Is this the climate crisis election?

V.S. Wells
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August 29, 2021 (from Passage Newsletter)

A recent headline from the Toronto Star caught my attention: “It started as a blockade. Now, B.C.’s Fairy Creek Protests are putting old-growth logging, and RCMP enforcement, on the 2021 political agenda.” While I can’t fathom including a sentence with four clauses in a headline, the article itself makes a good point: Dropping the writ while this large-scale civil disobedience is happening means that Fairy Creek has become part of the story of the 44th election. 

But Fairy Creek isn’t just about old-growth logging. The money being spent to brutalize land defenders is money that isn’t being used to tackle the much more pressing crisis of the climate emergency. “While the RCMP are clearly in denial about the climate emergency, they breathe the same smoky, polluted air that we do,” writes Rita Wong for The Tyee.

There are a myriad of other climate-related crises happening. But all these catastrophes are only made worse by rampant capitalism. David Suzuki, writing in Rabble, says, “We can’t truly resolve the many crises we face — climate, biodiversity, health — without shifting from the dominant world view of constant growth and economy above all.”

So, what are our parties proposing to do to stop the planet burning? 

The Liberals are yet to release their election platform, but considering they bought a goddamn pipeline they’re probably not going to be pitching groundbreaking new ideas.

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives are also not doing much. Chen Zhou at Ricochet analyzes the Tory platform, which centres around a climate reward program that sees a little bit of money from every hydrocarbon-based fuel purchase redirected into a “Personal Low Carbon Savings Account.” Zhou writes, “According to experts, the Conservatives’ climate plan is weaker and more bureaucratic than the current Liberal government’s policies.”

In Linda McQuaig’s column for the Toronto Star (and reprinted paywall-free in Rabble), she points out that parties’ climate change policies are uselessly limited if they don’t reckon with the fossil fuel industry itself. Fossil fuel companies are rich, and exert huge influence. She argues that a wealth tax, like the one in the NDP’s platform, could “rein in this runaway corporate power.”

McQuaig, Suzuki and Wong have all explicitly tied the climate crisis to capitalism — arguing that we can’t meaningfully respond to it while still operating in a profit-first economy. But all of the major political parties assume that capitalism will keep rolling along if they win a majority in the Commons. 

Avi Lewis, who’s running for an NDP seat in a B.C. riding where the NDP finished fourth in 2019, told Jacobin that “climate is a top issue for the majority of voters.” His ecosocialist view — that “dealing with an emergency through solutions that solve multiple problems, and actually come at the speed and scale of the crises we face, and would actually solve them, is a populist offer” — is definitely an optimistic read of the NDP’s climate platform. (The Ricochet piece I linked earlier notes that “none of the major parties’ current plans will meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”) 

Fairy Creek won’t be the last large-scale environmental protest, because no party is pledging to do what’s necessary to save the earth. Extinction Rebellion is planning a week of climate action in October. Land defenders continue to protest the pipelines being built through unceded Indigenous territory. A government that is doing “enough” about the environment would be engaging with these protesters, listening to their demands and genuinely considering the radical possibilities they suggest that could change the world for the better. 

Instead, we have three major parties who want to make Canada a tiny bit less dirty — but nothing so dramatic as to scare Big Oil.  

Stay safe, stay hydrated, stay angry. 

– V.