When I heard about the student protests in Montreal, I swallowed the line that Quebec’s pampered youth pay lower fees than those in other parts of Canada but aren’t aware that education costs money. And then I went to Quebec. There, I heard a different story.
After weeks of demonstrations, clearly something more profound is going on. The protesters are forcing us to confront a crucial question: What is government for? Governing is about priorities. Students can’t help but notice they aren’t high on the list.
Governments all across Canada have no qualms about investing vast amounts of money to exploit “natural resources,” yet they all but ignore the most precious, our children. Young people will take charge long after current leaders are gone, and they’ll also be stuck with the ecological, social and economic costs of the decisions we make today.
The increasing challenge of getting a postsecondary education isn’t the only issue motivating people to take to the streets of Montreal. On April 22, Earth Day, 300,000 went outside to celebrate nature. On May 22, tens of thousands spontaneously mobilized to oppose the draconian measures enacted to stop the student protests.
The Montreal protesters are drawing attention to a growing trend: governments often skew decisions in favor of short-term priorities, often for industrial interests. To promote those priorities, government, industry and their supporters try to stifle discussion around the real issues and demonize those who press for change or question the status quo. So, because Al Gore lives in a big house (even though he’s worked at being “carbon-neutral”), he’s labelled a hypocrite, leading anti-environmentalists to make the illogical leap that we should therefore ignore or deny the science of climate change.
This advancement of logical fallacy reached new lows with a blunder by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. climate change denying organization. The Institute launched a billboard campaign implying that because the Unabomber, Fidel Castro and Charles Manson believe in climate change, those who agree with the scientific evidence for global warming must also be tyrants, madmen and murderers. One could as easily, and as wrongly, conclude the opposite on the basis that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway on July 22, is a climate change denier who referenced Heartland Institute “experts” in his manifesto!
Heartland aborted its campaign because of massive public outrage and because funders and supporters tried to distance themselves from the organization. But the episode was another demonstration of attempts to deflect rational discussion of important issues such as global warming. And, if even tyrants, madmen and murderers get it, why don’t our politicians?
The Occupy movement also questions priorities, especially those regarding the pro-corporate agendas of many governments. Corporations are not people but they have similar rights and generate vast amounts of money to invest in budding politicians and lobby groups that help sidetrack important discussions.
This sidetracking tactic also pops up with the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, especially when it comes to First Nations’ concerns. Many coastal and northern communities are desperate for jobs and economic development. Enbridge is offering incentives, including employment, yet coastal First Nations realize that some things are more important than money. Why aren’t we all getting that?
We’re constantly bombarded with the message that jobs and economic growth are government’s highest priority, but the coastal First Nations, Occupy protesters, and Montreal students, among others, tell us the economy and growth are not the end but the means to a better society. A society that values its young people balances industrial and economic development in ways that don’t compromise their future, and makes higher education accessible to all.
Many of us have watched with interest the remarkable “Arab Spring” movement. Although protests and demonstrations here may be about “first world” problems as opposed to the more serious struggle for basic democratic rights in the Middle East, they remind us that we can’t be complacent.
As Canada’s government axes programs and organizations that inform us about the environment and climate change, guts environmental protection measures, and shovels money to promote fossil fuel interests while wilfully ignoring urgent calls from scientists, students, First Nations and tens of thousands of citizens, it’s up to all of us to listen and join the conversation.
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Jode Roberts.
Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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