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If climate change is such a serious danger but action through the Harper economy preoccupied government is impossible, could an Idle No More style grassroots disobedience campaign be effective in creating change?
Would it be possible to organize the nearly 60 per cent of Canadians that recognize that climate change is happening and is becoming a serious danger to all we know and love -- especially the very future of our children? Could a campaign to close down the tarsands and all coal production in Canada be a necessary first step in actually mitigating climate change?
Would it be possible to organize an Idle No More grassroots movement to effectively blockade the tar sands and coal production so that legislators, investment organizations and the wider business community would have to acknowledge and effectively answer the carbon budget science arguments against continuing production?
Isn't this scale of action in fact both commensurate with the scale of emission reduction necessary and the only doable, meaningful action that the average Canadian could participate in to actually reduce emissions of a scale needed? It might be presently wildly optimistic from a climate activist point of view, but isn't such a campaign the right thing to do if you recognize the climate danger and the intentions of tarsands advocates?
The Harper government's petrostate tactics has set the table. Harper has created an opportunity with advocacy of the tar sands as Canada's economic engine in the coming decades, climate change denial, dictatorial Omnibus bills which penalize First Nations who would be most effected by expanding tarsands infrastructure and which gut environmental regulation built up over many governments over past decades, and with his contempt for those who envision a differing, greener, Canadian future.
Like their Beltway compatriots, Canadian ENGOs have been quiet and ineffective in making the anti-tar sands case, maybe forced by circumstance and Harper hardball to be part of the problem. Is it time for a new, younger, more grassroots leadership which recognizes that climate change is an emergency requiring this scale of action now?
Idle No More has shown how powerfully disruptive a very few motivated people could be. Four women started this campaign; it grew because Idle No More was both needed and possible. What if key players in Canada's environmental and other ethically motivated communities used their expertise and communications network to organize such a campaign -- recognizing that keeping tar sands and coal in the ground was the bottom line in securing our children's future?
Sixty per cent of Canadians want to do the right thing -- will they support such a radical and economically threatening campaign? Will they support real and needed action on climate change even though there will be profound and painful (hopefully just in the short term) economic consequences?
Could such a campaign get off the ground? Can we even consider such a campaign -- even if the best available science strongly suggests that actual emission reduction by keeping coal and unconventional oil in the ground -- worldwide, not just in Canada -- is necessary?
David McGuinty, with perfect neoliberal economic pitch, suggests that even present environmental opposition to the tarsands is delusional. Do we stay paralyzed in implicatory denial, expanding our economy by ramping up tar sands production because we are so economically dependent upon being a petrostate, or do we seize the chance to finally act in a way that's meaningful? In a way that will actually reduce emissions significantly, reduce emissions of a scale necessary?
I think such a tar sands campaign is not only possible but that it could be wildly successful (and hence dangerous and revolutionary) and I think it could be a catalyst for change locally and globally. Harper and petrostate control of government could fall. The loss of investment value in the tar sands, in the present carbon bubble could crash markets around the world with consequences both painful and promising. The flow of knowledge and investment out of the fossil fuel economy and into a post carbon socio-economy could be on a tsunami scale. The fossil fuel industry might even finally get serious and develop CCS or other ways of using their product without emissions. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Getting out of denial is in our best long term interest. A few stupid and intensely self-interested mostly white males threaten all we know and love because they can presently effectively ignore the climate science and our foresight of great danger for future generations. Idle No More has proved very effective at getting the attention of those who would rather studiously ignore.
Bill McKibben's three numbers are a powerful argument if those presently advocating fossil fuel production have to pay attention and provide a scientific rebuttal.
Presently, even national consideration of such a coal and tarsands campaign is heretical. Given what we do know about the climate change dangers, at least two decades of inaction due to paid obfuscation and denial, and what we do know about the scale of necessary action, even consideration of this scale of action is a step in the right direction. Could we actually free ourselves to do something meaningful about climate change?
Expanding tar sands production is a crime against our kids and grandkids given the best climate science. There is something that is possible that you can and must do and that is help keep coal and the tar sands bitumen in the ground. Simple as that.
There is no effective action possible in our present petrostate except for, maybe, the Idle No More style campaign envisioned.
By acting in the interests of our kids and grandkids we can also cast off the corporate tyranny that stifles democracy presently and win back control of our economy. Painful? Dangerous? Easier to not do anything? Yes. But keeping coal and bitumen in the ground is the only thing you can do now to save your kids future.
Bill Henderson is an activist who lives in Gibsons, B.C.