Thirty years ago today I was at the Rio Earth Summit with my precious baby girl, not yet one year old.
Now she is nearly 31. There is no point in even trying to set out the progress of a toddler to adulthood compared to the progress of global treaties.
The treaty to protect our climate has failed utterly. We can point to progress here and there, but what can be said of a treaty in which every country on earth pledged to prevent “dangerous levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions,” but instead, those emissions exploded. In the thirty years between 1992 and now, globally we have emitted more greenhouse gases (GHG) than between the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and 1992. And Canada, a leader at Rio, is among the worst performers on earth.
That makes me wild with rage. Staying calm on the outside is a daily struggle. Meditating on loving kindness and praying for miracles keeps me sane. Fortunately, I believe in miracles. And, yes, I still think I am sane.
This week also marked the fifty years since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Both Stockholm and Rio were led by Canadian Maurice Strong – Secretary General to both. This week, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Steven Guilbeault, attended the Stockholm+50 Conference events. I hope he was listening as U.S. Special Presidential Climate Envoy, John Kerry, warned we were at risk of drifting into “a suicide pact.”
This is my deeper dive into this moment from Policy magazine:
I think Guilbeault actually knows that we are at a perilous moment. I do not know how he can continue to justify the TMX pipeline (which he opposes) and a billion new barrels of oil from Baie du Nord (which he approved). I have spoken to a number of devastated Liberal MPs. Like me, they had been sure the government would say no to Baie du Nord. But those MPs still vote the way the party whip tells them to. Last week, the NDP put forward a votable non-binding motion to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies, including Carbon Capture and Storage. Every Liberal except one, voted against it. One told me apologetically, “we have to pick our battles.”
The one Liberal “yes” deserves to be thanked and celebrated. Mark Gerretsen is the son of former Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen. He represents Kingston and the Islands. It was a brave vote. Of course, every NDP MP voted for their own motion to cancel subsidies. They also voted – every single one – for the budget that included all the fossil fuel subsidies and support for TMX. They were whipped and had to do it.
Of course, they did not have to. They could quit parliament in protest. Or, more easily, they could quit the Liberals or NDP in protest and join Mike Morrice and me. A Parliamentary form of meaningful protest. And you do not even risk arrest. You just cross the floor.
Last week’s letter included a quote from Ottawa Hydro about the freak storm called a derecho. Ottawa Hydro said the event was “unprecedented.” One constituent wrote me this brilliant insight into how “unprecedented” is a “tool of deflection.” (I would give credit where credit is due, but I did not get his permission to use his name in this newsletter.)
“For a different entry to the vocabulary, I would propose the new meaning of ‘unprecedented.’ Its original meaning is clear, but its use during the climate emergency — particularly by media, politicians, and CEOs — has subtle shadings:
– it implies ‘unconnected; i.e. there’s no call to try and link separate events;
– it has an undertone of ‘yes, wasn’t that scary, but you’re alright now and we carry on as before’; and
– it carries an element of surprise, as in ‘nobody could possibly have seen that coming.;’’
“In short, the word ‘unprecedented’ has become captured, a tool of deflection. Better that the review of a particular season should be related as ‘That was the best weather we can hope for, for about the next century. Now make your plans.’”
I really enjoy all the correspondence with readers sparked by every Sunday missive. Even if it is hard to keep up!
Now to the Ontario election news, which was clearly disappointing. On the bright side, only the Ontario Greens improved their popular vote. Mike Schreiner was re-elected convincingly with 54% of the Guelph vote, but Matt Richter, after an impressive campaign, came in second in Parry Sound-Muskoka. Media proclaims Doug Ford won a thumping majority, with 41% of the popular vote, being 43% of eligible voters. Cries for proportional representation are increasing. Clearly a majority based on the support of less than 20% of the voters is abysmal.
It was the lowest voter turn-out in Ontario history. This article by The Rabble’s Karl Nerenberg suggests that the slavish attention to polling, treating the election as a horse race and ignoring real issues contributed to the poor voter turn out. With media proclaiming Ford had won before the writ dropped, it was hard to feel motivated to vote.
Speaking of horse races and First Past the Post, I am adding this link to a TedTalk I gave years ago on why we need Proportional Representation. Voting systems should be for people, not horses!
I hope to see local friends today at the Mary Winspear Centre for our Sidney-by-the-Sea World Environment Day event. You can still get tickets at the box office in the morning! I speak early, as first keynote, at 9 am.
This week I will be working from SGI on zoom and in parliament most days until midnight. At least doing it from Sidney my workday is 7 am to 9 pm, instead of 10 am to midnight. I am not sure which one is more tiring, but it is way nicer to be home. I attach a few links to videos of some of my work in parliament last week.
Thank you so much for all your support!
My question in QP on the crisis for women and girls in Afghanistan:
Seven minutes of me questioning Minister of Fisheries Joyce Murray – covering toxic fish factories, SRKW, ocean acidification, ocean plastics, and repairing from flood damage while also restoring salmon habitat:
Ten-minute debate on the climate emergency:
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Elizabeth May is the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C., and the Green Party of Canada Parliamentary Leader.
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens