history of public enterprise in Canada.
“When I say public wealth, it is services, benefits, things that we can publicly benefit from. Public wealth to me is a way to capture the notion that something is of value to all of us,” says McQuaig. “One of the things I was trying to do in the book, to get people motivated, was to tell them these stories about public enterprise and the kind of battles we had to go through to achieve them.”
Ontario Hydro is one such example. Adam Beck, a Conservative MPP and mayor of London, Ontario, played a key role in bringing together people from municipalities across the province to campaign for a public power utility in Ontario in the early 1900s. The campaign was successful. After the 1905 provincial election, the Conservative government rejected a corporate syndicate’s application for rights to water power at Niagara Falls. Premier James Whitney declared “that the water power all over the country should not in the future be made the sport and prey of capitalists and shall not be treated as anything else but a valuable asset of the people of Ontario.”
Such examples should inspire us, says McQuaig: “The odds against achieving these things back then were as bad then as today. But they managed to make it a popular enough movement.”
The book includes chapters describing the creation of Connaught Labs, a publicly owned pharmaceutical company that pioneered research into vaccines and new disease treatments; public banks like the Alberta Treasury Branch; and the Canadian National Railway, which helped establish nation-wide radio stations, the foundation for the CBC.
Progressives and radicals won’t necessarily praise all her examples of Canadian public enterprise (the development of the Avro Arrow — an innovative military fighter-jet created in the late 1950s, for example) but one can’t ignore the vital importance of harnessing government investment for the public good.
It remains to be seen if the results of the 2019 election will mean more Trudeau-led privatization, given the balance of power in Ottawa. One hopes the NDP will be able to use their position in Parliament to move forward on issues like public investment in infrastructure and programs, reconciliation with Indigenous nations, and climate change.
McQuaig canvasses one potential way to kickstart a “Green New Deal” in the final pages of the book: the expropriation of the GM auto-manufacturing plant in Oshawa, slated to close at the end of the year.
“Trudeau spent $4.5 billion nationalizing the pipeline. That’s taxpayer money being spent on fossil fuels, instead of a green economy,” said McQuaig. “I’d like to see Jagmeet Singh pick up on the plan put forward by workers at the GM plant to nationalize it and make vehicles for green public transit. It seems perfect. It would combine nationalization, action on climate change, and defending workers.”
Ultimately, this is the idea that lies at the heart of McQuaig’s book, for all the stories of privatization that begin it: the public good that we have achieved in the past through collective action and public investment, and the things we could still.SOURCE
What are some of the observations that can be made about the results of this federal election from a grassroots activist perspective?
1. The electoral system is broken.
As we all know, the seat count would have looked very different under proportional representation. For instance, the NDP would have won 54 seats (rather than 24) and the Greens would have won 22 seats (rather than 3).
2. The Conservatives were stopped, but won the vote.
We’ll need to contend with the fact that the Conservatives beat the Liberals in terms of the popular share of the vote as well as winning almost 250,000 more votes than the Liberals.
3. It doesn’t spell the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Could the NDP and the Greens make cancelling the pipeline a condition of their support in the House? It doesn’t appear that way right now, plus as was pointed out by other observers, the Conservatives would likely back the Liberals in any vote that might come up in the House on this. We’ll need to be on the land to win this.
4. The SNC-Lavalin scandal isn’t going away.
Given that Jody Wilson-Raybould won her seat as an Independent and a minority government means the opposition parties control the standing committees (and call witnesses, etc.), this story is likely to continue.
5. Highs and lows.
It was great to see NDP candidate Leah Gazan elected in Manitoba and a new Green MP in New Brunswick. It was disappointing that Svend Robinson didn’t win in Burnaby and that (even had the NDP and Green votes been combined in Ottawa Centre) that Catherine McKenna still won even after she approved a tar sands pipeline.
6. Opportunities for a Green New Deal.
The outcome of the election doesn’t suggest that the stage has been set to win a bold Green New Deal, but hopefully the “balance of power” equation suggests we could maybe carve out a few important gains on this front, ideally pushing harder on the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.
7. Colonial violence continues.
Just days before the election, Tiny House Warriors Kanahus Manuel and Isha Jules were arrested for defending Secwepemc territory against the Trans Mountain pipeline. Kanahus’ wrist was reportedly broken by the RCMP and she was transported 200 kilometres in the back of a police wagon without medical attention.
8. The average lifespan of a minority government.
The average lifespan of a minority government is generally 18 to 24 months. We’ll see how that pans out, but it is at least conceivable/likely that there will be another election within four years. How do we better prepare for that fight two years down the road as the climate crisis further intensifies?
In the meantime, here’s to continued activism!
As the great progressive Howard Zinn wrote, “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.” SOURCE