27 May 2017

When Political Parties Choose the Wrong Leader, We All Suffer

A traitor to his children's future? 
(photo adapted from one taken by Riley Sparks)

Canada's Conservative Party just chose a new leader — one who doesn't understand climate change any better than the old one did. I'm appalled that in 2017, in the midst of the sixth mass extinction and climate change chaos around the world, when they could have elected Michael Chong to be their leader, they chose Andrew Scheer, who doesn't seem to give a flying leap about his children's future. 

Back in September 2012, here's a letter I wrote to Scheer when he was speaker of the house (of parliament):

Dear Mr. Speaker,

I am practically seething as I write this, but I will try to remain polite – although I find it increasingly difficult to abide ignorance (or pignorance – pretend ignorance, as a friend calls it) and blatant progenycide. I just read your response to [New Democratic Party member of parliament] Megan Leslie's request for an emergency debate on this past summer's unprecedented meltdown of Arctic summer sea ice, and cannot believe what I saw:

Quote: "I thank the hon. member for Halifax for both the letter and the explanation of the issue. While I am sure it is an important issue to her, I do not think it meets the test for an emergency debate." Unquote

So, you think this is not an emergency? You think this is only an important issue to Ms Leslie? You don't KNOW that the meltdown of the Arctic sea ice in the summer has EVERYTHING to do with the welfare and survival of your four children, Thomas, Grace, Madeline, and Henry?

As I read on the Parliament of Canada website, "It is the Speaker's duty to interpret these rules impartially, to maintain order, and to defend the rights and privileges of Members, including the right to freedom of speech. To preserve the trust of the House, the Speaker's actions must be impartial." I don't think you defended the right of our MPs to contribute to (and to enjoy) a safe future, nor do I think your action was impartial. I beseech you to drop the Conservative party line (climate change? what climate change? emergency? we only see $$) in order to give your kids -- and all the children, of all species -- a chance at a future. 

I know that because of your postsecondary education, you have a grasp of history and politics. And your experience in the insurance industry should help you understand the climate change emergency: "Climate change is a subject that concerns us all. It is one of the greatest risks facing mankind [sic]. In recent years, Munich Re has actively supported and advanced climate protection and adaptation to global warming." (from the website of Munich Re, one of the world's largest re-insurers.

Unfortunately, neither your education nor your work history has made you scientifically and ecologically literate. It is not your fault, but it is now your responsibility to change that fact and learn what you need to know. You could start by researching the impacts that global warming is already having in your home province of Saskatchewan. Please keep in mind that research is increasingly showing that all crops in all regions will be in decline by the time we reach a warming of +3ºC. [Crop yields in all regions are all now in decline.]

"Research indicates river flows in some parts of the prairies have declined by 40 percent over the past 75 years. River flow in the late summer and fall is largely dependent on glacial melt. Much of the spring and early summer flow results from runoff from winter snows in the mountains and precipitation throughout the river basin. Evidence is that snowfall, both in the mountains and elsewhere in the basin, has decreased in the last 100 years. Summer precipitation is up slightly in the Prairies, but rates of evaporation due to higher temperatures tend to neutralize that increase.

"Climate change predictions show an average temperature increase of 3°-5°C in the southern Prairies by mid-century. Research indicates that an increase of just 1°C in mean annual temperatures can reduce stream flows by as much as 15 percent."

"Overwhelming evidence indicates the climate of the Prairie Provinces is warming and drying, resulting in decreased river flows. If climate change continues to accelerate as predicted, water will be in short supply for municipalities, industry and recreational users in the coming decades.

"Saskatoon is just one of many water users spread throughout a river basin that runs across three provinces. Even Regina, which is not located in the Saskatchewan River basin, relies on water diverted from Lake Diefenbaker on the South Saskatchewan."

But here's the scariest part of your decision. The summer Arctic sea ice serves as the air conditioning for the growing season of the northern hemisphere. Did you notice any heat waves or drought conditions in North American this summer? Did you notice the 2.5 million people impacted by summer flooding in Pakistan in 2010? Did you hear about the wild fires and crop failures in Russia that same summer? Wild fires that killed thousands (especially due to the carbon monoxide in the smoke) and crop failures that closed down Russia's grain exports and helped spark the Arab Spring due to high food prices?

We NEED a frozen Arctic in the summer, Mr. Speaker. We are now more than 7 billion human beings who evolved over the last 10,000 years to be dependent on agriculture, and agriculture is dependent on a stable climate. Not only do we lose our climate stability if we lose the Arctic summer sea ice, but that loss is also triggering further warming due to loss of the albedo effect, creating a vicious circle of carbon feedbacks that will soon – if unchecked – become unstoppable. Although it is not easy to picture our children at our age – and even harder to picture them living lives marked by food and water shortages, droughts and floods, famines and thirst, horrifying heat waves, and extreme weather events – THAT is the life you are contributing to for your children by not allowing Canada to move forward on treating the Arctic meltdown as an emergency.

And that is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of those more vulnerable to climate disruption and climate chaos who have already lost their lives or their loved ones, their livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes or entire homelands.

Please, please, please reconsider your decision, Mr. Speaker. This is an important AND VITAL issue not just to Megan Leslie, but to you and your children, and to me and the children I love. I'm sure you would agree that they all deserve a fair chance at a safe, clean, healthy future. Allowing this debate would be a simple nod to the precautionary principle, something that helps ensure intergenerational equity. Surely our children deserve something that simple.

You might, perhaps because of your Conservative worldview, be tempted to write off what I have written as hyperbole, but that would belie an ignorance of or refusal to apply risk assessment, whereby risk = probability x magnitude. The magnitude of this emergency is already unprecedented, and the probability continues to grow as we continue to pump out 90 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every day.

I hope, through my seething, that I have managed to remain polite – although somehow "polite" pales in importance compared to ensuring the children a viable future. Also, I must admit that I am getting rather impatient with having to stick up for your children and all the children of this country's Conservative MPs when it comes to the climate change emergency we're facing -- nay, already experiencing.

I would be happy to meet with you to explain the emergency further, if that would be helpful to you.

Very sincerely,
Julie Johnston
Pender Island, British Columbia

bcc to my MP and activist friends, including one who is currently fasting in Ottawa for climate justice

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?