World Environment Day on June 5 points us towards Copenhagen in December

“The Campaign against climate change is an odd one. Unlike almost all the public protests which have preceded it, it is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less.  Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but also against ourselves.” George Monbiot,”Heat; How to stop the planet from burning”

The United Nations is framing World Environment Day on June 5 as a day of action by saying, “Your Planet needs you: Unite to Combat Climate Change”. The host for this year’s Billion Tree Campaign is Mexico who promises to plant a quarter of these trees. This is also part of a campaign to highlight the urgency to act now and make the December climate negotiations in Copenhagen succeed in bringing about a post-Kyoto deal on drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

On May 30, Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon from University of Waterloo gave an impassioned talk in Collingwood on climate change. The two-hour talk and discussion started off with a picture of his young children.  He believes that in the next twenty years his children will question him as to his role in stopping the collapse of the natural world and civilization. The talk was an exploration of how we can make our societies more resilient through renewable energy, changing our values and our willingness to fully embrace a conservation ethic.  He backed up his cogent arguments with the latest scientific evidence that unequivocally flags the need to act aggressively to combat climate change. Thomas also says that we must find the courage to demand creative alternatives to the business-as-usual, rigid growth models that can’t continue without the destruction of a benign climate.  “A value system that makes endless growth the primary source of our social stability and spiritual well-being will destroy us…Alternative values might… promote broader, fairer and more vigorous democracy”, he says in “Upside of Down” and in his lecture. Alternative values that celebrate Earth as opposed to conquering it, could support a steady state economy.

Professor Homer-Dixon speaks of a power shift happening around the world that can bring huge suffering to humanity. There are two billion people who don’t make $2 a day and it is an explosive situation. “Dislocated lives, worsened poverty, and wider income gaps affect the motivation to participate in violence by providing fodder for extremist leaders.” Climate change will exacerbate the deep divide between groups and the disparity between rich and poor will widen. A ‘power shift’ will mean that there is a greater possibility for terrorism.

Fortunately, there is another ‘power shift’ that is gaining ground; youth are leading the way. Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (See www.ourclimate.ca) will be having a three day (October 21-23) forum. They have decided to reach out towards the international Power Shift (See www.powershift2009.org) movement in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. All levels of Canadian government are asked to cut carbon dramatically and immediately, invest in a green economy, power our future with clean energy and not dirty fuels, and lead the world to a clean and equitable energy future. Their inaugural conference call last week brought together 40 people from across Canada, and it became abundantly clear that these bright and articulate youth can put together the workshops and strategy sessions culminating in a huge ‘lobby’ day on October 23.  “We will deliver our message of change to our elected officials and push the federal government to take bold steps in tackling climate change.”  Youth are embarrassed at seeing the Canadian government declared a “laggard” in not implementing, and in many cases blocking, international climate initiatives.

World Environment Day is a sign post that directs us towards taking our planetary responsibilities seriously. It is one of many vital clarion calls to action. Please visit Ottawa this October 21-23 and unite with young people in their fervent wish for a safe future. They deserve your full commitment.

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