This past week people around the world celebrated over 40 years since the first Earth Day in 1970. My Facebook feed was filled with images and statuses wishing me a "Happy Earth Day" or encouraging me to "treat every day like it's Earth Day". While they ran the gamut from cute to annoying, I was left asking myself, "what's the point?"
Climate change is an environmental crisis like nothing we've ever faced because it transcends environmentalism -- it is not a fight against pollution, but a fight against polluters. It is a struggle to change the economic and political systems that uphold business as usual. The climate movement needs more out of each us -- we can't simply click, sign or wish this problem away. We have to step up, organize and fight our way forward and away from fossil fuels, and we have to do it now.
The Bad News
Here in Canada, climate change is expected to cost Canada upwards of $43 billion within the next 35 years - and that's just the cost in dollars. Around the world people are losing their lives and livelihoods to climate change, with entire regions being forced from their homes both from the sudden, jarring impacts of extreme weather or the slow disaster of rising seas or dying crops. Stephen Harper's dreams of becoming an "Energy Superpower" will put us on a path to over 6 degrees of warming - triple the globally agreed "safe" limit, and to living in a country defined by our Gross National Pipelines.
In B.C., the Northern Gateway pipeline is edging closer to approval or rejection, with a handful of other pipeline, fracking and coal export projects hot on its heels. These projects all have a slightly smoother road to approval since the recent removal of Pacific humpback whale protections off the west coast, an an announcement the Conservatives made this past Earth Day.
In Alberta, the tar sands continue to develop unregulated and uncontrolled, with no federal climate legislation or regulations on oil and gas development on the books. On top of this, the Alberta Energy Regulator approved restarting a CNRL in-situ tar sands operation despite a 10-month long, unexplained and unstoppable spill in a neighbouring CNRL facility.
The Energy East tar sands pipeline, stretching from Alberta to New Brunswick (and threatening to extend all the way to Cape Breton) is the largest pipeline proposed yet. It has the capacity to carry over a million barrels of tar sands crude each day - equal adding over seven million cars to Canada's roads. The pipeline crosses thousands of rivers and lakes including the Great Lakes, already suffering from the impacts of climate change. In Ontario and Quebec, Energy East is doubled down on by the NEB approved Line 9 pipeline reversal poised to ship tar sands to export facilities in the Northeastern United States.
On the east coast the fight against fracking is still centre stage. Nova Scotia's temporary fracking moratorium is set to expire this summer. The Atlantic Coast is also the next target for proposed tar sands exports at the end Energy East, the pipeline shrouded in false promises of local booms and domestic refining.
In the north, entire communities are threatened by everything from melting permafrost, sea ice loss and the disappearance of winter ice roads. Meanwhile fracking, arctic oil exploration and even a half-cocked idea to run a tar sands pipeline to the Arctic Ocean are being pursued.
The Good News
As I write, an unprecedented alliance of ranchers and Indigenous communities are camped out on the National Mall in Washington D.C. calling for a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. This "Cowboy and Indian Alliance" is just one piece of an ever-growing resistance to the unchecked growth of the fossil fuel industry.
In Ontario, both the Energy East pipeline and Line 9 continue to face fierce and creative community resistance. TransCanada has faced disruption and protest across the province while pushing Energy East. Meanwhile people in Quebec are preparing to march 700km over 34 days along the entire length of the Energy East pipeline in Quebec.
In 2013, communities across Atlantic Canada won major victories against fracking. In Newfoundland, plans to frack in Gros Morne National Park were delayed, people in Elsipogtog sent Texas-based SWN Resources packing last fall after taking a powerful stand, and all across the region communities continued to stand up against fracking. Right now organizers in Nova Scotia are gearing up to renew and extend the temporary fracking moratorium.
The Alberta Tar Sands Network was launched recently "pushing for an end to rampant tar sands expansion and a transition to a green, renewable economy that protects human and environmental rights." In the same month teachers, parents and activists in Alberta came together and stopped big oil from designing public education for Kindergarten to grade three students.
On the west coast, Kinder Morgan's application for the Trans-Mountain pipeline has seen hundreds of people who apply to intervene in the pipeline review process. Vancouver and Burnaby have both come out in opposition to the project and resolve of Indigenous communities to reject the pipeline continues to grows. The Northern Gateway pipeline was recently rejected in a plebiscite and ensuing council vote in Kitimat, then formally banned by the Yinka-Dene Alliance.
On over 40 campuses all across the country, students and alumni have organized thousands of students for fossil fuel divestment. Now faith communities are starting to step up with Trinity St. Paul's United Church announcing a commitment to divest, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice issuing a call for divestment and now the Mennonite community joining the campaign.
This is just a small sample of the growing movement against extreme energy. It doesn't include the bold action being taken by the Unist'ot'en Camp occupying the right of way pipelines in northern BC. It doesn't talk about the lawsuits being brought by both the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation against tar sands development in their territory.
The beautiful thing about a movement is just that: it moves. And now we have a chance to get moving together. On May 10th communities across Canada are stepping up to take action and defend out climate and communities from the impacts of extreme energy. Will you join in?
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