Archive for October, 2019

Climate strike students praised by EU President

“I am glad to see that young people are taking to the streets in Europe to raise visibility of the issue of climate change. Their movement has spread to many cities and can bring about change. Our goal is to allocate a quarter of our budget to climate change mitigation.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

What do the following organizations have in common? 

Earth Strike, Fridays For Future, Global Climate Strike, 350.org, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, The Climate Mobilization…

They are all asking us to join or support the global school and general climate strikes on Friday, September 20 and Friday, September 27. (On September 27, 1962 Rachel Carson’s powerfully illuminating book Silent Spring, detailing the destruction of the natural world by human activity, was published.) 

Global Climate Strike says: “This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.”

In the European Union, the equivalent of US$250 billion will be spent on climate change mitigation each year for seven years, starting in 2021, but Greta Thunberg, the youth activist and school climate striker, who was speaking to the President of the European Commission last February, said that there is more to do and that we cannot wait. Act now, she demands. We must drastically cut Europe’s emissions. Otherwise we will not be able to keep the warming of the globe under 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, she explained. She went on to say, “There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge.” Meanwhile, more than 12,000 students marched in Brussels.

The science certainly agrees with Thunberg, but why then has Canada been such a climate action lagger? Why have adults in Canada been so reluctant to embrace the climate science? Many activists will say that we’re so enmeshed in the consumer-capitalist system that we do not know how to extricate ourselves from a ruinous pathway. The thought of a degrowth, ecologically based way of life is anathema to the vast majority of Canadians. Canada’s fossil fuel consumption continues to grow more rapidly than our politicians would have us believe, while the EU and Russia have significantly lowered their use. In 2016, individual Canadians used more than five times the global average of energy, 29% higher than the average American.

These energy facts are contained in Canada’s Energy Outlook, a recent report by J. David Hughes, one of Canada’s foremost energy experts: energyoutlook.ca

For an excellent, accessible critique of Hughes’ report, see award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s article ‘Nine Uncomfortable Canadian Energy Facts’: tinyurl.com/9-uncomfortable-energy-facts

While adults flounder and procrastinate, young people are demanding that governments tell the truth about the climate emergency. Around the world, students of all ages are responding in their millions to confront the apathy and half-measures implemented by governments. 

In the Sherbrooke area, plans are under way in the universities to strike for the climate.

And it is not only students who will be taking part. Adults will be supporting the young people and organizing their own work strikes, many with the recognition of their employers that we must all take a stand against climate and ecological chaos. According to the international environmental organization 350.org, “parents, academics, bakers, trade unions, doctors, farmers, caretakers, celebrities, and teachers” in over 6,000 cities in 169 countries have pledged to organise climate strikes this month.

Climate rebel dispatches from around the world

From Sherbrooke to Sydney, Rio to Delhi, climate protesters are demanding that governments act now to save us from extinction.

Here in Sherbrooke Extinction Rebellion launched its first action on October 12 and La Tribune and CBC covered the event. See tinyurl.com/xr-action-sherbrooke

We wanted The Record to be able to report on what is happening in Sherbrooke. I took part in the Extinction Rebellion ‘slow swarm’ that gathered at Jacques-Cartier Park. What is a slow swarm? It is a way of getting people to take notice without disrupting the movement of the public too much. On October 12, 50 people took their climate placards and walked to the traffic lights at the intersection of Boulevard Jacques-Cartier and Rue King Ouest. Each time the pedestrian light turned to green, a group would cross to the middle of the road and stand facing the cars to show their placards. When the light changed to green for the cars, the group would wait on the sidewalk and hold their signs up for the people in the passing cars to see. A huge proportion of drivers honked their horns in approval. This went on for over an hour. Some of the protesters were nervous to begin with, but they were soon delighted with the response. Many of the students had not participated in a demonstration before, and they were clearly empowered by their first action. Before the ‘slow swarm’ there was a palpable sense of purpose, particularly amongst the under-35s, a group that will feel the effects of climate breakdown most acutely.

Meanwhile, around the world Extinction Rebellion (XR) had a strong and at times very moving presence in many cities and towns. See rebellion.earth/act-now/events/news/ for images and reports.

The decision this week by the police to impose a London-wide ban on XR actions was highly criticized by Amnesty International, lawyers and politicians. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “I believe the right to peaceful and lawful protest must always be upheld.” In response to the ban, XR continued to hold non-violent civil disobedience actions while their lawyers went to court to oppose the decision. The ban brings up an ethically important question: what are the responsibilities of democratic governments to permit lawful and non-violent protest? The British Tory government claimed that protesters are not justified in continuing to occupy streets or monuments. “While we share people’s concerns about global warming, and respect the right to peaceful protest, it should not disrupt people’s day-to-day lives,” a spokesperson announced, but XR say that their actions are justified because of the urgency of the situation, and point out: “We have proven to the world that this rebellion is a truly global movement, growing rapidly within and between nations, and comprised of people with the selflessness, the creativity and the courage to resist the madness of this ecocidal system.” 

It is the business-as-usual ‘everydayness’ of the perceived right of banks, governments and financial corporations to finance by loans or subsidies the well-oiled machinery of accelerated climate chaos that XR demands citizens disrupt. Thus it is significant that XR decided to stage a protest in front of the Bank of England, even though the bank’s governor, Mark Carney, seemed to be agreeing with them by firmly warning that every corporation must take seriously the need to respond to a net zero emissions goal or else disenchanted investors could make them go bankrupt. This warning comes as it has been revealed that only a fifth of the world’s largest companies will meet the Paris climate agreement goal of a 1.5 Celsius limit in temperature increase by 2050. To XR, this target spells catastrophe. Why Extinction Rebellion has been out in force around the world is precisely to demand that the 2050 target be moved forward to 2025. ‘Day-to-day lives’ can’t wait for 2050 climate actions.

Back in Canada, with a federal election looming, a net zero carbon pathway plan has gained much traction as a valid campaign topic. For these politicians Extinction Rebellion has brought to the forefront what the perils are of failing to address the life/death issue of climate for humans and wildlife alike. 

For further information about Extinction Rebellion, please see rebellion.earth/the-truth/