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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From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
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Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
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4. Dr. Warren Washington<p>A meteorology and climate pioneer, Dr. Washington was one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change. These models now also incorporate the oceans and sea ice, surface water and vegetation. In 2007, the <a href="https://www.cgd.ucar.edu/pcm/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Parallel Climate Model (PCM)</a> and <a href="https://www.cesm.ucar.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Community Earth System Model (CESM)</a>, earned Dr. Washington and his colleagues the <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2007/summary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Peace Prize</a>, as part of the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a>.</p>
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5. Angelou Ezeilo<p>Huge trees and hikes to pick berries during her childhood in upstate New York inspired Ezeilo to become an environmentalist and set up the <a href="https://gyfoundation.org/staff/Angelou-Ezeilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greening Youth Foundation</a>, to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. Through its schools program and Youth Conservation Corps, the social enterprise provides access to nature to disadvantaged children and young people in the U.S. and West Africa. In 2019, Ezeilo published her book <em>Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders</em>, co-written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Nick Chiles.</p>
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