As a husband and father of two children I am deeply concerned about the kind of world they are going to live in when they grow up. I have often despaired in recent years about the terrible environmental legacy my generation will be leaving them, so I was heartened when I read of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's agenda at the G7 summit she hosted last month.
She hoped to set an ambitious goal in the run-up to the next UN climate change summit in Paris in November. Merkel proposed that her fellow leaders make a broad, iron-clad commitment to a low-carbon economy by 2050. But my heart sank when I saw that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had joined forces with the right-wing Japanese prime minister to push that deadline to the end of the century. By then, my two-year-old son could be warning his grandchildren not to swim in the acid bath that is the Pacific Ocean, while waxing nostalgically about the long extinct polar bear.
It's not the first time Harper has obstructed substantial action on climate change and sullied Canada's once-bright reputation, of course. In 2011, he made Canada the only country in the world to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Not content with that outrage, in 2013 Harper pulled Canada out of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, which fights the effects of drought around the world. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Canada was highly regarded as a leader in the environmental field. But Harper has methodically eroded that reputation to the extent that the influential Conference Board of Canada branded Canada an environmental laggard in a 2013 report. According to "How Canada Performs" we rank 15th out of 17 developed nations on environmental performance, ahead of only the United States and perennial bottom-dweller Australia.
Harper has decimated key departments at the Fisheries and Oceans, destroyed valuable research libraries and muzzled our top-calibre scientists, and year after year has won Canada the dubious distinction of being designated "fossil of the year" on climate change.
One of the slogans I've seen on buttons handed out by the Green Party is "Because, KIDS." For me, that is the heart of the environmental issue, and my motivation for writing about climate change and trying to raise awareness of the seriousness of this crisis that threatens our very survival as a species. How can Harper, who has children of his own, be so blind to what faces them in their future? Does he really believe, as his finance minister Joe Oliver famously stated, that this is a problem for his granddaughter to solve? And for that matter, how can any of us with children and grandchildren refuse to take action on this issue if we care about their future?
Because, kids -- that says it all.
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