Heather Conn Blogs

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Washington, DC to host biggest climate rally in U.S. history on Feb. 17

While we Canadians protest the creation or expansion of pipelines, fracking, and liquid natural gas facilities, U.S. activists are planning the biggest climate rally in their nation’s history.


Thousands will gather this Sunday, Feb. 17, at the National Mall in Washington, DC to demand strong governmental action in response to climate change. They want to stop expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline and are targeting Canada—home to the ever-growing Alberta tar sands—as one of our planet’s worst polluters. (The rally is to be held from noon to 4 p.m. Participants are asked to gather by 11:30 a.m. at the northeast corner of the Washington Monument.)


To think that Canada was once a global environmental leader. . . Now, thanks to prime minister Stephen Harper and his pro-oil cronies and deals, Canada is one of the top 10 polluting nations in the world. But thankfully, more people in Canada and the U.S. are waking up to the deadly results that high-carbon-emission industrial activity is having. The resulting ozone depletion and sea-level rise has brought the impact of climate change into people’s homes and neighbourhoods. They’re suffering extreme conditions like Superstorm Sandy, devastating wildfires, drought, floods, and wildly fluctuating temperatures. Friends, neighbours, and family are dying.


What will it take before climate change becomes a higher priority than the economy? How long will it take for politicians at all levels to see that the destruction and clean-up costs involved with cataclysmic weather due to climate change will drain our economy?


Obama gets it. Harper sure doesn’t.


Recent data shows that more than three-quarters of Americans want government action on climate change. They’re demanding strong climate action from president Obama, who delayed the Keystone XL expansion, but still has made no commitment to an environmental agenda over an economic one. Yes, he sounded promising in his second inaugural address, but still needs to back up his words with concrete changes that make the environment a priority: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations . . . [N]o one can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”*


Here in Canada, 61 per cent of respondents in an Ipsos Reid poll in December 2012 said that they think the Harper government is doing a poor job of protecting the environment. Besides Harper’s two recent omnibus bills, which eliminate or hobble any laws that protect species, habitat, and waterways, the Keystone XL project blatantly shows the prime minister’s willingness to forego the well-being of future generations, today’s public, and the environment, for the sake of economic development at any cost.


“It’s the [federal] government’s plan to annihilate our lands and our future,” says Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta. After hearing of the federal government’s plan to balance tar sands production with environmental protection, Adam said: “There are no commitments to our people and no protection of our lands and rights. We thought we were working towards a partnership with this government, but this plan does not reflect that.” 


Please spread the word about Sunday’s rally. Check out #forwardonclimate on Twitter and Forward on Climate for more information.

* In his State of the Union speech tonight, Obama confirmed: “We must do more on climate change.” He challenged Congress that in this area, he will follow science and “act before it’s too late.” He announced that he’s seeking a “bi-partisan, market-based solution” to climate change. But what will that look like in the U.S.? Obama sounds as if he’s trying to appease both business and environmentalists. He wants to speed up the permit process for oil and gas exploration and he supports natural gas; that’s all old-paradigm stuff. At the same time, he wants to hasten the transition to more sustainable types of energy like wind power. He supports new research into alternative energy that will get vehicles off oil for good.

I’ll be curious to see how this vision unfolds. It sounds as if Obama is willing to make executive decisions to move forward on climate change, even if Congress tries to block any initiatives. He needs support for that.

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February 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm Comments (0)