Labour Views: We only have the one planet

By Jack Bourassa 


We don’t inherit this planet; we borrow it from our children and grandchildren. Our mistakes are their future. Is it climate change, crisis or emergency? Climate change affects our lives— and in a serious pattern. This is not only about the weather getting warmer, an idea that climate change deniers love to dwell on. Climate change means extreme weather events and natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and droughts putting people’s lives at imminent risk.

I sensed a glimpse of hope last week when the House of Commons declared a climate emergency. The motion was put forward by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna recognizing that “climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity.” The motion also calls on the House to “declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement’s objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The good news is that the crisis is being addressed. But the bad news is that this is “a declaration of opinion or purpose; it does not require that any action be taken, nor is it binding.” This means that we need a political and moral will to ensure that serious actions are taken to reduce our carbon footprint as a nation. I have to admit that I’m on the verge of climate anxiety, and I’m not the only one.

Let’s look at some alarming facts. Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Not scary enough? The scientific report claims that warming is “effectively irreversible.” How does climate change impact the North? The Arctic warms three times as fast as anywhere in the world. We don’t have time to waste.

Knowing that the “national climate emergency motion” doesn’t require any action be taken, I’m feeling disappointed. I’m worried that this might lead to apathy. If we can’t save our habitat, why bother? We’re recycling and trying to reduce our carbon footprint as individuals while leading politicians in Canada and around the world aren’t doing enough to save the environment. Do we still need to fight the good fight? 

The answer is yes. Whether governments care or not, you need to care. Whether the majority of the population cares or not, you need to care. Whether people around you care or not, you need to care. The only way to fight back climate change is building resilient communities. The only way to put climate anxiety to ease is to find like-minded individuals and work together. Let’s look around and cultivate resiliency, hope and determination.  

“We don’t have planet B.” I read this on a sign during the student climate action strike in Yellowknife. The young students filled my heart with hope. This is how we build resilient communities. Around the world, students in thousands of cities took part in “Fridays for Future” climate strikes. Those actions are organized and led by youths— a grassroot movement that’s become global. Now, school strikers are calling on “everyone: young people, parents, workers, and all concerned citizens to join massive climate strikes and a week of actions starting on September 20.” The youths are on their school summer breaks now, but we have a role to play by following their footsteps and ensure that climate action is our priority.

There are many ways in which we can take collective action and build resilient communities. The first step is to be equipped with scientific facts. Find out how climate change is directly and/or indirectly affecting your community. Then raise awareness. Talk to your family members, friends and co-workers about the issue. Remember that building resilient communities requires communicating with one another. Share articles based on verified scientific facts. This will make people in your network armed with knowledge that will drive them to take action. Creating real change follows and accompanies awareness.

Climate action is a political issue. Federal election is around the corner, and so is the territorial election in the Northwest Territories. Let’s ask candidates the right questions and demand climate action to be on their platforms. We need a platform that ensures reducing emissions, creating green jobs and protecting our waters. Saving our environment should not be partisan. Caring for this planet must be above caring for profits. And keep in mind, we don’t have planet B.

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

Let’s not wait until all waters are polluted and all the air is unsafe to breathe. Let’s make our voice loud and clear. Climate action must be a top priority. Every voice counts.  


This column originally appeared in Yellowknifer on June 26.