Naomi Klein: Electing Trudeau Isn't Enough, We Need 'Relentless Pressure From Below'
Our inboxes runneth over with congratulations from American friends. “Pleasure to be able to look north without wincing,” “we’re all thrilled to have regained our sensible neighbors to the north,” “Goodbye Stephen ‘Keystone XL’ Harper.” And then there was this from England: “you now officially have the hottest Prime Minister EVER!”
Canada's newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "We remember what happened," write the authors, "when progressives de-mobilized after Obama was elected and we won’t make the same mistake." Photo credit: Canada 2020 / Flickr
Like us, our friends tend to spend a lot of time thinking about climate change, so you can understand their euphoria. Among other crimes, Stephen Harper shredded environmental protections, re-fashioned our country as a petro-state and made us climate criminals on the world stage. Now after the ugliest decade in recent Canadian memory, he is gone at last.
So why are we not breathing more easily?
Perhaps it’s because of a few things we learned about our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, during the election—details that didn’t exactly make national news south of the border.
Trudeau consistently lambasted Harper for failing to sell the Obama Administration on Keystone XL. His campaign co-chair was caught advising oil industry execs on how to win quick approval from the new government for the biggest proposed tar sands pipeline in Canada. And Trudeau himself waved off questions about specific emissions cuts by saying, “what we need is not ambitious political targets.”
Granted, there are also some potentially positive signs from our new PM: his promise to run deficits for three years as he spends billions on infrastructure could, if executed with real imagination and integrity, start Canada on the road to a post-carbon economy. And under Trudeau, Canada is less likely to be a belligerent, obstructionist force at COP 21, the UN climate talks in Paris next month.
But that just puts Trudeau in the same camp as most heads of state heading to Paris—and it hardly deserves to be described “leadership.” The fact is that politicians, because of their need for approval (both personal and political) consistently cling to the fantasy of an “all of the above” energy policy, which essentially means saying yes to more renewables, but refusing to say a clear “no” to opening up new fossil fuel frontiers.
So while Barack Obama makes climate his great legacy, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal plant emissions and fuel efficiency standards, he continues to authorize a historic gush of domestic gas and oil production. Angela Merkel presides over an impressive energy transition towards renewables, but has done little to curtail coal. Even California Gov. Jerry Brown, despite recently signing one of the world’s strongest clean energy targets into law, can’t bring himself to say no to fracking—even in the middle of a devastating drought. None of this will get our emissions down quickly enough to avert further climate disaster.
But that does not mean that the world is without visionary climate leadership—on the contrary. In the five years it took to make our documentary, This Changes Everything, we met with and learned from scores of climate leaders, people willing to say “no” to dirty infrastructure no matter what economic enticements were on offer, while actively building the post-carbon future right now. We found these figures not in houses of government, but embedded in communities that are on the front-lines of both fossil fuel extraction and climate impacts. And what they showed us has filled us with hope.
#ThisChangesEverything re-imagines the vast challenge of climate change. See it online: https://t.co/COeVfb1jjn https://t.co/61KXWmioDT— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1445630525.0
In the U.S., thanks to powerful new coalitions of indigenous, rancher and urban communities from the Powder River Basin to the Pacific Northwest, a vast new export network of coal mines, railroads and export terminals has been stalled for years.
Thanks to a parallel movement north of the border, led by First Nations from Alberta’s tar sands region to the British Columbia coast, not a single new major pipeline has broken ground. And in a number of those indigenous communities, solar projects are sprouting like sunflowers.
Thanks to the fossil fuel divestment movement, institutions representing $2.6 trillion in capital have pledged to pull out of fossil fuels, and the global investment community is inexorably moving towards renewables.
And thanks to courageous anti-coal movements in India and surging protests against pollution in China, those governments are being pushed to embrace stronger climate policies—and consequently, our narrative about these major developing economies is changing. It’s clear in the Global North, we can no longer use China and India as an excuse to let ourselves off the hook.
But these victories are not enough. People power can stop big, dirty projects and start small, clean ones. But for a true transition—on the scale and with the urgency that climate science demands—we need policies. Big, bold, ambitious policies that can transform our economies on a deadline. And we need them at every level of government, from municipal to national to international.
To get there, throwing out fossil fuel-addicted governments won’t be enough. Even electing progressive leaders won’t be enough. It will take a combination of electoral change and pressure (as well as vision) from below to disperse the smog of Big Carbon’s influence that shrouds our political systems.
And that means we need policies that will galvanize huge numbers of people—people who see direct benefits in advocating such transformative change. That’s the only way we will build the massive constituencies necessary to exert sufficient pressure on governments.
All of this is why, in anticipation of our recent change in government, we helped launch The Leap Manifesto in Canada. Written and endorsed by a broad spectrum of social movements—from First Nations and green groups, migrant rights and anti-poverty campaigners, big labor and small business—the Leap Manifesto is a set of policy demands that could get us off fossil fuels and shift us to an economy based on caring for the earth and each other. It’s a vision of our country that we think has mass appeal.
It calls for massive new public investments in low-carbon housing and transit, no new fossil fuel infrastructure, a shift to 100 percent renewable energy for electricity in two decades (which dozens of Canadian experts have said is entirely doable) and a totally clean economy by 2050.
In demanding that we respond to the climate crisis in a way that benefits the majority, the Leap Manifesto re-defines the whole concept of green jobs. They’re not just guys with hardhats putting up wind turbines: they’re the backbone of the entire existing low-carbon economy. Health care, education, daycare, long-term care, the arts and public interest media are all low-carbon activities that need to be re-funded and revived after decades of neglect and endless cuts.
Most importantly, the Leap Manifesto calls for justice in the way we transition off fossil fuels. In other words, the communities who had the worst deal in the extractive, polluting economy should be first in line for the clean jobs and renewed social support of the next, clean economy. That means implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and respecting treaty rights. That means welcoming many more migrants and refugees to our privileged shores, acknowledging Canada’s role in the wars, trade deals and climate crisis that are collectively driving people from their lands around the world. It means a coherent policy approach that addresses multiple crises at the same time.
Granted, this is not the kind of platform that emerges from the narrow box of what mainstream politicians consider pragmatic. And that’s a good thing, because we don’t need more tweaks to a broken status quo. We need to expand what is possible, stretch our political imagination, speak to the deepest aspirations of citizens, and offer a truly inspiring vision of the kind of countries we want to live in.
And it seems that many others agree. We were stunned by the outpouring of support when the manifesto was launched. Almost thirty thousand signatures and a star-studded initial signatories list, including Canadian celebrities (people—it’s not an oxymoron!) from Leonard Cohen and Neil Young to Ellen Page and Donald Sutherland. People started asking us for Leap lawn signs. Most satisfyingly, right wing pundits went crazy. Former media baron Conrad Black wrote three columns about our modest proposal, which was also excoriated in editorials in our national newspapers—both of which went on to endorse Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, proving just how out-of-step the establishment is with the public at large.
And that was really the point. The manifesto has highlighted the inspiration gap between what is on offer in elections and the deep change so many of us know is required in the face of multiple overlapping crises. It was a clear rejection of the shortcomings of a system that encourages us to wake up, vote and go back to sleep. To wait for saviors.
So by all means, admire our new Prime Minister in his shirtless, boxing-gloved glory. We are grateful to be rid of the most destructive government in modern memory. And we will not be churlish—we’ll endeavor to enjoy our Obama Lite moment.
But we are also determined to learn from your experience. We remember what happened when progressives de-mobilized after Obama was elected and we won’t make the same mistake. Instead, a huge and growing movement of Canadians is determined to give our young prime minister the best gift any new government can receive: relentless pressure from below.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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