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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Bad Bill 66 – Beyond Schedule 10

There were cheers of victory in environmental enclaves across the province when the Ford government withdrew the odious Schedule 10 from its Open for Business Bill 66. Don’t celebrate too soon, fans of the Greenbelt. The government just threw us a crumb off their “cutting red tape” table.

Schedule 10 was the easy victory. Some would say a planned distraction. Get all of the environmentalists worked up about saving the Greenbelt, and maybe the rest of Ontario will ignore what we’re doing to Energy, Education, Employment, and the Economy in the rest of Bad Bill 66. Ah, those same little “cutting red tape” tricks that The Common Nonsense Revolution used in the days of Harris and Giorno.

Let’s take Schedule 3 as an example. Changes to the Education Act will be the next hot-button item. Parents of young children are already up in arms about rumours of increases to kindergarten class sizes and the possible elimination of junior and pre-kindergarten classes. Anyone who has ever taught early primary education will attest to the fact that this is a special calling in teaching. I have often lectured that early years teachers should be retired with Honours on triple pensions after ten years. The last thing needed is an increase in class size.

Or perhaps Schedule 4 featuring changes to the Energy Act with the old metering switch-a-roo, or Schedule 8 might be of interest for those about to enter Long Term Care arrangements, or maybe Schedule 9 if you’re in the construction trades.

No, “my friends”, to intone Doug Ford, there are many reasons to look beyond Schedule 10 and threats to the Greenbelt. Bill 66 is simply a Bad Bill and should have been rejected outright. A good friend and well respected local politician said to me recently, “But Bill 66 is just another planning tool; it gives us a seat at the table.”

I replied to this concept with a quote from an indigenous Elder, “We don’t want a seat at the table. We want our own table.” If your current MPP and municipal polliticians are saying Bill 66 gives municipalities another seat at the table, it’s time to declare that the meal on the table is tainted and the water is contaminated.

Thanks but no thanks.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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