Take heart USA. The type of change the world needs is going to take time and it won’t be a straight road.
Ten years ago, on February 2, 2007, I heard on the radio the devastating conclusions of the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that if humanity stayed the course of fossil fuel emissions, the planet would be a very difficult place to live on by 2050. My life was forever changed. Time stood still and I made a promise to my unborn daughter that I would do whatever I could to make sure her world would be Ok when she was forty years old.
I was trained by Al Gore in 2008 in Montreal and I gave over 100 presentations in my first 18 months as a Climate Reality Leader. In 2009, I co-organized numerous rallies in my community in the lead-up to the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen. We received a lot of media attention including an entire cover story in the Sudbury Star.
Canada’s performance at the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations resulted in its first of five Colossal Fossil award – given to the country doing the most damage to climate talks in a given year – culminating in receiving a Lifetime Unachievement Award in 2013.
By the end of 2009, I began experiencing Climate Trauma – post-traumatic stress disorder for climate activists. No matter how much I was doing, my country of Canada was clearly slipping backward on the climate file.
Luckily, I met Marshall Saunders, founder of Citizens’ Climate Lobby in June 2010. The CCL ways of being for something, having a positive vision of the future and humanity and being highly organized in our communities cured me of my climate trauma. I did not feel the need take on all of Canada anymore. All politics is local become my touchstone.
In May of 2010, I was part of a national grassroots effort that helped then NDP Environment Critic and MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, Bruce Hyer, pass Bill C311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, through the House of Commons. On May 5, 2010, it was passed by the majority of MPs. But the Climate Accountability Act has the dubious distinction of being passed in the democratically-elected House Commons of Commons and then killed in the unelected Canadian Senate with no meaningful debate or committee work. CCL was there for me in November 2010 when this affront to democracy happened in Canada.
The negative actions in Parliament piled-on. In March 2011, for the first time in Canadian history, a committee of Parliament found the Harper government to be in contempt of parliament. This triggered an election that resulted in a Conservative majority government from May 2011 to October 2015. In December 2011, Canada formally withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol – the only country to do so. Year after year, from 2012 to 2015, there was barely a whisper about climate change in the Canadian Budget Bills. The Harper Conservatives uttered the phrase “job-killing carbon tax” over 300 times on the floor of the House of Commons. Climate activists were publically called radical and extremists by ministers in Harper’s government including Dr. James Hansen. And, the Harper government muzzled scientists too.
It should have been demoralizing.
What kept me going is remembering all politics is local. I became committed to being responsible for building political will for carbon pricing in my riding and helping others do the same.
Low and behold, Canada now has a national price on carbon. Moreso, the Honourable Michael Chong, is running for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada with a carbon tax in his leadership platform. As well, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (Canada’s largest province) has embraced carbon pricing – specifically revenue-neutral carbon taxes.
I only dared to dream this would happen prior to the federal election in October 2015. We have no doubts that Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada played a role in creating the political will for a national carbon price in Canada. Two days after the Election 2015 a Canadian Senator sent me an email with the following message, “You have done so much “groundwork” that can now start to really pay off. I feel that the prospects for climate action are exceptional.”
I believe in the power of the CCL way. Building political will locally is truly powerful.
The fact is the trend to clean energy is now irreversible and it is a huge economic opportunity government lawmakers would be foolish to pass up.
I grew up in a border town, Niagara Falls. My Italian and Irish ancestors came to this continent via Ellis Island. I have many American cousins. The people of the United States of America have what it takes to turn this around. You never cease to amaze me with your ingenuity, and community-building. For goodness sake, you sent men to the moon almost 50 years ago.
Yes, what happens in the USA is felt at least 10 times more so internationally compared to Canada given the difference in our population sizes. It must feel daunting. However, there is probably at least 10 times the support out there for climate allies living below the 49th Parallel.
The world is not only watching. We are here to help too.
Happy Valentine’s Day and from deep in my heart, thank you CCL friends for helping me keep my promise that I made to my daughter I made ten years ago.