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Want to change international climate change policy? Use your body.

Guest Opinion: The Gulf Islands-based leader of Canada's Green Party is marching for climate in New York this September. And she wants you to join her.
Elizabeth May on CBC Radio One - Calgary.

Elizabeth May on CBC Radio One - Calgary. Photo: Tavis Ford.

On Sunday, September 21, I will be with my daughter in New York City, marching with tens of thousands of concerned citizens demanding action on the climate crisis. The march is timed to build pressure on world leaders and show support for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's Climate Solutions Summit on September 23.

Almost a year ago, in December 2013, I was in Warsaw at the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — the world's legally binding climate treaty — when the secretary general announced the summit. He wants to push governments to make real progress.

On current levels of effort, we will miss all targets and run the risk of ever-accelerating, catastrophic global warming. 

Negotiations for meaningful climate action — held every year since the early 1990s — are moving at a snail's pace. One step forward, two steps back. The so-called global leaders — the rich countries of the world — hope lip service will be enough to satisfy their citizens. The real laggards, such as the prime minister of my country, hope that action can be delayed to protect fossil fuel profits.

Ban Ki-Moon, knowing the deadline for the next treaty is only a bit more than a year away, has called on leaders to come to the United Nations headquarters in New York this September to share solutions. He was clear in Warsaw. On current levels of effort, we will fail our children. We will miss all targets and run the risk of ever-accelerating, catastrophic global warming. We need real leadership. We need countries to step up.

Ever since the disastrous world gathering in 2009 in Copenhagen, I have felt as though the international climate movement has been in a state of post-traumatic stress disorder. The dashing of hopes. The cop-outs and sell-outs from around the world turned the climate movement back inward: “Forget 'global.' Let's work at local levels for change.”

But we cannot afford to forget the global. We must exert every effort to achieve the kind of meaningful treaty that protected the ozone layer in the 1987 Montreal Protocol. We need to re-engage.

We must demand that governments everywhere plan and begin the transition off of fossil fuels.

People ask why, as a federal member of the Canadian Parliament, I feel I need to march. I attend the United Nations’ Conference of Parties every year. I am the only member of Parliament to do so — other than the Minister of Environment, who represents the Canadian government's drive to sabotage climate action. I am leader of a federal political party — the Green Party. And I have a seat in the House of Commons on behalf of my constituents in Saanich-Gulf Islands, British Columbia.

I have a strong voice. I have other venues and actions I can take … so why march?

The world media will not take note, the governments of the world will not take note, other politicians will not take note of the climate crisis as long as they can find other issues and distractions. We must have a massive public mobilization that demands that governments everywhere plan and begin the transition off of fossil fuels.

Nothing wakes up a society like a public movement. Marches led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. ended segregation. Marches led to the end of the war in Vietnam.

Taking to the streets won women the vote. It mobilized the pressure that led to Nelson Mandela being released from a South African prison. It led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. None of those things were viewed as possible — until they happened.

So my daughter and I will get on the train from Montreal to Manhattan. We will march in a mass of humanity, the human river of protest that has made its way for so many causes through the canyons of New York skyscrapers.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Aug 15, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, by all means, get on that jet and spew greenhouse gases all the way across the country to make your voice heard. Never mind your actions.

ruffner

Posted Mon, Aug 18, 8:25 a.m. Inappropriate

She does say she's taking the train from Montreal to Manhattan. Did you read that part? (This is not to say that I agree with her position on this issue, however.)

Posted Tue, Aug 19, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

I did see that. Since the article is currently published in a Seattle venue, I figured not many who take the directive from here would take a train to New York.

ruffner

Posted Fri, Aug 15, 2:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Elizabeth,

The reason the "Climate Change" pov is not selling is that it is hooey. Go do something productive intead. Or collect some litter on your route which would actaully accomplish something.

Seasoned

Posted Sun, Aug 17, 5:18 p.m. Inappropriate

What crisis? Enough with the hyperbole.

Simon

Posted Mon, Aug 18, 12:33 p.m. Inappropriate

What is clear over a number of domains is that humans as a species are not very good with long term consequences and if the planet is lucky it will be our downfall. Examples of our lack of skill includes the number of individuals that reach retirement without the means to retire and the number of individuals who are overweight with its attendant health problems. Short term wins out every time.

Lars

Lars8

Posted Mon, Aug 18, 5:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Another example is the denial of reality expressed by the two prior comments. Yup, there is no crisis; it's just hooey.

louploup

Posted Tue, Aug 19, 4:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Whether there is a crisis is one question. Whether the actions of those in this story will change anything is a separate question.

If those actions are effective, I will expect someone to demonstrate that. Now it seems a useless waste of time and fuel.

simorgh

Posted Wed, Aug 20, 3:40 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, the solution is obvious: You need to block the trains with your body. Do it way out in the countryside before they get anywhere near the city. And at night before they can pollute the daytime sky.

NotFan

Posted Thu, Aug 21, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

You telling me what to do? lol

And you forgot to use "Progressive".

louploup

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