Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”
If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.
Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.
– Jim Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in the New York Times, May 10, 2012
Bad things happen when good people do nothing.
-April Churchill, vice-president of the Haida Nation, speaking in a discussion of nature and faith with a Globe and Mail panel.
In the comfort of our age of plenty, our enjoyment of richness where we found it, in our dreams about the attainability of the good life for all, we have been lulled into a long and easy sleep— from which we are waking up in a grey cold dawn.
Our lives and livelihoods have become much riskier, our governments are not what we believed, or hoped, them to be. All of a sudden, so few have so much, and so many have so little. Who benefits and who bears the brunt of our comfortable life? When does the exacerbation of climate change become a specific human rights issue? When will we have crossed the line of no return?
If the magnitude and the significance of this state of affairs, does not touch our very core sense of what is is just, fair and right in the world, then, I fear, we have fallen dead asleep at the helm, gone dead cold in the heart, and no longer know our soul.
So I find myself wandering back through memory here, wondering. In such a situation as this, how do I know what to do, how to act? What can I rely on? What is it that I know, and how did I come by that learning?
In the way-back-when, my mother’s family traces its origins in Canada to the Irish Wesleyan Methodist farming communities of Ontario around Stirling, Tweed, Napanee and Kingston.
I grew up in the very heart beats of colonized and actively colonizing society. My grandfathers’s family were hardworking rural farmers, but they did tend to subscribe to the view: “Our way is the best way”, maybe even “the only way.” Also “live and let live” was a popular testament to tolerance— except when it came to the Catholics. On the other hand, my father’s family origin is in the Welsh borderlands and he was new to Canada back then. So that set lots of my foundation stories quite a-kilter.
Nonetheless, in the limestone fortress of Sydenham School, on Clergy Street in Kingston Ontario, I began the lessons that proudly painted Canadian society as a world class model of democracy, fairness and social justice. I don’t know where that idea came from exactly. It was just something that got slurped up everyday in thought, word and deed.
In the 1960s, along with my other teenage friends, we all began developing social consciences, of course, lit up by the civil rights movements in the US, and the history of Gandhi’s movement in India. But still, the base line objectives were pretty clear — to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
I knew that there were issues of social justice, poverty and racial discrimination in Canada. . . but like somewhere else… not in my small enclave of daily life. The thought that inequality or injustice was systemically entrenched in our society did not occur to me… not for a moment. We were the Good Guys and everybody would automatically desire and should be given the opportunity to be just like us.
It has taken years of other experiences, and a lot of patience from the good teachers of Haida Gwaii, to crack the formidable veneer of assumptions that come as part and parcel of my colonizers history. Eventually I understood that not all Canadians shared my particular privileged notions, and their life experiences were often fundamentally at huge variance to mine. Canada never was, and still is not, a level playing field. I can’t believe how long it took me to begin to figure this out.
In the place that I come from, (literally and figuratively) I think it’s easy to believe that life goes on pretty well without much effort beyond earning your daily bread. But the world has changed, in ways that I could never have imagined. Government has become something that many Canadians are not proud of…at all. And the need for good governance on a local and global scale has never been greater.
The Enbridge pipeline proposals are a specific focus of concern on Haida Gwaii these days. Oil tanker traffic on the West Coast poses a serious threat to the very existence of all coastal peoples, and the life forms which bind us together.
It is also clear that the pipeline and tanker proposals to ship bitumen through the west coast port of Kitimat to markets in Asia, are a symptom of, and connectors to, the much larger problems of global warming and climate change.
And those are the matters that pitch us all together in our small, fragile planetary life boat.
We are standing on guard for our country, for our land, for our people. If we do not do it, nobody else will do it for us.– Monica Howard at the JRP hearings, Smithers