This article originally appeared in the 2020 winter edition of Herizons. Little did I know how relevant it would be in Canada. As the unprecedented support for the Wet’suwet’en grows to a level we have never seen before in this country, we have to recognize that what is happening is the result of both the tremendous organizing of Indigenous groups and individuals over the past decade, and the immediate response of young environmentalists who deeply understand the relationship between Indigenous sovereignty and saving the planet.
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
— Buffalo Springfield
One of my favourite protest songs from my youth has become relevant again. Children around the world are demanding that adults act to stop climate change. It’s not like in the ’60s though, when we thought we could make the revolution on our own. One of our most common slogans was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
Today, young people are saying, “Stop, adults, what’s that sound?” The sound of the earth on fire, the sound of animals at the point of extinction, the sound of oceans turning into killing grounds — can’t you hear it, can’t you feel it? Why won’t you stop destroying our planet? I’m not much on seeing issues as generational, but seeing millions upon millions of young people standing up on climate change has changed my mind. Greta Thunberg is like a prophet of ancient times, telling truth to people in power who don’t want to hear it, and with such clarity and passion, they can’t pretend not to hear. Even more importantly, she is telling children that they can act to save the world and demand that their parents work with them to do it.
Even if the science is terrifying, the emergence of massive global movements to stop climate change along with mass uprisings against neoliberalism around the world are giving me hope that we are in a period of change even more important than that of the 1960s. Not only have we seen what is being called the biggest mass mobilization in history during the climate strike, but there are also millions of people rising up against incredible repression in Lebanon, Hong Kong, Bolivia and Chile.
A major unifying slogan is “Neoliberalism started in Chile and it will die in Chile.” The Chilean protesters also have climate action signs and link their battle against neoliberalism to the climate actions around the world.
In the U.S., Business Insider reports that New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s idea for a 70 per cent tax on the super-rich to finance a Green New Deal in the U.S. is more popular than Trump’s tax cuts. The billionaires are getting worried. In November, a bill was introduced in Congress that would “decarbonize the entire U.S. public housing stock, improve the quality of life for residents and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process.” This is the first legislative volley of the Green New Deal.
Meanwhile in Canada, on the heels of the massive October climate demonstrations, the main political parties did not seriously debate what it will take to tackle the climate crisis during the recent election. While NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh inspired many with a strong left populist stance during the election, he stopped short of promoting a Green New Deal, a program linking climate action with social justice. By joining the environmental movement to promote a Green New Deal, as several NDP candidates did during the election, Singh could continue to build momentum for his party.
Of course, climate change is more important than any single party. Three of the four opposition parties — the NDP, Greens and Bloc Québécois — have similar positions on the climate crisis. If they believe it is a crisis, then they must start doing politics differently. The three parties should put aside their sectarian differences and unite on a strong climate policy. Demand the Liberals stop subsidizing and supporting the fossil fuel industry and take dramatic action to slow climate change. None of the parties want another election any time soon. By working for a Green New Deal before the next election and uniting with the Greens and the Bloc to pressure the Liberals to take stronger action on climate change, the NDP could not only build on its election momentum but also help to bring about change between elections.
Now is not the time to play it safe. When you’re in a crisis, it’s time to take chances.
Judy Rebick is the founding publisher of rabble.ca. Her latest book is a memoir Heroes in My Head. This article was published in the Winter 2020 edition of Herizons.