COP 25: Thoughts and Prayers 2020

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

When T.S. Eliot wrote “The Wasteland” a century ago, he probably didn’t have the current climate crisis in mind. Nevertheless, the most recent global environmental conference, COP 25 could have concluded with the same lines. The Council of Parties 25 was held in Madrid, Spain in December of 2019 with a prologue of dire warnings that we were “on the point of no return” in our ability to avert a climate catastrophe.

But much like the thoughts and prayers that go out to the victims of violence following every horrific school shooting and mass killing, the best we could give to all of those youthful climate strikers was, “See you next year.” The nations most severely affected by accelerating climate change pushed for stronger targets for carbon pricing and emissions reduction.

They were blocked every step of the way by China, India, the United States of America and Saudi Arabia. Also blocked were decisions committing to strategies covering “loss and damage” — how countries already counting the cost of the climate emergency can be compensated.

The Japan Times reported about the conference proceedings on December 14/19 that: “The United States, which is leaving the Paris agreement, has aggressively blocked any provisions that might leave them and other developed countries on the hook for damages that could total more than $150 billion per year by 2025, observers and diplomats have said.”

And counter to our youthful teen protesters, there is no “generational divide” about these issues. The divide is between the consumer and conserver ethic. I am 73, I took my class n the first Earth Day march in 1970 and I have been teaching about and lecturing on and practicing environmental literacy ever since. When I began The Periwinkle Project (education towards environmental literacy) in 1989, one of my inspirations was a young teen activist from B.C. named Severn Suzuki. Thirty years later, a young teen from Sweden carries the torch. From one generation to another, a letter to you both.

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Dear Severn and Greta,

Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and the generation about to inherit Earth. Like Gilgamesh and The Flood (retold later as Noah and the Ark in biblical mythology) the warnings were given, but few heeded them. In the beginning it was simply “accelerating climate change” and global warming that led the headlines.

In 1988, the World Meteorological Organization warned us that “Humankind is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, all-pervasive experiment upon the atmosphere of Earth, the consequences of which will be second only to global nuclear war.” This frightened you so much Severn, a young teenager, that you took your message to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. On behalf of children everywhere, you reminded us adults that, “We are what we do, not what we say.”

Ten years later you walked out of the second Earth Summit in Johannesburg as corporations and “environmental tourists” hijacked the agenda. Thoughts and prayers. Four years after that, Conservative Minister of the Environment, Rona Ambrose, Chair of the 2006 UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, informed the world that Canada would not meet its carbon reduction commitments as Stephen Harper’s government backed out of the Kyoto Protocol. We sent you more thoughts and prayers.

Three decades later Greta, you have taken a young teenager’s concerns for environmental security to the world. Another young person fearing for her future in an age where “accelerating climate change” has now been acknowledged as a “climate crisis”, even a “climate emergency” by most meteorologists, insurance companies, military analysts, and governments not held hostage by fossil fuel economics. You crisscrossed the globe and used the networks of social media to tell adults that we have stolen your childhood and your dreams.

Armed with the best scientific knowledge that any generation on Earth has possessed, adults flocked to the International Climate Conference in Madrid this past week to address what UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called ‘the point of no return.” Greta told the conference, on behalf of young climate activists everywhere, that, “We are desperate for hope.”

The results of COP25 in Madrid were, according to the UN, “disappointing” as nations bickered over carbon pricing and ocean protection. Next year, we promise to look at it again. Next year.  We promise.

In the meantime, Severn and Greta, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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An Election, Writ Large, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I predicted that Canada would wake up to a minority Liberal government on October 22.

Here’s why. Canada is not the U.S.A. and most of us do not want a Trump type Prime Minister. Under Trudeau and the Liberals, regardless of the slings and arrows flung by mainstream media, Canada is doing just fine, thank you very much. We are in the top three countries in the world in which to live, an economy and job market that is steady with wages growing, an unemployment  rate below 6%, and a well regulated banking system.

We also have a Prime Minister who is more admired on the world stage for his intelligent global perspectives than he is in the local tar pits and colonial coffee shops. Although Canada under the Liberals is recognized globally as a shining star, we tend to self-deprecate, even deny, our successes here at home.

That, of course, is largely due to a mainstream media that spends most of its time reporting plane crashes rather than safe landings. Yes, our leader has had bumps along the way:  Khan vacations, Khalistan dress-up shows, Kinder-Morgan pipeline politics, and the expulsions of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott.

On the other hand, our leader does not wear a Yellow Vest, does not associate with Ezra Levant or Faith Goldy or Tanya Granic Allen; he loves diversity, welcomes new immigrants, energizes youth, and handles himself with class in the company of other world leaders, He has led Canada to continue to be a successful nation among nations. He espouses a strong belief in economic stability, environmental security, and social justice. And let’s face it – he looks good doing it – style and substance.

How are the Prime Ministerial wannabes doing? The Green’s Elizabeth May, who I admire deeply and who is one of my environmental education icons, has stumbled heading in to this one. The premature attempted seduction of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott fizzled. The NDP to Green candidate swap controversy was bizarre, and the recent confusion between the leader and the party on major issues was unsettling. Those missteps could have stopped a Green advance in its tracks.

Jagmeet Singh is genuine and articulate and empathetic and smart, but the NDP’s slow candidate selection process and a populace bombarded with alt-right conservative sound bites may not be able to accept his left-leaning brilliance. Timing is everything in this blood sport.

And then there is the candidate who wants to cut the red tape, deregulate, and open Canada for business, the Conservative Party’s Andrew Scheer, whose policies eerily reflect what is happening in the one-man show south of us. If that populist infection has spread too deeply into the Canadian psyche, we could see a Conservative minority. If only the basest get out to vote, we could wake up to four years of a Harper light majority.

With all due respect, the so-called Peoples Party of Canada and the Bloc may be left out of the running, so Bernier and Bouchet might want to prepare for the long, cold, lonely winter of our discontent.

This 2019 Federal Election will come down to a cage match between Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer. In moving forward, Canada will be much better off with the fabulous flawed human that we know rather than the devious dubious wolf in sheep’s clothing that we don’t.

The way I see it.

****

Skid Crease, Caledon

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An Election Writ Large, Part 1

Yes, the writ was dropped today for the next Canadian federal election, Parliament was suspended, and October 21 can’t come any too soon. It’s big decision time for Canada to either choose forward or the rear view mirror.

If we look back eighteen years into the past, it was a day that changed all of out lives when an act of unspeakable terror paralyzed our world. If we look eighteen years into the future, what kind of a world will we and our youth inherit. The next four years of governance in Canada – locally and globally – rests with an apathetic electorate who are too easily seduced by catchy songs, slogans, and spin masters.

But for those who are paying attention, here is my nutshell prediction for Election Day October 2019.

The NDP will bleed to the Liberals, and the Greens will simply bleed. The CPC will hold their yellow-vest and white colonial base but may lose their extreme alt-right to the PPC as the BLOC get blocked. We will potentially end up with a Liberal minority government where the balance of power could be held by Green or Independent MPs. If the Ford Factor comes into full play in Ontario, it could be a Liberal majority.

Either way, we will end up with a country where the foothills and the Prairies have turned hard right, so here’s hoping that the rest of the country can find centre ground and liberate us from a reign of sheer terror.

That’s the way I see it on September 11, 2019.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Dear Karma,

Two years ago, when I began reporting from a  media desk for municipal council meetings, I discovered that not all who enter politics do so to serve the people they represent. Some get to power owing favours to the private funders who pay for their campaigns. Although donations to municipal candidates are capped, and although financial records must be submitted for public scrutiny, wealthy corporations and individuals find ways around the rules.

Our little Town is only a microcosm of the problem that was exposed in the May 2018 “Public Money, Private Influence” series by the Globe and Mail. This investigation delved into intimidation and corruption of public officials at municipal and provincial levels. It was shocking, but more shocking still was the silence that followed from local press.

We know that the temptation of being seduced by lobbyists exists at all levels of government. But the big action is at the municipal level where developers with deep pockets begin their lobbying. That is why resistance to Schedule 10 was so necessary and why it is important to review and revise the upcoming Bill 108, a thinly veiled attempt to bypass environmental regulations and give developers a carte blanche under the guise of “jobs and affordable housing for the people, my friends.”

Sorry, but a literate society throws up a red flag when they hear the words, “We’re cutting the red tape to get rid of those pesky environmental regulations that slow down projects. Gosh darn it, we can’t let some Environmental Assessment Act stand in the way of economic growth! Ontario is Open for Business!” Bill 108, like Schedule 10 before it, shifts the responsibility to the municipalities, effectively narrowing the focus of influence peddling.

Let’s say Corporation A, or business person B, want candidate C to get elected to further their development agendas. A and B take their multi-thousand dollar donation and spread it out over family, friends, and associates who each contribute their qualifying amount to the candidate’s campaign.

Previously, the limit for municipal campaign contributions to one candidate was $750, but that was increased to $1,200 in 2017, just after union and corporate donations were banned. So now, a wealthy donor seeking influence can take $120,000 and distribute it to 100 people who make 100 legal donations to a candidate. The financial records reflect no wrongdoing, and the lucky candidate C has brochures, signs, and a tech savvy staffed campaign office to die for.  The candidates without those wealthy sponsors are left with the trickle down votes.

Sadly, I discovered that some journalists are also not immune from this circle of influence, slanting articles to create a crisis where there was none, and giving a platform for the loudest candidates to get name recognition. That is a violation of journalistic integrity. That truly is “fake news” for the purpose of distracting us from legitimate issues that will affect our present and future.

Before I became a journalist, I taught for 30 years in the North York School Board, one of the most vibrant and creative school boards in Canada until ravaged by amalgamation. During that time I counseled six teachers out of the profession – people who were either unethical, incompetent, or incapable of giving their students the best personal and professional care they could deliver.

I expect the same from members of my new profession – clarity and truth, I expect the same of my elected officials – integrity and honesty. When I began my reporting career a good friend gave me a coffee mug with a meaningful quote on the front . My friend knew The Count of Monte Cristo was my favourite novel. She said, “Don’t let them get away with lying.” The quotation said, “Dear Karma, I have a list of people you missed …”

The way I see it.

**”

Skid Crease, Caledon

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BUS 38 WHERE ARE YOU?

I had just landed back in Toronto after four inspirational days in Montreal attending the Movin’ On Summit 2019. As a member of an international media team, I was privileged to bear witness to the future of sustainable mobility for our communities. Hosted by Michelin  and friends, this Summit presented a world of decarbonized, autonomous, community friendly, healthy and safe transportation systems to move us from rural through rurban, suburban and into urban environments and back again.

The emphasis, of course, was on a vibrant public hybrid energy transportation system that would make private fossil fuel vehicle dependency a relic of the past.

My bubble was quickly burst when I picked up the local paper at my front door and saw the headlines that our GO bus service, the sacred 38 and 38A upon which all Caledonians in need of public transit relied, to Bolton was about to be cancelled. As a senior without a car, the GO bus was my only connection to services in the urban GTA. Hell hath no fury like a citizen deprived of mobility! Within seconds I called the Mayor’s office for an interview. “Mr. Mayor,” I said, “We are going to buy our own electric ARMA or NAVYA mini-bus and run it between Caledon East and Bolton and the King City GO train station! And I’ll start fundraising now!”

After calming me down, Mayor Allan Thompson scheduled an interview for the next day. And this is what I learned. First, our Mayor was already on the case and way ahead of the game. After the news of the potential cancellation reached the Town, the Mayor immediately had a number of conversations with MPP Sylvia Jones asking for her help  He also had a productive telephone conversation with the Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek, where he got a commitment to have Ministry and Metrolinx staff meet with Town staff.

He then asked MPP Jones to delay the cancellation to allow for the meetings with the Town of Caledon. This was all confirmed by our Mayor in a letter to The Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek. The Mayor also asked Town staff to meet with riders and impacted residents, date TBA. As well, at the last Town Council meeting, he moved a motion, along with Regional Councillor Groves, asking the Region of Peel to help with the advocacy.

He assured me the Town will continue lobbying at every opportunity to ensure that our residents have access to a public transportation link from Caledon into the urban core. Why do I believe him? Allan is a beef farming man who has seen the light test driving around in an all electric pick-up truck. He knows the future is here. And he has networked with other Mayors nationally and internationally who are facing the same sustainable mobility concerns.

One way or another, we will have our public tranist propane bus, or hybrid bus, or ARMA/NAVYA e-bus, or light rail, or MagLev high speed train, or hovercraft, or … does anyone remember the Jetsons?

The way I see it.

 

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

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