Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!
Recent Comments
    Visit Us on Facebook

    An interview with several world youth who protect biodiversity

    “You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!”

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    As the time approaches for the critically important UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) summit (COP15) in Montreal this December, I have had the fortunate opportunity to speak with youth leaders from around the world, some of whom will be attending the summit. I met Jonas Kittelsen on a Zoom conference call in September. As members of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), he and other young Norwegian activists have a working relationship with the CBD, which strongly advocates the inclusion of young people in decision-making. Jonas and his fellow global activists Shruthi, Swetha and Sudha are knowledgeable and passionate about protecting Nature, and I was honoured to discuss with them their thoughts and actions to protect Earth’s biodiversity, of which humans are a part.

    The GYBN website makes it very clear that there is a global biodiversity emergency. The organisation is asking all young people to rally for biodiversity. Has Norway’s biodiversity youth network succeeded in rallying its peer group?

    Jonas: Unfortunately, there is no specifically Norwegian biodiversity network, but we have a Nordic youth biodiversity network, which aims to bring young voices to the forefront at UN negotiations for Nature. Our Nordic Youth Biodiversity Paper carries the voices of several thousand Nordic young people, who have articulated what they think politicians must do, and we will use this to push policymakers to take responsibility for this acute emergency. However, I wish more young people rallied for biodiversity, as the crisis is existential, and there are still very few of us working with these issues firsthand.

    Why did you feel compelled to join GYBN? Are you a member of other climate/biodiversity groups? What is unique about GYBN?

    Shruthi: GYBN is the first climate/biodiversity group I joined. The reason I wanted to join was the capacity building that they did around the CBD, which was my source of understanding this complex process, something I always wanted to do. The capacity-building training was my introduction to GYBN and the community. GYBN is unique in that they don’t just organise campaigns and awareness marches. They really make the effort to involve young people’s opinions and voices in discussions about policy and to get up to speed regarding these important negotiations. They are involved in a wide range of activities that engage artists, young people, decision makers, governments and international bodies. The fact that they have 40+ national chapters and several subnational ones speaks of the reach of the GYBN community.

    The global youth climate/biodiversity movement has gained much-needed momentum. However, the term “youth-washing,” whereby a corporation, government or the UN uses its seemingly engaging relationship with young people to foster its own agenda, is of concern for groups such as yours. For example, Egypt’s repressive regime, which is hosting November’s Climate summit (COP27), is going to have a Children and Youth Pavilion there. Greta Thunberg has said, “The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.” Does your connection with the summit feel like a public relations stunt on Egypt’s part? Tell us about your relationship with it. How does it support your efforts?
    Swetha: With any initiative, it is always important to ask what the overall objective is and how it is being achieved. Take your example of the youth pavilion at COP27. If this initiative is youth-led, if it brings grassroots and marginalized young voices to the forefront, and if it is done in a way that can highlight their voices, concerns and demands, then it can be a very powerful space. We have a very good collaborative relationship with the Secretariat of the CBD. This helps young people in the biodiversity community create youth-led spaces that are used to mobilize intergenerational partnerships with various stakeholders.

    Many times younger people are pushed aside when consultations are held and policies are made in regional and national governments. How can this change? What can older people do to support your group?

    Sudha: This is exactly what GYBN is actively advocating for and trying to change. We have had success in this sphere, with the CBD recognising us as an official youth group, but a lot still remains to be done. Active youth engagement in policy and decision-making is critical because young people and future generations are going to live in a world that is rapidly changing, with ecological and climate crises looming right over our heads. The change can only happen when older generations realize that the dynamism and knowledge young people have is important and create a space for dialogue between the two groups, because each group has a lot to learn from the other. What the older people can definitely do is consciously and actively encourage young people to voice their opinions, and give them a seat at the table where important decisions affecting their lives are made. Dismissing the opinions of young people due to a perceived lack of experience is another major factor at play, which needs to change because a lot of young people are involved in several grassroots and international initiatives and therefore have a lot to bring to a discussion. An open, respectful dialogue, and inclusion and recognition in all decision-making spaces (from regional to national and international) that is not tokenistic is the best way to support youth groups.

    I have noticed for years that more than twice as many young women as young men are participating in biodiversity and climate groups. I have observed this in university classrooms, on protests, and even in photos on the GYBN website. Why might this be happening?

    Swetha: Yes, this is a very interesting trend when you look at it globally. My personal observation as someone coming from Asia is that this has a lot to do with job opportunities. Young men in many cultures need to get a well-paying job, which may not always be possible for a climate change activist. However, this trend is not the same in all regions. For example, in Africa the biodiversity movement offers many men jobs in wildlife conservation and eco-tourism, with well-paid salaries.

    Will Norwegian youth activists be coming to Montreal in December to take part in the UN summit? If so, what do you hope to achieve?

    Jonas: As far as I know, it will only be me and Norway’s youth delegate in Montreal. The goal is obviously to get the best Global Biodiversity Framework possible, and our task as young activists is to hold governments responsible and accountable for the massive gap between scientific consensus and politics. We are there to scream in the halls and fiercely demand a just future behind closed doors. A just future entails a rights-based approach taking equity and intergenerational justice as premises, with proper funding mechanisms to enable marginalized countries to uphold their biodiversity targets.
    Climate/biodiversity justice and social justice are intertwined issues. Do you believe that governments are up to the task of strengthening and upholding basic rights? Is there another path?
    Jonas: No, not really. I have no trust that governments will uphold our basic human rights and give us a safe, liveable future. They always disappoint us, and I can’t see that changing after following the negotiations rounds prior to this meeting. If you look at your policies, you will see that richer countries consistently prioritize their own national interest over planetary and human wellbeing. Where is the climate and biodiversity finance for marginalized countries? Nowhere. That doesn’t mean we should give up. Every species matters, every degree of temperature matters. This is felt bodily. Traumas will rise exponentially without an emergency plan, so we must fight with everything we can to avoid the worst consequences of irreversible tipping points in our natural systems.

    Biodiversity loss will impact your generation massively unless there are immediate agreements to push back against the destructive tide we are witnessing daily. A never-ending series of scientific reports are shouting out to us to act for Nature. What strategies are you prepared to use?
    Jonas: We are staring apocalypse in the eyes when 70% of wildlife is lost in just 50 years. Ecosystems rely on animals. We – and our economy – rely on ecosystems. Urgent times require urgent measures. I’m willing to use all non-violent strategies that bring urgency and visibility, but I would need to connect more with local movements like Extinction Rebellion Canada and MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas) networks to understand how best I can contribute. I will join marches outside and organize frequent actions inside the venue to bring the needed urgency – potentially with disrupting elements – but how actions are designed must take into consideration how negotiations develop and what strategies GYBN and other affected communities want to pursue.

    Global surveys have shown that young people are overwhelmingly distraught about what is unfolding for our planet’s ecological wellbeing. What keeps you going?
    Jonas: I don’t feel I have much choice. The moment you realize the gravity of our crisis, there is no turning back. I have accepted that my life will become progressively worse over time, but I’m not seeing my planet deteriorate without a proper fight. There is enormous power in people power. We just need to realize what we are capable of, and then social tipping points and new political landscapes will arise. History has showed us that movements can win justice. That is what keeps me going.

    Overconsumption is a main source of biodiversity destruction and it is mostly happening in the global north, where the carbon footprint of people is huge. How can we turn this around? Would having fewer children help to reduce this impact?
    Jonas: We must stop overconsumption, especially among the 1% wealthiest. They are responsible for most of the emissions and the degradation of Nature. I’m convinced we must build new systems designed for protecting the integrity of ecosystems through rights-based approaches dignifying human and animal life, instead of profit-maximizing systems designed to degrade Nature. Our focus should lie there, not on birth rates.

    Please view tinyurl.com/GYBN-interview to have an even better understanding of what committed youth are doing and what is at stake at the Montreal biodiversity summit.

    We are in the fight of our lives

    “The clock is ticking,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told participants. “We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible…It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact or a Collective Suicide Pact.” He added: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

    The 27th UN conference on climate change, known as COP27, is currently taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. There are topics that cannot be thrown down the to-do list for next year. The delegates know that they must follow through on lowering fossil fuel pollution. Period.

    Last year’s summit in Glasgow, Scotland made it clear that if world temperatures are to stay below 2 degrees Celsius – or better, much better, 1.5 degrees Celsius – implementation of the aspirational goals set there must translate into signed and sealed legal agreements. Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a UN climate adviser, says: “Putting off to tomorrow that which needs to be done today has come back to bite us… Decades of under-investment in infrastructure, of too-slow progress on protecting Nature, faltering responses to rising inequality, undervaluing energy efficiency. Now we find ourselves scrambling to swing away from fossil fuels, ramp up renewables, respond to famine and food price shocks, and with inflation on the rise and growth stalling, and very little of the policy frameworks we need to make the transitions move smoothly at speed. 2021 was about ambition – 2022 is about following through.”

    If there were ever a summer to prove that speedily implemented decisions to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and the subsidies given to oil and gas, 2022’s months of drought, floods and forest fires surely would convince anyone. Demands from non-G7 nations to finally receive for climate adaptation the billions of dollars promised by those wealthy industrial countries that almost single-handedly caused the climate crisis will feature prominently at COP27. But the hypocrisy of countries like the US and Canada that subsidise or promote new fossil fuel projects while not doing nearly enough to accelerate the production of renewable sources of energy fuel projects will also be highlighted.

    With the spotlight now on Africa, as COP27 is taking place there, transitioning away from oil and in particular ending new fossil fuel projects will be a key barometer of this year’s conference. But are countries like the US really interested? Please see tinyurl.com/US-Africa-fossil-fuels

    Two other focal points will be aimed at having debt as well as loss and damage to developing countries examined. Massive debts that have grown in these countries must be rescinded, since those debilitating debts to rich countries stop them from initiating climate adaptation, including building infrastructure that can withstand the new reality of climate breakdown such as the devastation caused by flooding in Pakistan. Take a look at this summer’s catastrophes through this video: tinyurl.com/climate-carnage-2022

    In what is thought of as a slap in the face to social justice groups, the Egyptian dictatorship decided to arrest hundreds more people days before the convention. There are many people who are so upset that the global conference will take place in a police state that they are boycotting it. Many activists, including Greta Thunberg, will not show up, with Thunberg citing UN meetings’ propensity to “encourage gradual progress,” which is not plausible now with the accelerating climate emergency.

    King Charles, another long-avowed climate advocate, will not be going to the UN conference on the advice of Rishi Sunak, the new prime minister of the UK, perhaps because Sunak didn’t wish to be outshone by the king’s climate credentials. Billionaire Sunak, who initially said he would not be going because he had more pressing domestic matters to deal with, changed his mind after receiving massive condemnation for his statement.

    Justin Trudeau won’t be going to Egypt either. Green MP Elizabeth May had this to say about his absence: “No one will miss more self-congratulatory platitudes from Canada, but we’ll all lament the lack of leadership. It is only critical for Justin Trudeau to attend if he is part of the solution… He could come to COP27 to set a new standard for climate leadership — cancelling the TMX pipeline, reversing the Bay du Nord decision, cancelling all fossil fuel subsidies while expanding forest protections.”

    Canada will instead be represented by environment minister Steven Guilbeault, joined by Catherine Stewart, the country’s climate change ambassador, and Steven Kuhn, the federal government’s chief negotiator for climate change.
    As Naomi Klein has pointed out, this world climate change summit is more than just greenwashing a polluting state: it’s greenwashing a police state. The entire conference’s integrity is being called into question. Nobel laureates and US congress members have signed letters demanding the release of political prisoners, including Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who is on hunger strike in prison, but recently the state of terror has intensified to the extent that people are being taken off the streets and even Indigenous people of Sinai have been displaced because of the extreme paranoia of the totalitarian regime of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
    It has long been recognized that political, social and climate/biodiversity injustices hamper or stop any real progress towards climate/biodiversity protection. The Egyptian human rights crisis will clearly continue to be an impediment to the overall success of this year’s summit, which is in itself another crime perpetrated upon Egyptian society.

    The next seven weeks will be filled with apprehension. Not only is the outcome of the climate negotiations of vital importance, but also, starting on December 3, the Montreal Convention on Biological Diversity will bring the world’s nations together to try to finalize a framework for halting biodiversity loss. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said: “What’s at stake are the fundamentals of human existence. Biodiverse, well-balanced ecosystems provide climate moderation, fertile soil and foods, clean water, modern drugs, and the foundation of our economies… Nearly half of humanity depends directly on natural resources for livelihoods and, in many cases, their daily subsistence needs.”

    It’s crucial to be knowledgeable about these crises. Failing to educate ourselves on these vital planetary issues will not help our children’s future, and nor will ignorance contribute to democracy. The word of the year chosen by Collins English Dictionary is “permacrisis,” which is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.” Certainly climate/biodiversity breakdown is playing a part here.

    However, doom and gloom are not conducive to getting people to act. Future articles will explore ways in which individuals can contribute to a safer and more just alternative.

    A summer of climate upheaval propels the world to autumn action

    “The populous and the powerful was a lump, 

    Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless— 

    A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay. 

    The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still, 

    And nothing stirred within their silent depths…”

    – from ”Darkness” by Lord Byron

    The English poet Lord Byron wrote the poem “Darkness” in 1816 to describe the horrors of not having sunlight and adequate atmospheric heat to grow crops after the eruption of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia the previous spring. The year 1816 is known as the “the year without a summer” because the dust in the sky blotted out the sun and caused temperatures to plummet. There was widespread famine in eastern Canada as a result of crop failure, as elsewhere in the world. 

    Clearly a stable climate matters if life is to flourish, and although 2022 has had quite a different sort of summer than 1816, its own set of catastrophic events rival what happened across the world in 1816. Unlike the natural event brought on with the eruption of Mount Tambora, our global woes are intrinsically linked to the fossil-fuel-addicted industrial countries, whose governments refuse to rein in oil and gas profits and stand up for young people’s right to a future. (Just twenty of the biggest oil and gas producers are projected to spend $932 billion by the end of 2030 on developing new oil and gas fields if they have their way.)

    Remember that global temperature is now 1.2°C higher than it was in 1816. This summer’s multi-disasters have brought into stark relief what chaos awaits us if we disregard broadly accepted scientific reports predicting what confronts us with an increase of 2–3°C. Exceeding even 1.5°C of global heating could trigger multiple climate tipping points, warns Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Climate tipping points such as sudden enormous water releases from Greenland’s ice sheet would engender a global emergency and are openly researched and debated. Many scientists believe that a 1.8°C rise is the most optimistic chance we have.

    After this summer, when 1.2°C has caused such mayhem, what global hell awaits the living at 1.8°C? If this summer hasn’t made abundantly obvious and with added urgency the imperative for industrialized countries to shut down the oil and gas schemes for energy reliance, civil disobedience will scream its way to the halls of power.

    We do this to ourselves. The poet John Donne, born in 1572, expresses this self-afflicting tendency of humans well: ”Nothing but man of all envenom’d things doth work upon itselfe, with inborne stings.” 

    What started with drought has moved to unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, putting a third of the country under water and displacing 32 million people. Two-thirds of Europe is suffering drought, and major rivers are becoming unnavigable for commercial craft. France relies on its rivers to cool its nuclear reactors, which produce most of its electricity, but those rivers are experiencing drastically diminished water flow. China’s summer of unprecedented heat waves has caused rivers there to not produce electricity causing a consequent upsurge of coal power production to take up the slack in electricity, which in turn accelerated climate emissions that causes more heat waves in the future. As well, the autumn harvest is threatened by the summer’s drought.

    Extreme drought also continues in America’s southwest, and its huge dams are losing the capacity to produce electricity as well as supply water for agriculture and cities, because of historically low reservoir levels. The integrity of Great Salt Lake in Utah is collapsing, and the Rio Grande along the Mexican/US border can no longer be expected to supply enough water for agriculture and cities.

    After years of wildfires it is not only forests and houses on the Pacific coast that are being impacted. It was recently documented that the Pacific Crest Trail, which follows the American Pacific and runs for 4,270 kilometres, is becoming impossible to walk in certain places because there is neither shade nor water. 

    Governments are quick to speak about the economic impacts of climate breakdown, but what about the accelerating and accompanying cascading ecological repercussions when rivers like the Po in Italy, the Loire in France and the 2,800-kilometre Danube dry up? Do governments care about the myriad life forms that inhabit those rivers?

    Scientists are asking themselves whether this is to be the “new normal.” In recent research published in the science journal Nature, scientists were asked whether governments were up to the task of defending our climate. Most were highly sceptical, and in a second article, “Civil disobedience by scientists helps press for urgent climate action,” scientists speak openly, saying that civil disobedience is utterly justified in order to save us, as trust in governments’ ability to serve their populations and not their corporations is at a new low.

    Scientists no longer view themselves as solely objective mouthpieces for scientific research or believe that their scientific neutrality in research prohibits public expressions of concern. They wish to make it absolutely clear that their values, like those of other citizens, demand in a time of environmental crisis a voice that has, as has always been the case, the right and indeed the obligation to influence ongoing and future events. They have arrived at a place of last resort to protect the planet, and they will be heard. Scientists’ credibility is not diminished because of their justifiable protests.

    As developing nations have told the rich polluting west before, loss and damage must be a central topic if the UN climate talks to be held this November in Egypt are to succeed. “Loss and damage” refers to the global south’s precarious state as a result of 150 years of colonialism and fossil fuel extraction by the global north. The rising cost of staple foods, from olive and sunflower oils to wheat, illustrates all too well that countries cannot afford the prices that war, drought and floods have brought on. At the same time, zero-emissions Greenland is the largest contributor to ocean-level rise as a direct result of European and North American industries. Billions of tonnes of water from the ice sheet are finding their way to the oceans, and for the first time since records began, September’s temperatures are causing a release of water that until now only happened in July. Higher ocean levels will disproportionately affect the poorest coastal regions. 

    The UN climate summit in Egypt and the UN biodiversity summit in Montréal will hold the world’s attention this autumn. People are preparing to gather for these meetings, not only as government representatives, but also to represent Indigenous peoples and all those who demand a positive future for all living creatures. Stay tuned.

    Blatant disregard for our children’s future fuels Bay du Nord project

    “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

    António Guterres, Secretary-general of the United Nations

    “Letter to Cabinet: Reject Bay du Nord and focus on a fair transition for Newfoundland and Labrador”

    Sierra Club Canada

    Merriam-webster dictionary gives one possible definition of the word “radical” as “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs.” According to this definition, do you know of any “dangerous radicals” in Canada’s government? António Guterres said that these government officials were guilty of a “litany of broken climate promises,” adding, “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they are lying.” [tinyurl.com/ipcc-3guterres]

    Canada has never kept its promises to reach any climate targets it has set for itself, even though its own reports are scientifically certain that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that this is effectively irreversible. [tinyurl.com/ipcc-3-2022analysis]

    Canada has no national political “leaders” combating climate breakdown. On June 17, 2019, Canada’s House of Commons declared a national climate emergency by a wide majority. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, wasn’t there to support the motion, because he went to a Raptors basketball game in Toronto instead. The following morning, the Canadian government announced the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, which would almost triple the flow of tar sands bitumen.

    The key word that always brings into question Canada’s credibility is “target.” Targets are for governments 10 years in the future to ponder, on realizing that the nine previous years accomplished nothing to actualize those goals, so when Trudeau originally spoke about a 30% reduction in carbon emissions in 2030 from a 2005 level, a fact check by the CBC said Canada was not going to remotely make that “target.” When Trudeau and boy wonder Steven Guilbeault speak about a 40–45% reduction in emissions, no one believes them; who will be there in 2030 to admonish them and call them liars? Now, if Guilbeault’s power trajectory takes him to 24 Sussex Drive as Canada’s prime minister after the 2025 election, he might have to scrape around to come up with other reasons for not realizing those critical climate mitigation targets. Consider that 17% of all carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution were emitted between 2010 and 2019. Although the pandemic slowed down emissions, we are now greedily making up for lost time. If we are to meet a carbon budget that enables the world to stay close to a 1.5 Celsius rise, then definitely the Bay du Nord offshore oil project should be cancelled.

    The richest 10% of people on the planet are busily creating almost 50% of all carbon emissions, and Guilbeault’s goals can never be met, especially now that Bay du Nord has increased its original projection of 300 million barrels of oil to potentially 1 billion barrels of oil that will spew and burn by 2028.

    Keeping all this in mind, why would Guilbeault at the beginning of April give the green light to Bay du Nord, and do so right after the most damming IPCC report [https://tinyurl.com/ipcc3-policymakers], which categorically emphasized that there can be no new oil infrastructure if we are to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown? “I think the report tells us that we’ve reached the now-or-never point of limiting warming to 1.5C,” said IPCC lead author Heleen de Coninck. The Summary for Policymakers is only 64 pages long; did anyone read this government-edited and watereddown but still frightening document? Did Andrew Furey, the premier of Newfoundland, who said, “The Bay du Nord project is a go… It is a green light as we progress to a greener future,” declare victory upon hearing Environment and Climate Change minister Guilbeault give the go-ahead, or did he more likely also lobby so hard beforehand that even the science couldn’t make a dent in the cognitive dissonance that portrays this government’s connection to Nature, aboriginal groups and the rest of us? Maybe Guilbeault really thinks that Bay du Nord is a greenish mega project after all, as Furey seems to believe—or is it that Guilbeault is mixing it up with the end of the 17-year moratorium in Newfoundland on wind power just announced by Furey and fervently believes that the upcoming oil extraction at Bay du Nord will take on a tint of green? 

    Hey, do we really not now know what one of UN Guterres’ radicals looks like in Canada? It’s not just the journalists who can’t figure out why this Liberal government time after time insults sound scientific evidence. An open letter sent by Sierra Club Canada a month before the cabinet accepted the project, and signed by over 120 organizations, stated why the Canadian government should walk away from the Bay du Nord project! Talk about not listening to your citizens! [tinyurl.com/sierra-club-letter]

    It is not difficult to search out and read a bunch of Canadian newspapers, including Sherbrooke’s Tribune, which commented on the Bay du Nord project—Mickaël Bergeron’s April 9 article was titled Le manque de cran de Trudeau (“Trudeau’s lack of guts”)— and quickly recognize that the vast majority of journalists were not part of a cheerleading chorus for the government’s ill-informed decision. One online journal headline was “Climate liars, Canada branch.” [tinyurl. com/climate-liars]

    Guterres laid it on even thicker by courageously declaring the IPCC report a “file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.” With the Earth “already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts,” he emphasized, “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5° limit agreed in Paris.”

    Guterres must be speaking of Canada’s ‘radical’ prime minister and former climate campaigner ‘radical’ Guilbeault, who pronounced on April 6 that Bay du Nord was “not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects” and touted the corporate public relations fossil lobbyists’ sales pitch that Bay du Nord will be the lowest-carbonemitting project in Newfoundland’s coastal waters. Meanwhile Guterres blasted those new oil infrastructures as being “catastrophic” for long-term planetary health.

    As has been the case with Exxonmobil’s new fossil fuel extraction commitments in Guyana, Guilbeault is following a worrisome arrogant blustery trend: giving the go-ahead on major oil projects within a day or two of the IPCC’S condemnation of new oil infrastructure, and charging gleefully ahead the day after the declaration of a national climate emergency strategy by one of his predecessors. One newspaper called it a “slap on the face” to science. Guterres declared investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure “moral and economic madness.”

    I feel it’s necessary to go further and vigorously point out that the government’s decision to accept the drilling in Bay du Nord by the Norwegian oil company Equinor is a callous betrayal of the children of this country, who will be unable to lead their lives free from the climate and biodiversity breakdown that is constantly causing them massive anxiety. Trudeau and Guilbeault are facilitating ecocide.

    On the day Guilbeault visited Sherbrooke this month, Jacob Auger, a student at Université de Sherbrooke, was there to protest Guilbeault’s oil project. Placard in hand saying “Non à Bay du Nord,” Jacob asked for a surge of protest throughout Québec. These climate protests have already started in London; indeed, let them start here.

    See tinyurl.com/xr-big-oil-april-2022

    The man who loved ants 

    A tribute to a great naturalist: E.O. Wilson

    “The most successful scientist thinks like a poet—wide-ranging, sometimes fantastical—and works like a bookkeeper.”

    E.O. Wilson

    “Unless we move quickly to protect global biodiversity, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth.”

    E.O. Wilson

    When the preeminent American scientist Edward Osborne Wilson died in December last year at the age of 92, the world lost not only one of the greatest naturalists of the last 70 years, but a man who was so much more than a scientist. Wilson was a myrmecologist, one who studies ants, and he was even nicknamed Ant Man. Famously, he discovered how many insects communicate through the production of chemicals called pheromones. 

    I have read many of Wilson’s books. His breadth of knowledge was astounding, and that is why I was drawn to his remarkable pursuits. Books with names such as The Meaning of Human Existence, On Human Nature, The Diversity of Life and The Social Conquest of Earth tell us that Wilson was a man who pondered huge ideas. Was he the foremost expert on ants? Yes, but as the most prominent evolutionary biologist of the last century—he has often been called “the heir to Darwin”—he explored a vast array of potentially controversial subjects throughout his life and loved the challenges associated with these monumental projects.

    One of Wilson’s controversial theories was sociobiology, which he explained as “the systematic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior in all organisms.” Many prominent scientists thought it was outrageous to say that altruism, for example, could have evolved through natural selection. Evolution through natural selection was thought to foster only physical and possibly behavioural traits, but Wilson thought this theory did not delve far enough into the multi-dimensional raison d’être that a portrait of the complete human needs to explore—and not just humans, he was quick to say.

    It is unusual for any scientist to have such a profound influence on the course of so many areas of knowledge, and Wilson relished bringing the humanities and science together to solve our greatest problems. He has been one of the most vocal proponents of bringing together the unity of knowledge. It was his view that the cultural significance of the humanities was critical for there to be an expansive understanding of who we are, and that when scientists team up with the humanities to solve our most far-reaching concerns and aspirations, humanity will come together. “It is within the power of the humanities and the serious creative arts within them to express our existence in ways that begin to realize the dreams of the Enlightenment,” he wrote. He liked to imagine that extraterrestrial beings, upon coming to Earth, would not be interested in our technology or science but rather would be fascinated by the art, music, literature and other fields in the humanities that make us unique. 

    Like Darwin, whom he called the greatest scientist in history, Wilson was not only a driven discoverer of previously unnamed species. He also wished passionately to try to answer the big questions that related to human existence. “Where did we come from, what are we, and where are we going?” was a prevailing mantra of his. His life’s work was, James D. Watson (co-author of the academic paper proposing the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule) stated, “a monumental exploration of the biological origins of the human condition.” As a result, Wilson frequently met opposition from other scientists. He had this to say, in his Letters to a Young Scientist, about perseverance: “You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.” And persist he did!

    Throughout his long career Wilson reached out to young people and tried to inculcate a close connection with Nature. His famous bioblitzes would involve many students, who would go out with him for an afternoon or for 24 hours to a city park or a wilderness and catch insects and other creatures to identify. His enthusiasm was contagious and his nonstop efforts were sometimes described as childlike. “For the naturalist, every entrance into a wild environment rekindles an excitement that is childlike in spontaneity, often tinged with apprehension,” he wrote in his 2002 book, The Future of Life. Such experiences, he insisted, remind us of “the way life ought to be lived, all the time.” 

    Children accompanied Wilson in his exploration of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique (and you can see a wonderful video of their bioblitz at https://tinyurl.com/eowilson-bioblitz), but his visit there was also a cautionary tale for us. Here was an incredibly biological diverse place that had been partially destroyed by war and greed. “Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal,” he had emphasized. The purpose of the visit was to find out if Gorongosa could be restored to its previous natural glory (https://tinyurl.com/eowilson-gorongosa). The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory has become a huge success in bringing together a diverse group of local and international enthusiasts to rejuvenate Gorongosa. (In recent years national parks have come under scrutiny because of their blatant disregard for local participation and, even worse, the forced removal of local human populations from newly formed parks.) “Humankind will ultimately awaken to its responsibility to the Earth,” Wilson maintained. In fact, he has emphasized throughout his writings that it will be a common ethics that will be the ultimate driver to protect the planet; we will not succeed otherwise. 

    Wilson called himself an agnostic and declared: “The true cause of hatred and violence is faith versus faith, an outward expression of the ancient instinct of tribalism.” And although he welcomed the role of religions in helping to save the planet, he insisted that “the best way to live in this real world is to free ourselves of demons and tribal gods.” 

    I believe that Wilson’s finest contribution to biology and our world was his steadfast resolve to push forward conservation biology. He was justifiably called “the father of biodiversity.” His very readable short books Biophilia and The Creation lovingly describe our planet’s living world—and indeed the word “biophilia” means “love of biological life”—but he admonished us, saying that a legacy of inaction to protect the diversity of life on Earth will catastrophically push us into the Eremocene, the Age of Loneliness, following the disappearance of millions of species.

    Wilson believed in the power of education, and his proposal for an Encyclopedia of Life led to the creation of an expanding global online database (https://eol.org) to include information on the 1.9 million species we know of. (There may be as many as 10 million species on Earth.) He was deeply alarmed at the acceleration of species extinctions around the world. In 2016 his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life was published, and he worked tirelessly to promote the Half-Earth Project (https://www.half-earthproject.org), a call to protect half the land and sea on Earth in order to manage sufficient habitat to reverse the species extinction crisis and ensure the long-term health of our planet.

    In 2016 ornithologists discovered a previously unknown ant-eating bird in Peru. Everyone agreed that it should be named after Wilson for his unparalleled work in conservation. The Latin name for this bird is Myrmoderus eowilsoni

    Edward O. Wilson will be mourned by millions and his books will continue to inspire us to be closer to this Earth and our responsibility to protect it.

    New UN climate report issues a drastic warning: act now, or we are done for

    For years developing countries have asked for industrial countries to put aside US$100 billion a year to help poorer countries that never caused the climate crisis and enable them to adapt to the worst of climate breakdown. The money still hasn’t arrived in any consistent amounts and now that goal is probably being further put off by the prospect of war with Russia. In fact, Germany just announced that €100 billion will be spent on defence. As social and ecological nightmares bear down on the world as a result of Putin’s madness, the greatest planetary crisis, climate and biodiversity breakdown, is accelerating. The west has steadfastly refused to act swiftly on weaning itself away from methane gas and oil for its energy requirements—until now, when the safety of renewable energy (not nuclear) has become more appealing in the face of a decision to stop Russian imports of gas. How perverse and ghoulish is it that it takes a war for Europe to take insulating homes seriously! Meanwhile Ukrainian scientist Svitlana Krakovska, a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has said that the sale of gas and oil to Europe by Russia has funded the war.  “This war…makes this window of opportunity [to stop climate breakdown] even more narrow, because now we have to solve this problem first.”

    It takes years to put together and have the world’s governments accept the scientific findings of the IPCC, which published its first report in 1990. It is eight years since its last exhaustive report came out. On February 27 this year the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report was published. Please see the 37-page Summary for Policymakers (https://tinyurl.com/ipcc-ar6-summary) to learn more. The full report runs to thousands of pages. It assesses the impacts of climate change by looking at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change. Many scientists are now telling us ominously that these current reports will be the last ones that can guide us away from a doomsday future. Unless the world acts now, a 2030 report will be too late to ferry the world into a safer and more stable climate.

    The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, has already called the climate crisis a ‘code red’ emergency, and now with the publication of the second part of the IPCC’s latest report he is more specific. He tells us that this report painfully details what a code red world looks and feels like. Calling the abdication of leadership by world powers ‘criminal’, with the largest polluters “guilty of arson on our only home”, he goes on to say that the newest report is “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership… With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.”

    A synthesis report will be published in September this year, pulling together all the scientific work that not only targets climate, but also focuses in on biodiversity loss, ecological justice and the indisputable need to act now. Inaction will create irreversible negative changes for planetary-safe boundaries to be upheld.

    The concept of risk is a key factor in the report. The many graphics illustrate the complexity of mapping the world’s vulnerabilities. Changes in ecosystem structure, detailed as terrestrial, freshwater and oceans, that focus on all parts of the world’s regions from deserts to arctic and from Asia to North America are highlighted. “Anthropogenic climate change has exposed ocean and coastal ecosystems to conditions that are unprecedented over millennia.” It doesn’t stop there. Impacts on water scarcity, food production, health and wellbeing, cities and even infrastructure are carefully analyzed. What the 330 scientists who have contributed to this latest report are saying with the highest degree of confidence is that the decisions made so far do not bode well for humanity’s prospects.

    The report’s 21st-century analysis is broken into a 2022–2040 scenario, a 2040-plus description, and a later 2060-plus conclusion. Fundamentally the rise of fossil fuel emissions over the century will create irreversible and catastrophic changes. To emphasize this the report says, “Global warming, reaching 1.5 °C in the near-term would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans.” (We are at 1.2 °C now.) Because biodiversity loss accelerates quickly as 1.5°C is passed, more than 3 billion people will be directly impacted. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are in jeopardy: “Climate change including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes [has] reduced food and water security.” 

    Only in the near term can we hope to ward off the worse breakdown scenarios. “Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage,” the report warns. “Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions.” Even efforts to adapt will come to naught unless immediate strong mitigation actions are realized in the next decade. 

    The IPCC report details the need not only for short-term adaptation strategies, but also for ‘transformational’ ones.Transformational adaptation and relevant transitions look to long-term community and government involvement. “Without transformation, global inequities will likely increase between regions and conflicts between jurisdictions may emerge and escalate,” the report states. Short-term adaptation gains that do not reach out to diverse goals for resilience development will fail. “With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.” Please note that ‘losses and damage’ does not only apply to physical losses and damages, but also impacts mental health issues.

    In other words, robust actions need to be implemented now; climate-resilient development “has a strong potential to generate substantial co-benefits for health and wellbeing.”

    This brings us to the dangers of maladaptation, whereby apparent solutions actually make things worse by not leaving space for natural processes. “Maladaptation especially affects marginalised and vulnerable groups adversely (e.g. Indigenous Peoples, ethnic minorities, low-income households, informal settlements), reinforcing and entrenching existing inequities. Adaptation planning and implementation that do not consider adverse outcomes for different groups can lead to maladaptation, increasing exposure to risks, marginalising people from certain socio-economic or livelihood groups, and exacerbating inequity. Inclusive planning initiatives informed by cultural values, Indigenous knowledge, local knowledge, and scientific knowledge can help prevent maladaptation,” the report states.

    Until recently, scientists have been poor communicators. It wasn’t long ago that they were told not to make or endorse potentially political statements. (Remember how Stephen Harper and more recently Donald Trump tried to muzzle scientists?) This has now changed. Recognizing that facts alone don’t inspire most people to take action, the IPCC asked the charity Climate Outreach to put together a manual for scientists to communicate effectively with the public. This is essential if communities are to be more engaged in being part of the solution to stop the slide towards climate breakdown. Climate Outreach speaks of a ‘social mandate’ as a result of the high priority most people now place on climate actions. In order to drive low-carbon behaviours, society must reflect the push for creating transformative policies that in turn allow corporations to place greater emphasis on vastly mitigating their high-carbon behaviour, thus making it a lot easier for national, regional and local policies to implement low-carbon-based legislation as a result of low-carbon social norms. Tragically we see so often that a weak social mandate fuels high-carbon behaviours, and corporations and governments are not incentivized to act. Climate Outreach is determined to turn this around. All the rest of us need to be there too. Please see https://climateoutreach.org

    New Year resolutions, not aspirations, are needed.

    The year-long preparations and lead-up by non-governmental organizations and activists to the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this autumn many times reverberated as despairing voices in the night reaching out to have others join in to take on governments and corporations. In fact, guarded optimism was expressed. By the last day of the summit, November 13, the myriad voices could still be heard by everyone except G20 governments and their hundreds of entrenched fossil-fuel lobbyists. Towards the end of the conference some delegates walked out onto the streets to protest with youth and other individuals against the intransigence of rich nations that saw only their immediate political advantages, often broadcasts for oil and coal lobbyists, ultimately resulting in governments’ outright and belligerent refusal to join a global fight to save our climate. After all, this was not, as promised, the most inclusive climate summit, but quite the opposite: it was a meeting of wealthy men that kept out world youth as well as those who suffer most from climate breakdown. Many declared it a flop. 

    Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s new minister of Environment and Climate Change, speaking soon after the conference ended, concluded that Canada had shown the world how serious it was in confronting the myriad climate challenges. He said, “When Canada, with one of the four largest oil and gas reserves in the world, committed to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector at current levels, that got attention.” So far this and other ‘commitments’ have dissolved into aspirations, not resolutions. 

    The last 15 years of precipitously rising fossil-fuel use in Canada and the federal government’s self-imposed benediction to continue driving more pipelines to completion through First Nation territories make that aspiration sound particularly hollow, just as Canada’s previous nationally determined contributions, as they were called at the Paris summit, never came to fruition. Can we actually believe that Guilbeault, a past Greenpeace campaigner, will have the clout to turn federal policy away from enabling gas and oil multinationals? A letter signed by a number of Bishop’s University students asking Guilbeault to outline what he intends to do about the climate crisis has gone unanswered, as have letters to Justin Trudeau and our local MP Marie-Claude Bibeau, all submitted on Climate Action Day in early November.

    A recent article by Barry Saxifrage in the National Observer entitled “Electrify everything? Canada cranks fossil burning instead” puts into perspective the grotesque failure of our federal government’s inaction in ending fossil-fuel production in Canada.

    Saxifrage takes information from National Resource Canada’s Energy Use Data Handbook, which covers 2000 to 2018, and a remarkable set of graphs emerges. For example, from 2005 to 2018 fossil-fuel energy use grew at a rate 10 times that of electrical power. And while fossil-fuel energy use increased from 70% of total energy consumption in 2005 to 74% in 2018, in the same period electrical energy use diminished from 22% to 20%. This is happening while this government pledges cohesive action to draw down carbon in Canada. Thankfully wood is being used less for energy, but that is not because there is a policy to do so.

    If our provincial and federal governments were truly dedicated to lowering climate pollution, we’d be moving much faster in the transportation sector, which accounts for the largest percentage of Canada’s carbon emissions. In 2018 an amazing 99.8% of transportation energy came from fossil fuels. Although governments are now offering incentives to buy electric cars, not enough has been done to speed the critical transition to those types of vehicle. If in Norway, which is also an oil producer, 50% of all car sales are electric, what’s stopping us here? Instead of Trudeau’s administration financing a disastrous pipeline forged with violence against youth activists, Indigenous peoples and old-growth forests, perhaps it could see through its destructive pro-oil smog to the urgent need for an increase in electric vehicle charging station infrastructure across Canada. Forget also about high percentages of electricity use in industry or agriculture: only when we examine residential and commercial energy does electricity crawl in the 40% range of providing zero-emission electricity. 

    With a little more helping hand from governments and Canada’s present zero-emission hydro, solar, wind and nuclear energies, which supply 83% of our electricity needs, production of electricity need not ever come from oil or gas. Of course, Québec’s hydro-electricity output is now even higher than that. Saxifrage quite rightly states, “Cleaning up our electricity has been Canada’s only real climate success so far. Now we need to get to work on the first part of the climate task as well—powering our economy and lives with our Canadian-made electricity instead of fossil fuels…because electricity carries all our climate-safe energy.”

    Let’s not look only to large government agencies to turn the tide and transition to an “electrify everything” way of life. Local municipalities can do so much more. The word is conclusively out that air pollution is a major source of harm for communities. Why not ban all those disgusting drive-throughs in our towns and cities? Although there are financial incentives to dispose of oil furnaces and replace them with electric ones, governments can prohibit new houses from having them in the first place. At the moment only 25% of space and water heaters are powered by electricity. The installation of heat exchangers can also be promoted and encouraged. 

    Our fossil-fuel love fest has reached the very edge of the cliff of climate breakdown. Canada tragically distinguishes itself as the G7 nation with the worst climate pollution record. While other countries have lived up to their climate pledges of cutting emissions by 1% below 1990 levels, Canada remains the undisputed profligate nation. We haven’t kept our promise: from Mulroney to Trudeau those reduction targets have not been met.

    What happened to robust Canadian 2030 targets, and where are our ambitions grounded? So far oil and gas subsidies have sidelined all our ambitions and, as we all know, long-range targets have been consistently abandoned by successive governments, including the present one. Grounded, did I say? How about keeping oil and gas in the ground and not burning it with disastrous consequences?

    This inability to put down national shields of myopic self-interest leads us to the last days of 2021. More than ever humanity desperately and steadfastly must confront its 30-year failure to prevent climate catastrophe. Resolutions, not mere Paris summit aspirations, are called for now. New year resolutions to protect and nurture our planetary health ask each of us to do much more for future generations. Resolutions are not only made by individuals: governments and industry must also act resolutely in favour of global climate action. The time for an Earth constitution that protects all life must be given supremacy over all national ones.

    Giving young people a public voice: a conversation with Anne-Julie Bergeron

    Anne-Julie saving food in a dumpster.

    Please tell the Record’s readers a little about your background, Anne-Julie. Where did you spend your childhood? Do you feel this has shaped your attitude towards Nature and the climate crisis?

    I grew up in a small town in Bellechasse, Qubec. Where I lived, Nature surrounded us mountains, forests, rivers, and a beautiful lake. Of course, seeing this scenery every day shaped my view towards Nature. Before I was even aware of the climate crisis, I felt the need to protect my environment. Nature was my haven of peace and I felt lucky the forest was my playground. I cannot count how many hours my brothers, my friends and I spent in the woods, playing hide and seek or building tree houses. Sometimes I saw deforested areas in my town, and something didn’t feel right inside me. As a little child, I could not tell what this feeling was. I only wanted the trees back.

    It is paradoxical that I felt so close to Nature as a child, and at the same time I thought big farms were natural. My grandparents had a dairy and hog farm. I visited them often, so I thought animals were meant to be ‘caged’ and give us food. Even in small towns, it is normalized to possess and commodify other living beings. In a sense, I am glad I could witness the captivity of these beings, because these memories make me realize how society denaturalizes animals and living beings.

    Does your family support you in your deep interest in and actions to protect Nature?

    In the first place, I would have said “yes”, because my parents support me in everything I undertake. However, the only way I could feel their support would be if they took actions themselves to protect Nature. I have often tried to engage in conversations with them about the environmental crisis and the things we can do as individuals. As soon as they realize their behaviour might be harmful to our planet, they disengage from the conversation. Yet I do not blame them. I understand their mentality comes from a toxic society and years of capitalism indoctrination.

    Why did you decide to take the Bishop’s University ‘Ecological Crisis and the Struggle for Environmental Justice’ class? Do you feel an affinity with other students regarding climate justice?

    I want my years at university to be meaningful and that I can have a positive impact on society. I am studying to broaden my mind, not to narrow it. As a young person, I am extremely concerned about the ecological crisis. I thought this class would be a great step to act for environmental justice. I feel some people took this class because it fitted their curriculum, but on the whole we all have an interest in protecting Nature. It is empowering to connect with other people of my generation and understand how they feel about this crisis.

    Have you attended any climate protests?

    Yes, I took part in the 2019 September climate strikes, which happened everywhere in the world on the same day. Recently, I attended two other protests in Sherbrooke.

    Tell us about ‘dumpster diving’ and why you participate.

    In short, ‘dumpster diving’ means to dive into supermarkets’ or commercial containers and retrieve waste. So far my ‘harvest’ has been good only in supermarkets. These companies waste many fruits and vegetables that are starting to get a little bad, or products whose use-by date is near. I remember salvaging a ton of products with merely damaged packaging. I know dumpster diving is illegal, but it is a way to protest against food waste and overconsumption. It is shocking to see how much companies throw away good products, and frustrating that many of them lock their containers so we can’t even see how much they waste.

    Why did you choose to be a vegan? Is this way of living easy for you?

    I decided to switch to a plant-based diet in 2019, after learning that about half of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by animal agriculture. Emissions do not only come from fossil fuels, but also from what we eat and buy. Moreover, it broke my heart to know that so many forests were destroyed for fields and pasture. Shortly afterwards, I went completely vegan. Of course I encountered some difficulties when adapting to veganism, but my habits settled quickly. It is now a piece of cake to eat well! I want to protect the animals, because they are part of Nature and I disapprove of any kind of animal mistreatment and exploitation. How can I aim to protect the planet if I think I am superior to other living beings? I simply refuse to be part of this insensitive system.

    The UN COP26 climate summit is taking place now in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s billed as a ‘make or break’ conference on curbing fossil fuel emissions and bringing about climate/biodiversity justice. What do you feel must happen at COP26 in order for the world to move forward on these critical issues? Is Canada doing its fair share?

    I am not a politics connoisseur, but from my little knowledge about COP26, this summit might be the last chance to make sure future generations will still be able to live on Earth. The climate crisis will affect the poorer countries first, so the rich countries should commit to supporting them financially. Rich countries are the biggest polluters. They need to change the source of their energy. Two-thirds of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, and this is unacceptable. We need to make the transition to zero emission vehicles, but that is pointless if the electricity comes from fossil fuels. All countries should have attended COP26, but the presidents of Russia, China, Brazil and Turkey decided not to go in person (or not to participate at all). These countries are some of the biggest carbon emitters. Presidents should take their heads out of the sand. The science is clear: climate change is real, and human activity is the main cause.

    Canada is absolutely not doing its fair share. We had an election in the fall, and during the campaign the climate emergency was at the bottom of the politicians’ priorities. Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, approves the pipeline expansion, whereas actions need to be taken now. I am anxious and angry because the catastrophes that are coming will radically impact our lives and there are no concrete governmental strategies to overcome the climate emergency.

    Many young people do not wish to have children because they feel that the world’s future is uncertain. What’s your opinion?

    This is a question that has been present in my life since my teenagerhood. I respect anyone’s decision to have children or not. For my part, I decided not to have children for the same reason you stated in your question. My hopes regarding the future are very low, and no one will be safe if the planet is burning.

    With success at the UN Glasgow Climate Summit uncertain, people are demanding renewed action.

    “There is sufficient evidence to draw the most fundamental of conclusions: now is the time to declare a state of planetary emergency. The point is not to admit defeat, but to match the risk with the necessary action to protect the global commons for our own future.”

    Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

    The 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP  21), one of the ongoing series of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summits, has been described as the first successful pathway that determined the carbon limits 200 countries would voluntarily accept in order to reverse the Earth’s increasing temperature gains resulting from human industrial activities. The key drive in those negotiations was to try to limit a rise of not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels through each country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to lower carbon emissions. The ensuing Paris Agreement stated that every five years each nation would bring an updated NDC to the UNFCCC.

    Those ambitions do not come close to the reductions necessary to stop a cascading catastrophe. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, has just issued a stark warning to the world. If this year’s Glasgow summit (COP 26) were to fail, she said, there would be “less food, so probably a crisis in food security. It would leave a lot more people vulnerable to terrible situations, terrorist groups and violent groups. It would mean a lot of sources of instability.”

    COP 26 was delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic and starts in a few days. This is the 26th time since 1995 that the UN has held a world conference with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and, more recently, searching for the means to move forward on issues such as climate justice as it relates to equitable pathways for developing nations to adapt to worsening climate scenarios that they have not contributed to. Heavily industrialised nations such as Canada, Great Britain, Germany and the United States have historically had the largest impact on the increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

    Three pillars of climate change negotiations will present themselves at COP 26:

    1. Mitigation methods such as the phasing out of coal as the world community strives to drastically slow down carbon emissions.
    2. Adaptation to a rising level of crises such as flooding and drought to enable the world to continue to flourish. Adaptation also refers to ecological protections.
    3. The concept of ‘loss and damage’, which has gained traction in negotiations in the last decade. Small island states have led the push to demand that rich countries accept responsibility for the buildup of GHGs as they demonstrate their vulnerability to higher ocean levels created by melting glaciers throughout the world from the Himalayas to Greenland. Hand in hand with ‘loss and damage’ goes financial responsibility. ukcop26.org/cop26-goals/ 

    It was agreed at the Paris summit that by 2020 the rich industrial countries with their financial partners would give US$100 billion a year to other countries in extreme need. This hasn’t happened. Canada and the United States are laggards. 

    It’s common knowledge that under deadbeat climate-deniers Trump and company the US plumbed new depths in climate misinformation, even fostering an aggressive anti-science campaign to maliciously stop efforts to forestall climate breakdown, and ultimately withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. But what about Canada’s attitude? In a now infamous statement, the Canadian government under Trudeau declared that acquiring the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline for CA$4.5 billion was an opportunity to finance non-fossil-fuel energy possibilities! The pipeline, it stated, was “an unavoidable element in a national climate change plan”! Forget about the last vow by Canada to stop subsidies to the oil and gas sectors by 2023. Can that be possible as we continue to finance other pipeline initiatives through subsidies?

    For many, there is a fourth pillar in the COP negotiations, and that is to deliver substantial climate justice not by 2050 with net-zero GHG magical schemes, but by having citizens’ assemblies acknowledged as offering a viable and democratic pathway towards climate justice.

    Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg had this to say: 

    “In my view, success would be that people finally start to realise the urgency of the situation and realise that we are facing an existential crisis, and that we are going to need big changes, that we’re going to need to uproot the system, because that’s where the change is going to come… The change is going to come when people are demanding change. So we can’t expect everything to happen at these conferences.”

    Many people believe she is correct. 

    Not only will governments, oil lobbyists and bankers attend the Glasgow Summit. Undoubtedly there will be thousands of protesters and NGOs present too, but will they be listened to by heads of state? Activism must proceed in individual countries to prod governments to climate action. Here are three examples: Norwegian youth are taking their government to the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic, saying that these new oil explorations are a threat to their future wellbeing. Extinction Rebellion promises to be a major player in civil disobedience activities around the world during COP 26 (October 31 to November 12) to demand that governments drastically speed up their climate initiatives around the world. Meanwhile, Insulate Britain activities have shut down roads in a bid to get the UK government to properly insulate Britain’s woefully leaky houses (the worst in Europe) by 2030 – which would reduce that country’s GHG emissions by almost 15% – as part of a total decarbonization strategy. 

    Read about Climate Outreach’s inclusive and inspiring events that will be taking place at COP 26: climateoutreach.org/public-engagement-events-cop26/

    As the government delegation prepares to present to the world Canada’s inadequate climate mitigation goals and tangible actions already in place, the promise given two years ago by Trudeau for a federal programme under a Just Transition Act, aimed at retraining oil and gas workers for renewable energy employment, hasn’t materialized. If Canada’s Liberals truly wish to wean Canada away from the fossil fuel industry, why hasn’t this program taken off? More words and no deeds. Canada’s place at the Glasgow Summit should be one of inspiration for Canada’s youth. So far they see only broken promises.

    Finally, it really comes down to the way governments include their citizens in the climate mitigation process. The ‘Action for Climate Empowerment’ section of the UNFCCC commits nations to engage their citizens on climate change – something that is often sidelined in the main agenda. Let’s hold our government accountable. Often individualism, as portrayed through capitalism’s literalism and lacklustre creativity, whether that be through the inactions of a country’s citizens or demonstrated by individual nations, is the curse visited upon ecological connectivity. Ecological and social health comes through community, not through separate entities’ refusal to communicate. It’s time to be world citizens, if total climate breakdown is not to occur.

    “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, while it was very alarming, was quite helpful in helping to focus minds,” said Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP 26. “The question is whether or not countries are willing in Glasgow to go forward and commit to consensus on keeping 1.5C alive – that’s where the challenge will be… All of these people are pretty adamant that what has to emerge from Glasgow is for us to be able to say we’ve kept 1.5 C alive.”

    Please visit cop26coalition.org/peoples-summit/ to see how people’s assemblies will run concurrently with the UN-sponsored COP 26 and build climate action plans despite world government procrastination.

    Giving young people a public voice: a conversation with Georgia LaPierre.

    Georgia LaPierre

    Tell our readers about yourself, Georgia. Has your family background encouraged you to be interested in social justice and climate/biodiversity issues or in general to have an appreciation for the natural world?

    I am 21 years old and grew up in Montreal. My family, particularly my dad, encouraged me and introduced me into the world of social justice and ecological issues by bringing me to protests and courses/talks about Nature and our changing climate. I don’t think I would be as socially aware and as involved in the climate justice movement as I am today if it weren’t for their support.

    A recent article in the scientific journal Nature looked into the emotional impact and the impaired trust in government the climate crisis is having on young adults.

    Having read that article, do you identify with any of the concerns that were expressed by the 10,000 people who were part of the survey?

    Of course I identify with the youth who answered this survey. I would find it quite worrisome if there were youth in our world today who weren’t suffering from climate anxiety. The science is clear – we have a very limited time frame to reduce the impacts of climate change, and our governments are doing nothing to act effectively. This makes me, as a young person, angry and sad. It makes it seem that they simply do not care about us. I go through phases where I’m a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person when it comes to the climate crisis. When I lived in Montreal, I went to the Fridays For Future protests every week, and the government made no response to our efforts. It is clear that they are not taking our demands and our futures seriously. If the government truly did care about their youth (who are alive today) they would not sign on for new pipelines and fracking contracts. They would take effective change that climate scientists are suggesting. 

    What courses are you taking at Bishop’s University? What made you choose those classes?

    My major is sociology with a concentration in gender, diversity and equity with a minor in Indigenous studies. All my classes have to do with these topics. I picked this major because, since high school, I’ve been a climate and social justice activist. I take the term intersectionality to heart – all issues in our world caused by human and capitalist activity are related, and they must be tackled as a whole in order to effect meaningful change. The courses I am taking make me understand our society better and these issues better. Using this academic knowledge, I hope to help make a change.

    Do you participate in outdoor activities such as snowshoeing or walking? 

    I do! Since a young age I have hiked, skied, walked and been on canoe trips. Without these activities, I would not have the relationship I do to Nature today, and probably would not strive as much to save it. Participating in outdoor activities showed me the beauty and importance of Nature, and made me understand that I am a part of it. I believe everyone should take time to be in Nature, because without it we are lost.

    Have you ever experienced taking a wilderness camping trip? If so, what impact did it have on your sense of belonging in Nature? 

    Yes! I would go on canoe trips, up to 5 days, and often we would be the only ones on the lakes and the rivers. My connection to Nature and my love for Nature was born out of these trips. I felt like I was a part of the current and the forests. On these trips, Nature made the decisions for us, so if there was thunder we could not continue our day and would have to make up for the lost kilometers on the following days. I learnt more about Nature after this, which brought me towards activism when I learnt of the devastating effects human activity has on it. 

    Are you deeply connected to Nature, or do you sense that you’re somewhat alienated from it? 

    I would argue that I am deeply connected to it. However, I do get lost from it sometimes. I’ll be so busy with work and school and social life that I’ll realize I haven’t spent enough time with/in Nature. My friends feel the same way. We should have to make time for Nature in order to feel a part of it. We should always feel a connection to it. 

    Do you believe in your generation’s ability to weather the intensifying biodiversity and climate uncertainties? Are you hopeful?

    I think in my current state I have been pessimistic. I believe my generation wants to effect change, but the science is clear: the change needs to come now. I’m tired of political leaders telling us how inspiring we are and how we’re the generation who will make change. Right now, we are all asking them to change, and they just don’t. I believe older generations need to take us seriously now rather than tell us we’ll change the world when we’re in positions of power.

    Is it important for people to respond politically to the climate crisis, or are there other ways that can make a difference in order to protect the planet?

    I think responding politically is very important, I think using your right to vote and voting for who you think is best suited to run our country and save the world is very important, but I do also think that there are other ways you can create change. I think through academia (what I’m planning on doing) we can help find the solutions to the climate crisis. I think through art you can convey the feeling of your generation into a digestible piece of art. I think by being a farmer and turning away from corporate farming to local, sustainable farming you can make a difference. There are so many ways that individuals can move towards making a difference, but until the government begins to take action, nothing will get better, so vote!

    What do you do to lessen your daily impact on the Earth?

    I am vegan and have been for about two years. I have reduced my consumption, I rarely buy clothes first-hand and I am aware of the packaging I buy food in. I also have decided not to travel by flight until I have discovered the world around me that is reachable by train or car. I really do believe in individuals reducing their carbon footprint – I think it helps us feel a little less anxious and helpless. Yet I would like to reiterate that individual action is not enough. Corporations are the ones who pollute the most, so when governments and organizations ask you to use reusable straws they are taking your attention away from the actual issue at hand. 

    Are you optimistic for the future? Do you wish to have children one day?

    I am not optimistic. It has been a couple of years since the first very serious IPCC report came out, and nothing has changed. Even the things that have been promised are happening too late to make a difference. I do not wish to have children. I did when I was younger, but due to the climate crisis I can’t bring children into this world. I think that as a parent your number one job is to love your child unconditionally, and I decided to not have children as a part of that love, because they would never be able to live up to their full potential or follow their dreams. However, if someone plans on having children, I completely support their decision and encourage it. This is just my personal opinion.

    Have you spoken in some depth to other people in their late teens or early twenties about the climate crisis and how you might stand together and fight for your future?

    I have! And I have gotten two responses: one is very optimistic and turns towards making effective change locally and globally, and the other is simply asking, “But what can be done?” I have never found an in-between sort of answer. I think there is a large disconnect between these two types of youth, and I would like to find a way to bridge the gap and create a stronger sense of urgency in those who don’t want to change or don’t see how they can help.

    Do you sense that your generation is different compared to older generations in its approach to tackling climate concerns?

    I believe it is. I think many youth in my generation are turning away from the capitalist system. I believe that we have begun to understand that exponential growth does not work in harmony with Nature and that we need to turn towards a system that not only coexists with but is a part of Nature, rather than a system that actively works against it. 

    Do you belong to any activist groups?  Do you go to protests?

    Yes! In Montreal I was involved with Dawson Green Earth, Fridays For Future and Extinction Rebellion. And, yes, I went to a lot of protests. In my last year of cegep I went to at least one protest a week. I think that showing your discontent is one great way to demand change from the government.

    On campus at Bishop’s it’s a little harder, so I’ve been focusing on more local change. I am junior co-chair of the Sexual Culture Committee on campus, for example, and we organize a yearly march called Take Back the Night and work on projects to create a safer and healthier environment on our campus and in our local community.

    What plans do you have for the future, after graduating from Bishop’s?

    I have a couple of plans, one of which is becoming a professor and doing research. The other is to work for organizations and advocate for a more just world. I will see where the wind takes me, as they say, but one thing’s for sure: activism has been a part of my life from a very young age and I think it will always be a part of my life.