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FORUM: Catastrophic climate change is here. How do we respond? (Feb. 2020)

February 27th, 2020 · No Comments

Australia is the canary, we must act now

By Jessica Bell

Australia is my original home, and it is experiencing a climate catastrophe. Armageddon fires are still burning up the country. Half a billion animals are dead. Towns have been destroyed. Billions are needed for rebuilding.

The fires in Australia are the latest dark sign that natural disasters at this destructive scale are becoming the new normal. The enormity of the disaster is a reckoning for us to review how we meaningfully respond to the global climate crisis.

The cost of taking action is great. But the cost of inaction is immeasurable because we are fighting for our future. There is no fate but what we make. It’s up to us to make it together.

Feelings matter: Of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to nuclear war, none is so great as the deadening of our response. Those words come from Australian activist scholar Joanna Macey, who argues it is important to recognize our personal response to environmental harm because it is healthy to acknowledge feelings like grief and despair and because strong feelings can motivate people to take useful action.

Like many of us, I regularly suppress my thoughts about the impact of climate change. I don’t want to think about the fear my mother felt when she was temporarily evacuated from her home until the fires passed. I don’t want to grieve about my children and the hard future they are likely to face. I don’t want to think about coming food shortages, civil unrest, or forced migration.

It is easier for me to channel the deep anger I feel when I see our leaders failing to take action. Australia’s prime minister is charging ahead with new coal mines. Our prime minister bought the TransMountain pipeline. Doug Ford has literally no climate change plan or hard targets at all. We can’t rely on them.

As Australia takes war-level action to quell the fires and save lives, it’s up to us to take useful war-level preventative action to stop future catastrophes from happening.

Making personal choices like using public transit or buying eco-friendly shampoo can help to create new markets for products and inspire our friends and family to change habits. Evidence shows, however, that the overall impact of behavioural change is limited because it’s only the motivated minority who are willing to always pay and do more.

Strategically tackling climate means working together to change laws and policies at an institutional level to make it easier for everyone to make good choices. This means changing what our banks and pension funds invest in, changing what our schools and universities teach and do, and passing real environmental policies at all levels of government, from investing in public transit to putting a decent price on carbon.

There are many groups in our city that are doing useful work to achieve these big system-wide changes. They need our support.

In this upcoming budget cycle, the Toronto Environmental Alliance, ClimateFast, Mike Layton, and more are campaigning for the City of Toronto to fund and implement its TransformTO climate plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt our city to our changing climate.

GreenPAC is a non-partisan political organization that endorses and supports environmental champions from all political parties who are running for provincial and federal office. This is very strategic because climate change should be meaningfully addressed by all political parties, and this is only going to happen if there are politicians at each party pushing this agenda. 

Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion are youth-led movements organizing creative protests in Toronto to force urgent and real action.

Then there’s the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan calling for net-zero emissions, good green jobs, and an end to inequality. 

National advocacy organization Our-Time.Ca helps people organize in their communities to build support for the Green New Deal. At the Ontario NDP we have just finalized our first blueprint of our Green New Democratic Deal. The draft plan is online, and we taking feedback right now.

Ontario should be a place with energy-efficient buildings, where we can walk or take public transportation to our destination, where our electricity grid is green and affordable, where we produce minimal waste, and where the products we make are truly needed and built to last.

The cost of taking action is great. But the cost of inaction is immeasurable because we are fighting for our future. 

There is no fate but what we make. It’s up to us to make it together.

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University–Rosedale.

READ MORE BY JESSICA BELL

Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion