Earth Day (April 18, 2021)
The race between vaccines and variants is much on my mind. Family members have COVID and a dear friend died of COVID this week (in Nova Scotia). Some readers will know her or know of her – Clotilda Yakimchuk. She was an incredible human being.
We got to be friends fighting to clean up the Sydney Tar Ponds. I saw her last in 2019 and she was so well. I know that when people hear someone died at 89 of COVID, there is a tendency to think, “well, she was really old.” But without COVID, I think we would have had Clotilda another decade or so. For the first time I can recall, the death of a friend leaves me not only grief-stricken, but really angry. (Including a lovely tribute from CBC Cape Breton https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-24-information-morning-cape-breton/clip/15837592-remembering-clotilda-yakimchuk )
I find myself unsettled. My own security and privilege are clear. I can and do work from home. I do not place myself in dangerous situations, as so many young people and precariously employed workers – without access to sick pay – are forced to do every day. Still, I feel like crying a lot and at awkward moments. The fear for family lies in every waking moment. Still, I function and keep up a punishing workload. I am just not compartmentalizing as well as I usually do. Any thought of getting to Ottawa to be in the House for the big budget speech tomorrow vanished when I got an appointment for the vaccine – April 29th. For the first time since October 2020, something is happening in parliament that is not equally available virtually.
This will be the first time in well over twenty years that I will not spend Budget Day in lock-up, poring over the embargoed budget documents. As executive Director of Sierra Club of Canada, I used to go to lock-up in the special rooms for civil society organizations, huddling over budgets from the Chretien and then Martin governments. In those days there was actually a budget in the budget. Harper stopped including it. That’s right. Since 2006, budgets have not included the actual projected spending, department by department, with a comparison to previous years and a forecast for the next few years. I have made any number of speeches in parliament about the fact that the principle that “parliament controls the public purse” is another dusty relic. I have suggested we should re-name “the budget” as “The Big Thick Spring Brochure.” This was from Monday’s debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMyjhbhG-AU
My fingers are crossed for progress on a number of fronts. Almost certainly there will be a big commitment to universal childcare. There is a good chance for help to the hard-hit tourism sector. I will be watching for any progress in implementing pharmacare, as promised. I put odds at 100% for more money for income supports in this on going COVID pandemic, more spending on climate action as well as failing to cancel the spending that increases the climate crisis. If you live here in Saanich-Gulf Islands, tune in to CBC radio tomorrow just after the 7 am news, for a chat with Gregor Craigie, Green MLA Adam Olsen, and me about what we expect in two budgets. Both the BC government and the federal government are delivering budgets this week.
And, of course, Thursday is Earth Day and a big day in global climate work. US President Joe Biden has invited leaders from forty countries around the world for a virtual summit. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/26/president-biden-invites-40-world-leaders-to-leaders-summit-on-climate/
It is a critical moment for holding nations to account for weak targets and poor performance. Speaking of poor performance, Trudeau will join the summit where he has promised to – at long last – improve our national target, left unchanged since it was set by Stephen Harper six years ago.
Meanwhile, I did want to return to last week’s letter and my reference to the Shoah as “a genocide without equal.” I paused as I wrote those words thinking of the centuries of genocide against Indigenous peoples. And reflecting as I wrote why did the Holocaust feel so singular. I thought it was the systematic, sadistic, bureaucratic nature of murdering over six million people. The “banality of evil” in Hannah Arendt’s words. Still, how to compare one act of human cruelty on a vast scale against another? Should one ever?
One reader reminded me of another horrific genocide of the same era. Christina Stechishin wrote:
“The Holocaust was unfortunately not without equal ….the Holodomor (‘genocide by starvation’) which took place in 1932-33 when Joseph Stalin and the Soviet government took the lives 10 million Ukrainians (3.9 million directly and 6.1 million as ‘birth deficits’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor. My parents would never talk about this event and I only found out about it as an adult. It haunts me still to see those photos of people dying of starvation in the street.”
We are a pretty nasty species. Capable of such monstrous acts. Able to systematize brutality and build a whole society where the rewards and punishments are aligned to following orders. Turning in your own neighbours, your own parents.
Still, we are so giving and kind and beautiful. We are so capable of creativity, sharing and joy. As COVID stalks us, and we continue to plunder sacred creation, I wonder at how much I love people. Ah well. I love us a lot.
Our DNA is akin to that of a chimp – about 98% the same. And we share about 19% of the DNA of a simple moss, although recent work proves that moss DNA is far more complex than ours.
And any species that produces a Dalai Lama or a Greta Thunberg has something going for it.
So for Earth Day, resolve to love humanity and save the Earth. And maybe not in that order.
Stay well. Take no chances. And take care of each other. We are remarkably good at that.
Global Greens Event – featuring New Zealand’s Minister of Climate and co-leader of NZ Greens, the Hon. James Shaw, Leader of the Greens of Rwanda, Frank Hibeneza (MP), former leader of Greens of England and Wales and MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, and Leader of the Greens of Argentina, Silvia Vazquez, Director of Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship. I will be the moderator as convener of the Global Greens Parliamentarians.
ANTICIPATING BIDEN’S CLIMATE LEADER SUMMIT? Sponsored by the Global Greens COP26 Working Group – Tuesday, April 20th at 12:00 pm PDT/3:00 pm EDT (NOTE: Event will have simultaneous translation, English, French and Spanish) https://fb.me/e/Q7D9f0LC
EARTH DAY Event
Very much looking forward to this. A conversation with Linda Solomon Wood, Editor-in-Chief National Observer, and me—on Climate!
And sharing some high points in parliament this week:
Pointing out that Trudeau ignored UNDRIP, “Free, prior and informed consent” in plowing ahead with the TMX pipeline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UjvtJIiPus
My once a month question in QP. Slamming Liberal climate record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEsWUJC67Ls&t=1s
I also had the opportunity to speak on many issues, including a tribute to HRH the Prince Philip and a speech to call for action to protect Laurentian University. Let me know if you want the links!