Canadian Groups Fight for Covid-19 Recovery That Prioritizes Human and Ecological Health
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."
The choices we make now about how to recover from this pandemic will shape not only our health and economic future, but also the future of human life on this planet," Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff said in a statement.
BREAKING: Almost 200 organizations from across the country are demanding the government put people first with a Jus… https://t.co/ski8lyiXF9— Leadnow (@Leadnow)1590408945.0
"This moment is a reminder that the status quo can and must be disrupted," the new Just Recovery for All website declares. "We are standing on the threshold between the old world and the next and we must choose to build the future we want."
A just recovery—which would enable the government and civil society to "build back better"—rests in six key principles:
- Put people's health and well-being first, no exceptions. Health is a human right and is interdependent with the health and well-being of ecological systems.
- Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people. Focus relief efforts on people—particularly those who are structurally oppressed by existing systems.
- Prioritize the needs of workers and communities. Support must be distributed in a manner consistent with Indigenous sovereignty, a climate resilient economy, and worker rights, including safe and fair labor standards and a right to unionize. Improved conditions for essential service workers must be maintained beyond this crisis.
- Build resilience to prevent future crises. We cannot recover from the current crisis by entrenching systems that will cause the next crisis.
- Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations, and borders. In a globalized world, what happens to one of us matters to all of us.
- Uphold Indigenous rights and work in partnership with Indigenous peoples. A Just Recovery must uphold Indigenous Rights and include the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples, in line with the standard of free, prior, and informed consent.
The principles were endorsed by progressive groups focused on a broad range of issues including 350.org, the Canadian Federation of Students, Oxfam Canada, and The Leap.
"The huge collaborative effort that brought these principles to life over many weeks of rich, challenging discussions exemplifies the kind of action we expect of political leaders as we move through this crisis," Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada said in a statement.
"It's going to take a massive and diverse community of voices to encourage governments to be bold in the face of corporate lobbies, and to put people and communities first," she said.
"Our goal was to capture the immense amount of care work happening throughout Canadian civil society right now and present a vision of a Just Recovery that leaves no one behind," Abreu explained. "We know this is a vision the majority of Canadians support, and millions of people are ready to take action."
As for the inevitable question—How are you going to pay for it?—the groups say the money is already there. It's just a question of changing who's on the receiving end. From the new site:
The government currently gives billions of dollars in handouts to industries that harm our environment and communities, including the oil and gas industry. Canada also loses billions of dollars to offshore tax havens every year.
Right now, the government is working on a plan to rebuild our economy. It is likely that they will unveil a stimulus package, but it's on all of us to ensure that money goes directly to workers and communities, not corporations. By bailing out people, not big businesses, and closing tax loopholes, we can start to build a sustainable and just future for all.
Dr. Courtney Howard of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says it's clear from what she's witnessed amid the global pandemic that people are willing to use moments of crisis as turning points for positive change.
"To feel safe," she said, "we need to manage two planetary health emergencies at once—Covid-19 and its economic fallout, and climate change."
"We've shown that when pressed, we prioritize health. We take care of one another," said Howard.
"We have a generational opportunity to use this time of crisis and reflection to bring to life a vision of planetary health for all," she continued. "We've stayed home to save lives. By working together on a just and healthy recovery, we'll save more."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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