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    Artists are leading the way in the transformation of a broken world

    “So much of the work of oppression is policing the imagination.” 

    Saidiya Hartman

    When I look at, amongst other traditional landscape paintings, The Hay Wain, created by John Constable in 1821, I observe with nostalgia the artist’s representation of clean, pesticide-free water, pollutionless skies, thriving trees and a small, unobtrusive cottage on the bank of the river the horses and wagon are crossing—a semi-pristine land with humans in harmony with Nature. Landscapes help define a nation and its individuals.

    Fast forward to July 4, 2022, and two climate/biodiversity activists have adroitly superimposed a 21st-century equivalent of that bucolic river scene on Constable’s original; in that rendition, a plane flies overhead, the trees are dead, there are ugly skyscrapers and a belching smoke stack, and finally a large truck comes up the polluted river. Tragically, there are now many local landscapes that echo this dystopian image. Meanwhile, there truly is not one toxic-free river in all of Britain in 2023, and ecological systems are in a devastating free-for-all. 

    Now transform any of the landscapes of the Canadian “Group of Seven” painters, or Québécois Fredrick Simpson Coburn’s landscapes with horses to have a similar outcome, and you get the idea: we have created “the ecological rift” between humans and the rest of Nature, discussed in an important book of that name by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York. The authors write: “The planet as we know it and its ecosystems are stretched to the breaking point. The moment of truth for the earth and human civilization has arrived.”

    Now think about Nature poets like Wordsworth or Keats writing 200 years ago and transform them into contemporary eco-poets such as W.S. Merwin, who penned:

    All the green trees bring
    their rings to you
    the widening
    circles of their years to you
    late and soon casting
    down their crowns into
    you at once they are gone
    not to appear
    as themselves again 

    from “To Ashes”

    On to music, and remember Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for solo violin and orchestra, but turn it on its melodic and harmonic head and you get Frank Horvat’s Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene, where in one segment you can hear trees being cut done with a chainsaw in the background:

    Tchaikovsky’s 19th-century ballet Swan Lake was recently metamorphosed by contemporary French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj into a struggle to save swans and lakes from the capitalist machinations of an oil baron’s fossil fuel dreams:

    Let us heed the call of artists. Artists have always been at the forefront of society. The arts give us the imagination and the guts to turn around these most dangerous times in humanity’s history. See, hear, sniff out, listen and by all means taste what they unreservedly spread before us. 

    Eighteen Québec universities have come together to hold six free online sessions on different aspects of climate every Wednesday at noon until November 22 in order to give citizens an all too brief foundation in climate education. It is a beginning. The first of these webinars took place on October 18 and gave us the historical background to the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP), including excellent graphics for the upcoming COP28 meeting to be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12. Other webinars will focus on such critical climate topics as forests, oceans, climate justice, water, agriculture, energy transition, eco-finance, and the role of cities in climate mitigation actions. 

    This is a new effort on the part of Québec’s universities to begin to take seriously their responsibilities towards the students they are entrusted to care for. You may remember that I wrote a long article, “No student should be denied a climate education,” on September 15. I strongly urge all levels of educational institutions to speed up and intensify their commitment, and let’s not ever forget the need to robustly put into general practice a weaving of biodiversity into the heart of education. In order to register for the webinars, see

    “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing!”

    John Stuart Mill, inaugural address delivered to the University of St Andrews on February 1, 1867

    A generous and just Thanksgiving: doing more than voicing gratitude for the Earth’s bounty 

    “Acknowledging traditional territory specifically focuses on First Nations land title and rights, but it is also a means of raising a broader awareness of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture and history – specifically by way of our own relationships to the land and water… It is impossible to talk about Indigenous-specific anti-racism without talking about European imperialism and the theft of land…The story of First Nations people in Canada is…through the relationship to the land and water.”

    First Nations Health Authority

    The loss of biodiversity and the climate crisis are intricately enmeshed with colonialism and its malevolent kin, capitalism. The destruction of Indigenous cultures and of their ability to be stewards of the Earth continues to be felt acutely today. Although it is blatantly insufficient as a token event to refuse to celebrate colonialist Columbus Day in the U.S. and to include Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday meditations, we can come closer to embracing Indigenous Earth stewardship. Actions are needed to dismantle and sink the toxic imperialist legacy of Columbus’s ship. Please listen to the podcast Holding the Fire.

    Annie Proulx’s book Barkskins tells the multi-century story of the deep divide between the spiritual and ecological consciousness of Indigenous peoples and the genocidal policies of European invaders who destroyed the Indigenous peoples’ culture in tandem with the creeping deforestation of incredibly biodiverse lands, and the pollution of the waterways in New France (Québec), is well documented. And Serge Bouchard’s The Laughing People: A Tribute to my Innu Friends speaks poignantly of the invasion of Indigenous lands. Both books are available at the Lennoxville Library. The effects of this ecocide can be seen all across Southern Québec and into the North as well.

    Of course it has been de rigueur for some years to murmur or pen in a sombre and contrite tone, with almost religious fervour, references to Indigenous unceded territory by institutions such as universities, churches, corporations and governments at the beginning of a lecture. Equally reprehensible are articles, sometimes written by lawyers, that endeavour to give credibility to their weak arguments by surreptitiously placating or distracting, or perhaps feebly attempting to assuage the conscience of white audiences by parroting the undisputed fact that lands have been stolen (‘unceded territories’) from Indigenous peoples; by some, it is implied as a consequence that we have forthwith absolved ourselves by faux confession and can now blithely continue on with the show. How unctuous and hypocritical. And indeed, it shows how ethically bankrupt we are when we bare our chests with humility to proclaim our genocidal past and continuous ecological theft… and stride on, as is implied in the First Nations booklet. Let’s be clear: acknowledging unceded territory is only a first step aimed at a reconciliation that must go on to weave actions into tangible and ultimately mutual resolution. 

    Many might ask themselves, upon coming to a lecture and hearing a prescribed and rote 30-second acknowledgement of the occupation of unceded territory, whether audiences should rise to their feet and scream, “Give the land back! It is never too late. Give back this sacred land to the rightful peoples who honour it!”  I for one can feel the audience squirm in their seats each time words are uttered but are divorced from positive actions. What would happen if they did stand up and demand restitution? Most lawyers who represent these institutions and who only uphold and pass on the colonialist mantle would surely refuse, and if flush with money might perhaps hand over with much fanfare a building or two to parade their generously to the vanquished on their unceded territory in order to ‘compensate’ a grotesque injustice. 

    Historically, to pillage the land in the name of an unknown future is the invader’s raison d’être for most solutions, is even called ‘sustainable development’ by some so-called experts, and is the antithesis of Indigenous peoples’ close connection to the Earth.  I recently read one article that mentioned sustainability 20 times. The current invasion of Indigenous lands in British Columbia for the construction of a fossil fuel pipeline is only one of many instances whereby ecocide, tragically fostered by governments and institutions as a pseudo-policy for ‘energy security’, manifests itself, and in Québec there is no shortage of examples.

    Done with the equivalence and finesse of a slaughterhouse knife that effectually pars down the existence of biodiverse lands into a newly ‘enhanced’ achievement is something that has always been emulated by corps of engineers throughout the world, and Québec is no different. It’s called ‘expertise’. 

    It’s time to radically build on and revitalize past Indigenous acknowledgements in our communities that have sadly been reduced by bad faith in some instances and to vigorously take on non-hypocritical action by returning lands to Indigenous peoples. For example, if you are an institution that occupies 100 acres on Indigenous unceded land but have much more land than that, give back the majority of that land. All the rest is a capitalist investment supplanting wisdom by rapacious greed. “As he cut, the wildness of the world receded, the vast invisible web of filaments that connected human life to animals, trees to flesh and bones to grass shivered as each tree fell and one by one the web strands snapped.” ― Annie Proulx, Barkskins

    There are of course those who speak with deep humility and truthfulness when they acknowledge Indigenous lands, as it is clearly not their intention to spout words of acknowledgement regarding unceded lands before a church service or a university lecture in the manner that is criticized in the First Nations Health Authority booklet cited in this article. Crucially, what actions will be taken to truly allow for reconciliation and justice? Shredding a landscape, ripping off its topsoil, polluting the land with noise and diesel contamination and then moulding and reformulating the topography like a science experiment is NOT the way to acknowledge unceded lands. This is the festering sore, the long cut road through primeval sacred forests, which started 400 years ago.

    There are many people who unreservedly understand the climate and biodiversity crises. The September 29 Climate Action protest in Sherbrooke brought out maybe 300 people, and even though some free bus tickets were distributed, the publicity was at best incomplete and few students attended from Bishop’s and University of Sherbrooke. Most of the protesters were exuberant teenagers, together with a new group of older people who have banded together to fight climate/biodiversity collapse, but there was only a smattering of university students. After a summer of great catastrophe around the world, including the forest fires of Québec that caused so much destruction and pollution, would not more young people be expected to come out? Could not teachers have announced in each class the climate protest and urged their students to attend by creating communities that care? Is that not one part of climate education? Government and educational administrations worldwide, in thrall to climate deniers for 35 years, refused to educate their youth, and now unenfranchised, under-educated and a mostly consumer-obsessed apolitical students populate the campuses of many Canadian universities, with few skills to protect their future. Have adults adequately provided young people with the guidance and straightforward universal science education necessary to counter these crises? Clearly not. 

    And yet, when I attended a three-hour biodiversity workshop last week, I witnessed a strong resolve on the part of people younger than 35 to move past the slumber, the inertia of older self-complacent generations. Desperate to slake their thirst for knowledge, they seek it outside the bounds of the institutions upon which it is incumbent to provide education in the most pressing issues of our time. 

    No student should be denied climate education

    “I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete,

    The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.”

    Walt Whitman, A Song of the Rolling Earth

    “Humanity is in the hot seat. For vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe, it is a cruel summer. For the entire planet, it is a disaster. And for scientists, it is unequivocal – humans are to blame…Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”

    António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

    Even five years ago, I never envisioned that each September when I returned to write articles after a summer break I would need to give a recap of all the horrible planetary events of the summer that reflected the increasing velocity and ferocity of climate warming. Last July is predicted to have been the warmest month ever recorded, even according to scientific records of the last 120,000 years obtained through ice cores.

    Sadly, on August 23 I read an article by Bob Weber of the Canadian Press, in which he writes that recent research has shown that it is seven times more likely that the fires we’ve had in Québec this summer, intensified by climate warming, will occur again in the future. You can read the study Weber references at

    How can an ever-expanding and committed group of people find the inspiration to overturn a century of capitalist colonialism and greed that commits human society to its own destruction? A recent article in the Guardian, “The world is burning. Who can convince the comfortable classes of the radical sacrifices needed?” told of the life of Simone Weil, the philosopher and WWII resistance fighter. Weil gave up all her creature comforts so that she could resist the invasion of France by the Nazis. [] 

    Vibrant portraits of people who were and people who are passionate in their determination to make significant changes in order to enact visions that are successful must be shared. I think of people such as Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, Albert Schweitzer, Bill McKibben and Greta Thunberg, as well as the students who demonstrated in a Montana courtroom that fossil fuels are putting the future in jeopardy—and won their case. Indeed, for centuries inspired stories have pointed the way to fundamental and beneficial life-affirming actions. The words of the poet Walt Whitman have been enormously influential in bringing us closer to Nature as well as singing the virtues of democracy.

    And once in a while governments take the plunge and protect their citizens. The California state legislature recently affirmed its support, urging the U.S. government to join a worldwide effort to develop “a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty as an international mechanism to manage a global transition away from coal, oil, and gas.” Extinction Rebellion, and other activist organizations such as Just Stop Oil (two of whose courageous activists are currently in jail in the UK serving draconian sentences of up to three years for peacefully drawing attention to the climate emergency, one of them facing subsequent callous deportation away from his young family) have an important role to play in the quest to stop an unravelling of the planet’s ecosystems.

    It can never solely be isolated individuals who move us forward and inspire us. What led this August to the ban on the drilling of oil in one of the world’s greatest biodiversity locations, Yasuní National Park in Ecuador, was an ever-growing educated population. Democracy can bring new victories to save our capacity to change our direction from a fossil fuel dead-end future to one that is respectful of future generations’ right to life. This vote is important, not only for Ecuador and for the Indigenous peoples in the Yasuní, who now have hope of living in peace. It is also a potential model for stopping through democratic means the expansion of fossil fuels. 

    Encouragement needs to be given to schools for all different age groups that mainstream and foster climate/biodiversity knowledge and even acknowledge the power and relevance of civil disobedience during these times of spiralling ecological and societal crises. However, the ones that latch on to the same old planet-wrecking brands, which are then announced with fanfare, must be enlightened and persuaded to change course. Curriculums must be overhauled and must reflect urgently on the decaying world order if students are to have any chance of truly flourishing. Schools from primary to university can lead the way to ecological stewardship.

    There is a full-scale crisis unfolding, and universities need to step up by recognizing that their curriculums must bear witness to this undisputed fact. Universities are failing miserably to educate their wider spectrum of students to what lies in wait for them if they don’t have the educational skills, and, just as importantly, the passionate mindset to turn this accelerating crisis, which Joanna Macy has called “the Great Unraveling,” into “the Great Turning.” []

    Many universities will say that it isn’t their role to help students become activists. I firmly disagree. We live in uncharted and dangerous times. We all need to take a stand, and universities must change if they are to be relevant. As scientists have belatedly learned, it’s not just the peer-reviewed science that moves people to accept or reject climate warming. Issues of climate/biodiversity justice, governance, eco-anxiety all need to be spoken of. 

    It’s an age-old question that citizens, educators and governments—as well as, more insidiously, corporations—have joined the chorus to ask: what the goals are that educational groups such as universities should strive for. Groups used to embrace what was called a ‘liberal arts’ approach, whereby an university degree did not mean that you graduated with just a major course or narrow field of study, but rather that your diploma told the world that you were well versed in any number of topics; that you weren’t a single-topic, laser-focused individual, but rather you had a wide spectrum of interests that would enable you to be a more creative and compassionate person who engaged empathically with the world. That was the general notion, but what has become of that notion? If the intention of the liberal arts model is for a student to be a more well-rounded individual and hence a more engaged citizen, is it not also the role of the university and secondary education to inculcate an understanding of the most pressing issues of the day? And I’m not only speaking of science courses.

    After two decades of engaging myself fully in this crisis, I can’t help but maintain that universities are abandoning their students in favour of the siloed learning that has gained favour in the last 30 years. I was therefore dismayed to learn that a course at one university named “Ecological Crisis and the Struggle for Environmental justice,” which was absurdly offered every two years, will not be taught this autumn; it was meant for a broad spectrum of students and was not focused on the science, but on philosophy and the arts. Such a class needs to be offered constantly, not cut from the curriculum!

    Mandatory classes that focus on broad current ecological concerns are more frequently praised as being gateways to a better understanding of where society is and what we can do about the present polycrisis. Funnelling students into specialty majors without a wider spectrum of ideas both cultural and academic is the antithesis of a liberal arts education. Waldorf schools, by contrast, offer their young students and their students’ families a Nature-oriented programme for their long-term development and self-improvement. Is this where education must start? There has never been a lack of educational strategies: Rousseau, John Dewey and Plato all wrote passionately about education.

    The world’s fast-moving crises need to be the focal point for educational activism. Who would care whether your specialty would make you economically better off, if you hadn’t thought about and acted upon the crises that would befall you in the near or far term? University needs to be an awaking process and not primarily a trade school in computer science—or music, for that matter. 

    It has come as a welcome—and, for some, mind-blowing—surprise to learn that France’s premier engineering school, École Polytechnique, has decided to make sure that all its courses have ecological foundations:

    And now students are writing manifestos demanding change:

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declares: “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.” If we are to continue to believe that our schools are one of the pathways to a liveable future, there is no time to dally.

    An increasing world population exacerbates the crisis of Nature

    Overconsumption and overpopulation underlie every environmental problem we face today.”

    ~ Jacques-Yves Cousteau

    It has been stated many times that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is at best a poor indicator of humanity’s and the planet’s wellbeing. The Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy (CASSE) [] has always rejected the argument put forward by capitalism-driven economists, industrialists and most governments that growth is the key to better lives across the planet. In fact, perpetual growth is a recipe for runaway profits, ultimately promotes ecocide, and at its most aggressive, as it is currently, leads to the genocide of Indigenous groups and the poorest people. Sound like an unstoppable disease? 

    Though it is true that countless millions have been able to pursue healthier and fulfilling lives when pulled from extreme poverty, the way to get there is not through unlimited economic growth, which in turn is just smoke and mirrors and relies on an ever-increasing human population. Yes, contrary to the pronouncements of people like Elon Musk who believe that an ever-expanding human population is necessary if only to inhabit an utterly inhospitable planet like Mars, unlimited growth is the undisputed hallmark and madness of modern-day extractive colonialism. w

    The people at CASSE show that GDP is always linked to the ecological footprint of a country: the higher the GDP, the more land is consumed to facilitate that growth, and the less room there is left for biodiversity to flourish. And of course humans are part of the planet’s biodiversity. So, on a local level, if Sherbrooke’s Plan Nature will truly protect 45% of its land and thus limit growth, developers will tend to hate that plan because for them development, as part of an outdated economic paradigm of endless growth, is always a good venture and brings “wealth” to more people. Preserving and increasing habitat is fundamental for the survival of wildlife. 

    All of this brings me to reflect on UN World Population Day, held on July 11th every year since 1990. This year we contemplate the milestone of a human population of 8 billion. The focus in 2023 is on safeguarding the health and rights of women and girls, and on putting the brakes on Covid-19. With almost half of all pregnancies unintended, women and girls frequently find themselves in an untenable situation. Through the years, the UN has tried to foster open discussion regarding the rights of women and girls, always stressing the right to an education because this in turn lowers the pregnancy rate. It is equally important that men be educated too, as in many countries they are the ones who impede girls’ education.

    With the number of humans likely to exceed 10 billion before decreasing, the strong case to advocate for and celebrate the need to make people aware of the relationship between an increasing human population and ever-creeping consumption levels has not gone unnoticed by those who demand that our besieged ecosystems be protected. It has been calculated that the super-rich top 1%’s destructive ecological footprint is responsible for 15% of carbon emissions, but our jet-setting neighbours in the west, who by and large form the next 10% of the world’s population, are culpable for a massive 48% of emissions. 

    This May, ‘Population Decline Will Change the World for the Better’, an article by Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity, appeared in Scientific

    Feldstein writes: “Where our current model of endless growth and short-term profits sacrifices vulnerable people and the planet’s future, population decline could help create a future with more opportunity and a healthy, biologically rich world… We can maintain the economic status quo and continue to pursue infinite growth on a finite planet. Or we can heed the warning signs of a planet pushed to its limits, put the brakes on environmental catastrophe, and choose a different way to define prosperity that’s grounded in equity and a thriving natural world.” 

    China’s per capita ecological footprint might be far lower than that of the US, but owing to its much larger population and its import of western industrial companies, its total footprint is twice as large as that of the US and thus its carbon emissions represent a third of global emissions and its impact on deforestation is huge. Feldstein goes on to say: “Reducing consumption in high-income countries is necessary, but insufficient on its own if global population continues to rise.” 

    If we look at the excellent graphs and data from Toronto’s York University we can easily see that no country surpasses Canada’s damning ecological footprint – not even the US. Does this mean, in part, that Canada’s population is too large? Although its biocapacity (the area of biologically productive land and ocean area providing food, fibre and timber, accommodating urban infrastructure, and absorbing excess CO2) per individual is “healthier” than that of our southern neighbours, a steady decline of biodiversity is indicated over several decades. Our rapacious consumption history shows that our population of 38 million people extracts the equivalent of five Earths to sustain this pattern, while a country like Democratic Republic of the Congo is still within its one world of sustainability, though it too is in a steep decline of biocapacity.

    Clearly Canada has to do better if it is to stop a precipitous abyss in its ecological integrity, but until it does so, should it strive to also lower its population? Cleaning up our house first seems to be a logical place to start. For where is Canada extracting its four extra worlds of biodiversity and climate destructive industries if not from other countries? We do live on a finite planet, after all. North Americans forget this at the world’s ultimate peril. This is why the UN’s recent climate and biodiversity conferences had the global south ready to mutiny if the biodiversity and climate-warming losses and damages indebted to it by the global north were not addressed.

    A good example to show the discrepancy between rich and poor can be seen in the spiralling use of air conditioners. As more people can afford to buy an air conditioner to combat deadly heatwaves, those same air conditioners have become one of the fastest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and they heat even further the air outside. At the same time, a billion people don’t have access to electricity at all and are not responsible for the escalating climate crisis. There is nothing equitable about cooling with air conditioning, which further divides society between the haves and the have-nots. Closer to home, Toronto has become a world success story with its deep Ontario lake water cooling of over 100 large buildings, which lowers the city’s emissions, but there are many simpler ways to cool our cities without air conditioning. See, for example,

    Overconsumption threatens all life on the planet. A lower population level will help reduce consumption levels and enable women to participate more fully in their own future.

    Western anti-Nature prejudice can be transformed

    “O ruin’d piece of nature, this great world
    Shall so wear out to naught.”

    William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear

    When in 1951 Rachel Carson published her extraordinarily popular book The Sea Around Us, which galvanized huge interest in the oceans, she was not overly optimistic concerning humanity’s ability to be an engaged steward and partner to these vast and rich biologically endowed marine regions of the Earth. She said: “There has long been a certain comfort in the belief that the sea, at least, was inviolate, beyond man’s ability to change and to despoil. But this belief, unfortunately, has proved to be naïve.” Seventy years ago people thought the ocean was pristine, but in the intervening years it has lurched from one crisis to another.

    Carson amplified her urgent call to protect life on Earth with her revealing book Silent Spring, for she wished to whittle away a dangerous collective prejudice that has increasingly wrought havoc. Adding to the growing destruction of the fantastically fecund coral reefs brought on in large part by climate warming and the insatiable demand for the sea’s marine bounty, including its minerals, the newest concern is the level of plastics found in the ocean. 

    June 5 is World Environment Day, and this year its focus was on the ending of plastic pollution. Now, at last, a UN treaty on global plastic pollution based on the full life cycle of plastics is going ahead, with the details to be finalized by the end of 2024.

    We all know that there is great beauty, creativity—imagination, if you will—and intelligence in all sentient life forms. There are groups of people throughout the world who are striving to address an embedded ignorance of Nature, as there are also millions who share the recognition that the Earth’s biodiversity is unique in the universe.

    As we know, the prospects for the future on this planet grow dimmer with each year as biodiversity is lost, nuclear threats grow, and climate action never seems to take hold fast enough to hold off the sheer madness of a fossil-fuelled, irresponsible and unethical growth economy that is surely epitomized by gross domestic product (GDP). That homage to capitalism at its worst doesn’t care whether this growth economy encompasses the production of more armaments or the financing and reckless forging ahead with artificial intelligence.

    Nature is now given a price, but such intangibles as the inalienable right for humans and animals to have a healthy quality of life is looked upon askance and often shrugged off as some utopian pipe dream. Yet there is never a lack of ways for a person to wake in the morning and not feel beauty, even though the west would like to requisition it all by refusing to stop its extractive neo-colonial obsessions. In place of that unbridled greed courage, determination and education are fertile soil for a sense of agency that can grow vigorously.

    The David Suzuki Foundation announced recently that a long overdue overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is finally inching closer into law with Bill S-5, which spells out the right of Canadians to a robust and healthy environment. There are huge implications.

    Can Canadians soon go to court and finally be empowered to make a winnable case highlighting a loss of biodiversity or clean air and water, and make governments large and small criminally responsible? Will S-5 demand that governments and corporations will no longer be able to play down and stop climate action? Can humanity slash a jagged hole through its most unconscionable values and allow a light shine through to foster peace with Nature? Bill S-5 is a strong pathway towards making federal and regional governments accountable to Nature—and, yes, humans are included.

    On May 26, several demonstrations happened in Québec. Vigilance OGM organized the protests. OGM stands for genetically modified organism in French—GMO in English. 

    Try to speak about mainstream food systems’ fossil-fuel-pumped rigidity to the government, and often you’ll encounter an unwillingness to discuss such an important subject as the safety of our foods. CropLife Canada is the principal lobbyist for pesticides use, targeting the government.

    People on some protests carried several ‘tombstones’ bearing the names ‘choice’, ‘science’, ‘transparency’ and ‘democracy’, clearly decrying the possible death of all four of those guardians that a democratic society relies on to function fully. Some solemnly carried a casket with the name ‘CropLife’ written on it. Biotechnology is the key to a better world, according to the website CropLife promotes products such as “Long Shelf-Life” strawberries (proudly touted as “the first #GeneEdited strawberry to hit the market”), and represents the huge biotechnology industries that push for GMOs as the answer to everything. 

    I like what anthropologists Anne Buchanan and Kenneth Weiss have to say: “Life is an orderly collection of uncertainties.” We are finally coming to the conclusion that the universe is an expanding, open system. Ignorance and prejudice regarding such topics as colonialism, gender, culture, climate and biodiversity can be ended if humanity so wills.

    Climate/biodiversity advocacy groups such as 350.organd Extinction Rebellion endeavour through non-violent means to shake us up. Tom Bullough recently wrote for Writers Rebel: “To be a writer today is to hold the climate and ecological emergency at the heart of your work… If the emergency is not at the heart of your work then you’re not writing honestly, and if you’re not writing honestly then you are not a writer.” Provocative words to get us to stand up and take notice of our own proclivity to sit back. I fully embrace what he offers us!

    Magazines such as Resurgence & Ecologist and Orionlive up to Bullough’s admonition and are sweet antidotes to our anti-Nature prejudices. Take some time to discover their writing, which jubilantly educates us and celebrates the ability to create a better world for generations to come. 

    I sometimes think that those finely clipped, pesticide-ridden, over-fertilized and biodiversity dead-zone lawns that western society cherishes so highly are a mirror, a microcosm, a landmark or a cemetery, if you will, of our dead feelings for Nature, and that if we could only break through these toxic attitudes to know our place as just one biological species of many in a replenished and open macrocosm, the world would truly flourish.

    The great biologist E.O. Wilson put it succinctly: “To strive against odds on behalf of all life would be humanity at its most noble.”

    Young people go to the courts to protect their future

    “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

    – Martin Luther King Jr.

    Martin Luther King Jr. wrote those words in 1963 while he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama for instigating a coordinated campaign of protest against desegregation. Was he referring only to humans, or did he acknowledge the ecological web of being too? It wouldn’t surprise me if he had had the extraordinary prescience to point out to us the interconnectivity of all life and not just focus on human relationships, as the ecology movement was about to get started with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. And I have no doubt that if King were living today he would say that those same inexplicable but vital pulses of mutuality across Nature are being increasingly frayed.

    On April 22nd, millions of people celebrated Earth Day. The UN calls it “Mother Earth Day,” and it was celebrated within the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which resolves “to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction.” [] This resolution partners with the Convention on Biological Diversity, whose recent summit in Montreal I reported on last December. However, the resolution speaks to all of us, and calls out to each of us to do our part. 

    In the past I have celebrated Earth Day by attending Earth-themed concerts and protests and by propagating seeds; this year it was sweet peas. I also read the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, State of the Global Climate 2022 [], published on April 21st this year. One of its key messages is: “The years 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest in the 173-year instrumental record. The year 2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year on record, despite ongoing La Niña conditions.” As the three main greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide—rise to new levels, so temperatures increase, along with intensified flooding and droughts, rising sea levels and the loss of glacial ice. The report looks in depth at global climate indicators and key drivers of climate breakdown.

    There is no dearth of peer-reviewed reports on the biodiversity/climate crisis. The WMO report amplifies with frightening graphics what we already know will come: a “death sentence,” as the Secretary-General of the UN bluntly calls it, is rapidly approaching and will be upon us unless all people give immediate attention to the crises. This report is aided by an interactive and simplified overview version, which I highly recommend:

    These accelerating ecosystem disasters in the last two decades have caused young people to launch many legal challenges around the world to force governments to move on the climate crisis. Young people in Canada, Norway, US states—Hawaii and Washington—Pakistan, Peru, Portugal and the Netherlands have brought cogent arguments to the courts. The urgency for young people lies in the universal truth that climate chaos will upend their lives. 

    Young people in Québec and Ontario have individually gone to court claiming that their charter rights are being violated. Last week Justice Marie-Andrée Vermette, who presided over the case in Ontario said young people “make a compelling case that climate change and the existential threat that it poses to human life present special circumstances that could justify the imposition of positive obligations under section 7 of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms],” which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security. Despite acknowledging that young people and Indigenous groups would bear the brunt of Ontario’s lack of commitment to uphold its pledge to act on the 2015 Paris climate agreement, she was skeptical that weaknesses in Ontario’s climate plan violated section 7 of the Charter.

    Vermette also dismissed the idea that Ontario’s plan violated section 15 of the charter, which recognizes the right to equality under the law without discrimination. A similar dismissal took place in Québec, where the courts rejected young people’s fight for climate mitigation by refusing to accept that the Québec government has a direct obligation to protect its citizens from climate chaos. The Québec organization Environnement Jeunesse (ENJEU) announced in 2018 that it was taking the Canadian government to court for failing to protect young people from global warming. The court documents begin with the question, “What is the purpose of a government if not to protect the lives and safety of its citizens?” This class action lawsuit was also dismissed.

    An inspiring article in the Guardian interviewed young people from around the world who decided to fight for their right to have a future []. Some courts are beginning to listen to young people’s climate arguments. I have followed for years the ups and downs of the US-based Our Children’s Trust, which has forged ahead to defend the claim that young people and future generations have inviolable rights that include climate stability. So far only the Netherlands Supreme Court has ruled in favour of demanding climate action by its government.

    Many people cannot but ask why it is that young people need to confront their elected governments by reluctantly taking up the protracted and exhausting fight in the courts to counter the self-imposed inertia of democratically elected governments. Why is it that there have now been 27 UN climate conferences, and yet it is still taboo to even mention having a reduction in fossil fuel production on record at those conferences? Typically, young people are pushed aside at these world summits. As a result, they feel that they have no choice but to go to the place of last resort—the courts—to voice their despair and overturn these flagrant injustices.

    It should be noted here that there have been no court appearances by young people in authoritarian countries, as the courts there are “owned” by those same regimes. But are not western courts similarly “owned” by corporate power? As democratically elected states increasingly fall or are made into one-party states as is the case in Hungary, perhaps we need to say that we are potentially next. Governments that are only beholden to their corporations and not their constituents become plutocracies. As the world rides on the cutting edge of so many crises, those who unfailingly believe that democracy is being threatened must come to the aid of young people to reinforce our protection of Nature—and humanity.

    Now is the perfect time to replace your lawn for a glorious garden.

    “I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.” 

    Bill Mollison

    This is a magical time of the year. When I heard the first robin sing the other day, I realized how desperately quiet winter had been. When I see new birds arrive at the bird feeder who weren’t there two weeks ago, it’s clear that all animals are celebrating the arrival of spring. It doesn’t matter that there may be a little snow on the ground, because suddenly there are creeks that have come alive and rivers are rising with the breakup of ice. Canada geese are on the wing, and vultures hover overhead riding the warmer air. We also emerge from our wintry habitats, change our shoes and adorn ourselves with spring apparel, and open windows to fresh air and perhaps new ideas.

    As the price of food rose 10% last autumn, did it occur to you to consider starting a garden, but then to ask where? Why not put the garden where presently there is a patch of grass? There are so many reasons to do so. It’s hard to beat freshly picked peas, spinach or tomatoes, and a parade of sweet pea flowers adds fragrance and colour; no lawn offers that. Besides, a liberated area of earth allows for a plethora of beneficial insects to enter the space. Furthermore, biodiversity flourishes when the garden is an organic one. Organic horticulture respects the soil and the creatures who live there; harmful herbicides and pesticides are not used. Although organically grown seeds are slightly more expensive than others, they are the foundation for any garden, as they are free of chemical residues that contaminate the land. It’s also fun to save seeds from your organic produce.

    In the depths of winter the joyful and hope-filled arrival of the seed catalogue kicks off the flurry of dreams, plans and actions for our awakening. You might have discussions with others about what to include that is new to the garden. A gardening plan makes sense, but spontaneity is important too, and it doesn’t matter if all you have is a sunny patio to start your garden paradise. A collection of different potted pepper plants, for example, will enliven any space with their elegant shapes and fruits. During April and May there are many seedlings that can be propagated in the house. In fact, I start basil—the tender leaves are a treat to eat in April—and snapdragons in early February. As you will probably know, supermarkets and hardware stores sell both vegetable and flower seeds. Right now is the perfect time to buy a selection of seeds, or, better, to use the seeds you have collected from last year’s harvest. If you use open-pollinated varieties, you will have many possibilities to save seeds. This gives you independence from buying what you can instead nurture yourself. Growing garlic is an example of home sustainability. There is never a need to buy garlic again if you save enough bulbs for them to be planted in late October. Right now they are pushing past the leaf mulch to harvest mid-July.

    Municipal garden plots offer a wonderful way to explore and hone your skills as a novice gardener, and if you don’t have a lawn or a piece of land to convert into a garden, you may be able to rent a plot. Sherbrooke offers this opportunity. See and

    For years I had a city garden plot and it afforded me many gifts: not only fine vegetables, but also a ready-made community of like-minded and enthusiastic people who shared their experiences. It was always enjoyable to stroll from one plot to the next and observe how other people went about growing their food—there are, as it turns out, a dozen ways to trellis your peas—and it’s a great way to make new friends. 

    There are other ways to find some space to grow flowers and vegetables. It is possible, as I found out, to cut out some of the asphalt leading up to your house and plant a tree or flowers in the space opened up. Simply laying some garden fabric on top of the area, framing it with wood and adding soil and compost makes for a successful area to grow flowers that help out butterflies and other insects. (There is something subversive—as renowned permaculturist Bill Mollison muses above—to the status quo that represents fossil oil, when we get rid of asphalt and free up land for living plants!) 

    Have a flat roof? Why not put some seasonal planters up there? Ask a neighbour who has too much grass if you can use some of the area to start a garden. Once you begin to look around while walking or cycling, you’ll see the immense opportunities there are for people to convert endless lawns into gardens. Naturally there are farms nearby, and some may be interested in starting up a community garden. Universities are also gearing up to support horticulture. Bishop’s University is now starting a program that teaches agroforestry, agroecology and permaculture; it is also a hands-on endeavour there. In this time of biodiversity loss and climate warming it’s vital that a new generation of students take up horticulture.

    More and more cities are allowing front lawns to be converted into flower and vegetable gardens. Toronto and other large cities are loosening up their bylaws to give people the opportunity to have pollinator gardens. No Mow May is catching on in the Eastern Townships, including Sherbrooke, to allow pollinators to have a larger source of flowers to visit. Public parks will defer the first mowing until after May. It is no secret that bee populations in particular are dropping precipitously, so they need all the help we can give them. One Sherbrooke resident who grew a garden facing the street called his action “horticultural disobedience”! So don’t worry about digging up the front lawn to replace it with a garden. People realize that those beautiful flowers are a sign not of your wilful neglect, but of your love for Nature.

    Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, written by Heather Jo Flores, is a wonderful book for self-empowerment. The book was written to celebrate Nature and to inspire us to create new synergies that make for a more compassionate and healthier planet. Visit to read it. It tells us, “Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland. These pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global warming, and greatly increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. In addition, the pollution emitted from a [gasoline] power mower in just one hour is equal to the amount from a car being driven 350 miles.” 

    Soon a few packets or envelopes of seeds will be rattling in my pockets asking to be sown in the warming earth. Hearing them call out is a joy each springtime. Make it yours too.

    Long-awaited UN synthesis climate report tells it like it is. We’re on thin ice.

    “Humanity is on thin ice—and that ice is melting fast… Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest levels in at least 2 million years. The climate time bomb is ticking… Today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb… It is a survival guide for humanity.” Video

    UN Secretary General António Guterres

    During the last few years I have often quoted UN Secretary General António Guterres in these articles. As the leader of the UN he should inspire people and countries to take notice of grave humanitarian and ecological situations. He advises us to act on impending crises. His voice is one for solidarity and the courage to face existential threats.

    But who listens to him? Certainly not global north societies. This is a source of great sadness for me and many others who have recognized for decades the looming encirclement of a multitude of crises that are now at the point of being unleashed full-blown upon this world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was released a week ago is being called a “survival guide.” This is NOT hyperbole. “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years,” the IPCC declares

    The recent first water conference given by the UN in 50 years points us to the immediate task of giving urgent relief to the accumulative wrongs wrought against the most needy. The IPCC points out the extreme scenarios that are gaining higher and higher scientific confidence, whereby the global south finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the many cascading crises, including sea level rises, that will upend already fragile communities.

    The IPCC report published this month links achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals to the immediate reduction of carbon dioxide levels: “Climate change has reduced food security and affected water security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, reduction and loss of cryospheric elements, and greater frequency and intensity of climatic extremes, thereby hindering efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals.” Goal 6 targets clean water and sanitation. Places like Africa cannot meet clean water and sanitation goals unless the rich nations get their act together. The report is a must-read!

    Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature, published in 1989, was the first book aimed at raising public awareness of the catastrophic direction in which the accumulation of carbon dioxide pollution would take us: where we are now, on the cusp of ecological and societal collapse. (Tellingly, the secretive scientific papers written by fossil fuel companies had laid out the dangers back in the 1970s.)

    Now that McKibben is over 60 years old, he has co-founded Third Act (, the purpose of which is to bring the wisdom and huge financial clout of the richest living generation to put pressure on governments and financial institutions to stop loaning obscene amounts of money to the oil and gas industries that in turn accelerate new levels of production. It is well known that institutions such as Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of America are financing climate destruction. Recent protests have brought older people to the banks to demand the cessation of those loans or else lose the billions of dollars that the over-sixties generations control. As McKibben recently said in an interview with Democracy Now!, “If we can get that message through, if we can remind people today of the connection between cash and carbon—literally, somebody who has $125,000 in those banks is producing more money, because it’s being lent out for pipelines and frack wells… Five thousand dollars in the bank produces more carbon than flying back and forth across the country. So we need these banks to start acting responsibly. And we need it—well, the IPCC said we’re in the last act of this drama unless we stand up and move fast. That’s one of the things that Third Act is really about.”

    The UN report just published ties together all the IPCC’s other reports to show that it is now or never that humanity must act to ensure wellbeing for all creatures on Earth. The last part of the report includes a strategy for achieving a vast reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in order to make the second half of this century tolerable—for there is the means for us to do so. If we fail in this, we face a grim and harrowing future. Please see the graphics included in the report.

    One of the scientists who worked on the IPCC 6th Assessment Report is Joëlle Gergis, who has just published Humanity’s Moment: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope. In a recent conversation with The Revelator, Gergis said: “The 2020s will be remembered as the decade that determined the fate of humanity. We can each choose to be part of the critical mass that will change the world. And when we do, it will bring profound meaning and purpose to our lives… We know exactly what we need to do, we just need governments all over the world to urgently implement policy to avert disaster… The IPCC has very clearly laid out a path towards stabilizing the Earth’s climate. For that to happen we need ordinary citizens to vote for politicians who will take real leadership, and also be prepared to do whatever we can in our own lives to live more sustainably on the planet.”

    The famous investigative journalist Daniel Ellsberg, a lifelong activist against nuclear weapons, was interviewed recently for a New York Times piece, “The Man Who Leaked the Pentagon Papers Is Scared.” In the interview he expressed his fear that we are living in the most dangerous time for humanity. He questioned the ability of governments to stop nuclear war as well as climate chaos. Guterres’s role is to shine a beacon of courage and activism at the UN and the world, but without all of us in the west saying enough is enough, nothing will change.

    The secretary general tells it as it is, and the IPCC deals in unadorned language too: “The likelihood of abrupt and irreversible changes and their impacts increases with higher global warming levels… Climatic and non-climatic risks will increasingly interact, creating compound and cascading risks that are more complex and difficult to manage.”

    In a stark graphic, the IPCC shows the levels of generational climate risk. A person born in 1950 has had nowhere close to the existential risk of a person born in 2020. The IPCC shows us unequivocally by how much every ton of CO2 is estimated to increase global heating.

    It’s vital for each of us to think about our individual carbon budget, which crucially reflects our ecological footprint. For example, if you are a 50-plus-year-old North American and have been flying, in keeping with your financial abilities, since you were 20, you have probably busted your carbon budget. The mindset of North Americans to shamelessly pollute has no equal in the rest of the world. Carbon budgets are not only for governments to rein in. Massive consumption levels by North Americans are increasingly out of line. Are we purposely undereducated and incurious?

    It is interesting to note that the graphs that accompany the report include both Canadians and Americans as North Americans, who contribute to the largest carbon levels. Canadians are the equal to American profligacy. Please read the IPCC report and transform your everyday activities and goals to reflect what is at stake: everything.

    “At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity.”

    Chico Mendes

    Electrification of everything will bring many benefits

    We all know about the sordid machinations of big tobacco when they kept the public in the dark about the huge dangers associated with smoking. Just look at all the films produced throughout the 20th century that typically show cigarette smoking to be perfectly acceptable and indeed glamorous. How can we forget about television commercials showing doctors smoking most contentedly while giving medical advice? The same criminal activity happened with the oil industry when their lobbyists and politicians declared climate change to be nothing more than an ongoing natural occurrence, just as they had refused to act on their own scientific evidence in the 1970s regarding the accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions.

    They would no doubt say that acceptance of the data would have put them out of business decades ago – and that is never allowed, no matter how nefarious the operation.

    As Québec phases out the installation of new domestic oil furnaces and the repair of older ones for a host of health reasons, including valid climate concerns, we must ask what comes next. “Oil-fuelled residential heating systems generate about one million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions of 300,000 light vehicles, according to the provincial government. The combustion of home heating oil also generates nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide, and pollutes the air with fine particles.”

    Furthermore, “oil is 1.4 times more polluting than natural gas and 102 times more polluting than hydroelectricity as a heating option.”

    The news that gas water heaters and gas stoves are next on the list for removal for similarly valid reasons has the natural gas (but let’s call it what it is, please – fossil gas) crew up in arms. Right-wing politicians, funded and greased by those same companies, are crying foul. Never mind what the science says, they declare, there is a conspiracy to shut off the spigots of oil and gas in favour of renewable energies such as wind, solar and historically controversial hydropower.

    We now know that for 50 years gas companies have disregarded their own research for the same unethical and reprehensible reasons that were accepted by oil corporations. “In recent months, studies have found that gas-burning stoves are responsible for nearly 13 percent of childhood asthma cases in the United States, and that they leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, even when they’re shut off.”

    Powered by renewable energy, electrification of our homes, businesses, farming, transportation –everything – has emerged as one of the best ways to drastically reduce fossil fuel emissions and is being committed to by countries around the world. The International Energy Agency has made it clear that the electrification of transportation and the heating of both residential and commercial buildings is making a huge contribution to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Electrification also has an immediate and long-term effect on biodiversity loss in that pollution and habitat loss will lessen considerably. Climate heating, massively exacerbated by burning fossil fuels, has a direct link to the destruction of human habitats. As more cities and towns in Québec and elsewhere are writing resolutions that proclaim their commitment to taking action and responding to the COP15 Convention on Biological Diversity framework signed last December in Montreal, they are also committing to phasing out the use of both oil and fossil gas. It is my experience that writing up municipal resolutions doesn’t translate necessarily into actions. Words can be cheap, and it is for citizens to hold governments to their word.

    There are significant government subsidies for disposing of fossil fuel home furnaces and installing the electric equivalent. It is simple to request a grant. My conversion from oil to electrical home heating when I bought my house was easy to accomplish. Even the oil tank was removed.

    Heat pumps are also being heralded as a valid alternative to traditional fossil heating, and financial assistance is available for their installation. Please see for an explanation of why we should strongly consider them for our homes.

    In Québec, driving an electric car rather than a gas- or diesel-powered one makes sense, owing to the source of the electricity to power it. In fact there is much discussion about how to hook up your electric car to the grid while it is typically sitting idle, and sell that electricity! This is far simpler than building new infrastructure to supply that electricity. Gas- and diesel-powered automobiles are to be banned in 2035, and starting in 2026 an increasing percentage of cars sold each year must be electric. Fortunately the research enabling complete recycling of batteries is making headway. Air pollution in cities now poses an undeniable threat to human health, and electric transportation will make a huge difference.

    Because 99% of Québec’s electricity is generated by hydro, residents enjoy one of the highest levels of renewable electricity in the world, but the expansion of hydroelectric power has also meant that Indigenous groups as well as biodiversity have borne the brunt of those hydropower stations and the flooding of lands. Premier Legault wants to expand the dams across untamed rivers. Wilderness has its own intrinsic worth. When do we stop the ongoing destruction of Nature?

    The Montreal biodiversity agreement offers us a better chance for survival.

    “Nature is our ship. We must ensure it stays afloat”

    Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries

    “Forget the dreams of some billionaires. There is no planet B.”

    António Guterres

    “This global agreement is a win for people and the planet. We are pleased that it recognizes the need to protect much more land and ocean, and equally that Indigenous leadership and quality of protection is key to success.”

    Sandra Schwartz, National Executive Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

    The UN biodiversity summit in Montreal (COP15) has now come to a close. Governments, corporations and individuals must see the resulting Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) for 2030 as a floor and not a ceiling for humanity’s resolve to stop biodiversity loss and then accelerate immediately the commitments to include strong levels of implementation. So, for example, Target 3 of the GBF requires that 30% of both land and oceans be protected by 2030, but as the great biologist E.O. Wilson pointed out, the planet can only truly rebound and be a safe haven for Nature if we vigorously protect 50% of Earth, while emphasizing that Indigenous knowledge and inclusion in biodiversity agreements be sacrosanct.

    Because of the very real possibility that the entire biodiversity framework would have failed without it, I thought it vital to include the full text of Target 3 here: “Ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing Indigenous and traditional territories, where applicable, and integrated into wider landscapes, seascapes and the ocean, while ensuring that any sustainable use, where appropriate in such areas, is fully consistent with conservation outcomes, recognizing and respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities including over their traditional territories.”

    Equally important is Target 22: “Ensure the full, equitable, inclusive, effective and gender-responsive representation and participation in decision-making, and access to justice and information related to biodiversity by Indigenous peoples and local communities, respecting their cultures and their rights over lands, territories, resources, and traditional knowledge, as well as by women and girls, children and youth, and persons with disabilities, and ensure the full protection of environmental human defenders.” After the murder of thousands of Nature defenders the inclusion in this target has great significance.

    Many of the targets are cause for celebration. Please take the time to read the document linked at the end of this article, as only an informed society can move us to an ecologically based civilization.

    Although the Montreal–Kunming agreement is not legally binding, governments will be tasked with showing their progress towards meeting the targets through national biodiversity plans, akin to the nationally determined contributions countries use to show progress on meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement. You may be entirely justified in being sceptical as to whether any progress in combating biodiversity will be made if the climate contributions example is anything to go by. Nevertheless, after years of wrangling, the four goals and 23 targets in the GBF are without a doubt a major step forward. The aims of the COP15 biodiversity summit contrast significantly with those of the COP27 climate summit that took place in Egypt last month.

    However, despite the perceived success of COP15, scientists, youth and Indigenous Peoples have huge and ongoing concerns about whether the GBF process will emerge into a successful outcome for a resilient and flourishing planet. Here is an important appraisal of where we stand. Please see also the Guardian’s analysis of the conference.

    I attended COP15 in Montreal. It displayed both the best of humanity, whereby scientists, Indigenous biodiversity campaigners and groups including young people passionately and articulately made their cases known, and – albeit to a far lesser extent than at the UN climate summits – the entrenched mindset of a political/corporate order that is hell-bent on protecting a rapidly failing capitalist unliveable agenda.

    Just as we saw at the climate conference in Egypt this November that the global north resisted giving money to the global south in the form of restitution and compensation under Loss and Damage to help poor countries protect themselves from the ravages of climate breakdown brought on by the industrial north, but will hand out trillions of dollars in subsidies for fossil fuel ventures, so too will abundantly biodiverse countries such as are found in Amazonia and Africa find few doors opening to enable them to receive the generous sums they require to protect the world’s most resplendent biodiversity. Finance for the Global Biodiversity Framework is a critical component for successfully going forward towards 2030 and beyond. As a financial consultant for The Nature Conservancy said in a media forum, it isn’t a matter of how many water glasses there are on the table, but of how large the water pitcher is to distribute equitably and fully what is truly needed. If you wish to see the amounts of money pledged by governments, philanthropists and corporations, see

    The protest march that I attended for biodiversity and human rights on December 10, UN Human Rights Day, brought out maybe 3,000 people, who made their voices heard close to the Palais des Congrès, where COP15 was taking place. In a city that has almost 2 million inhabitants, it’s fair to ask why there weren’t more people marching. We know that a healthy biosphere and vibrant human rights are intertwined, but why has the conference been kept such a secret?

    It’s not only mainstream media and governments that prioritize everything except the protection of life on this planet. Corporations’ self-inflicted ignorance appears to know no bounds when their unchecked lack of actions to put their businesses in sync with ecological realities is revealed. “A nature-positive future demands that companies look beyond climate goals. Companies can and must take direct action to halt biodiversity loss. Companies’ transparency on biodiversity hotspots and endangered species is low,” the revealing website of the World Benchmarking Alliance tells us. Only 5% of major companies assessed know how their activities impact Nature, and only 1% know to what extent their activities depend on Nature. This is utterly tragic for all life on the planet.

    Most global companies display shocking indifference towards the natural world in their pursuit of profit. By default ecocide is written into their very business models. The COP15 agreement puts corporations on notice: take on board a responsible action plan for biodiversity, or your bottom line will be severely impacted.

    On top of this, the whole education system is at fault, with the universities at the helm of this debacle. My attempts to have Bishop’s University acknowledge COP15 and most importantly give students the opportunity to acquaint themselves with and respond to possibly the greatest existential crisis that will determine their own success in life failed to gain traction.

    “I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a poison tree
    I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog
    For a schoolmaster to my children
    I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale
    And I have caused the earth worm to beg from door to door
    I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
    I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
    My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
    My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night”

    from Vala, or the Four Zoas by William Blake

    Since 80% of Earth’s intact biodiversity is to be found where Indigenous peoples live, and since Indigenous peoples are now recognized as the best stewards of Nature, any COP15 Global Biodiversity Framework that guides us to 2030 and then towards a vision of living in harmony with Nature and a global ecological civilization must require that human rights be embedded into that framework. And they are! Past and present colonialism has refused to protect and recognize Indigenous lands. On a national level an agreement at COP15 must change that. In Canada it can begin with cancelling the Trans Mountain Pipeline and closing down the failing Line 5 pipeline that is now a real risk to the Great Lakes and the Aboriginal First Nation tribes that have been and continue to be sustained by their ecological harvesting of wild rice in that region, let alone to the 40 million people who rely on clean drinking water. Please see to better understand the fundamental connection between human rights and a just biodiversity policy negotiated at COP15.

    The Global Youth Biodiversity Network maintained that there must be a principle on intergenerational equity written into the goals and targets of the GBF. Together with children’s and women’s participation, this is now part of Target 22’s goals for protecting human rights.

    Please listen to the December 18 assessment by the World Wildlife Fund to better understand what pitfalls existed both before the final negotiations on December 19 and after the final GBF text was agreed. It is revealing. You will also be able to see the overwhelming goodwill exhibited at the summit. An ongoing open working group will try to raise ambitions. The questions on everyone’s minds have been, has enough been included to secure an ambitious global biodiversity agreement? And if not, where do we go from here?’ These COP goals and targets must be enshrined in legislation. We must all strive to bring this about. Future generations of all life forms depend on us. Let’s make it happen; implement the necessary legal framework. Undoubtedly it is our universal responsibility.

    Please see the final release of the COP15 agreement.