For Earth Day: Address to the Federal Climate Action Plan Consultation

This is the full text of the speech delivered by Niara van Gaalen at the conclusion of the Federal Climate Action Plan Consultation held 18 August 2016 at Kitchener City Hall. It is reproduced here for Earth Day.

Hello everyone.

Niara van Gaalen delivers closing remarks There are many people who are standing on a cliff of deliberate, unconcerned ignorance, when it comes to climate change. When they look into the abyss of the future, they simply want the normal life their parents wanted for them. Unfortunately, with climate change already happening, it will not be possible to live the way our forefathers did. We must be better. And it must happen now.

The Government of Canada needs to lead by example. Everything that is owned by the government, and that they spend our tax dollars on, must from now on contribute to the end of climate change. Institutions, like hospitals, schools, and city halls such as this one, have to help us sequester carbon biologically, to transition to a low carbon economy, to encourage world population reduction, and to restore nature. Our government also has to stop subsidizing, and accepting money from, the large and irresponsible fossil fuel, agro-tech, pharmaceutical, and forestry industries.

There is a list of simple, small things that need to be mandatory and made easily accessible to everybody by law, in order to end climate change: things like rain barrels, recycling, composting, physically separated bike lanes, and excellent, affordable, and punctual public transportation. For every child born in Canada we ought to plant trees in their honour. And we must protect Canada’s great forests, for all time, in our constitution, by restoring what we have damaged, and by embedding in law the protection of 40% of Canada as forest cover. We must also strategically protect at least half of Canada’s 9.985 million square kilometres as pure nature, for all eternity. This is one of the greatest gifts you, as politicians and citizens, could possibly give your children.

There is another list of things — chemicals, substances, and practices, the most important of which being the mining of the tar sands and fracking — that need to be banned. One law, one person’s vote can stop these atrocities that are destroying the earth. It is well understood that these things are important to Canada’s economy now, but is there a price that can be put on the quality of life of your children and grandchildren? Please look at me, and the faces of all the children on earth, in all honesty, and tell us “no.”

It is essential that we move to a low-carbon economy. A carbon tax will help, but it needs to happen nation- and world-wide. We need to tax items that should not be banned, but are still harmful to the environment, such as meat, and we need to ban factory-farming of animals. We also need to change the financial system, and address the problem of tax havens. Many ask how we will pay for the changes needed to stop climate change. This is just one of many examples: by cooperating with countries world-wide, money that hides in places like Delaware, and London, England can be returned to the people to whom it belongs, especially in Third World countries. In a similar way, we need to renegotiate and rethink all treaties and agreements, such as the TTP, NAFTA, space and extra space the Vancouver Declaration.

Biologically capturing and storing carbon is the single best way we can act quickly to prevent some of the worst events that could occur due to climate change. We need to make biochar, and incorporate it into our soil, a huge and damaged carbon sink that can be restored, and can simultaneously offset at least about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions each year. We need to make more items out of sustainable wood, green our cities, pressure countries that destroy tropical rainforest, and replant and restore the kelp forests on our coasts, to the benefit of both us and the otters. Renewable energy, such as concentrated solar power and geothermal, will also be a part of the solution. Every day there is word of new developments in carbon-storage techniques, and renewable and sustainable technology. The government must be deeply informed of all the technological possibilities, make sure that Canada’s citizens, especially young people, are a part of their development, invest money in them, and make laws to ensure they happen quickly.

It will be easier to stop climate change if we slow and reverse population growth. We have the means to support a few billion more people. But it will be so difficult, especially considering that this growth will occur in the Third World. The fewer people, the easier it is to act quickly, cooperate, and share. We must invest in women in other parts of the world so that they are in charge of their bodies and can plan their families, and we must educate women and all children. Canada, however, will likely receive many climate refugees and immigrants. We must plan, creating infrastructure and jobs with opportunities for fairly paid manual labour so that we can welcome them with open arms. On that note, considering the number of people, also consider dogs and cats, about 14 million in Canada, all of which require meat to feed. A carbon tax on non-working cats and dogs, would help to reduce their number, and persuade people to think twice about the environmental impact of a pet.

There can be no waiting for the right plan or the right technology to fix things. We have had decades to find a magic bullet and have not found it; we have to proceed without one. Although technology will help us to end climate change, we cannot engineer it away. I once read that there is no good time to have a baby. There is no good time to rebirth our world. Of course it is inconvenient that the biosphere has fallen ill; there is never a good time to be sick. But we still have to heal what we have damaged. I find it incredible that we can send a man to the moon, but we have failed to act proactively when it comes to climate change. We, the young generation, on behalf of all the other unique species on earth, expect the government to make drastic changes now, because the biosphere is incredibly fragile. We hold the government, and every single adult in Canada and across the world, accountable for all the actions you do and do not take. We must make another giant leap for mankind today, because otherwise all of mankind and every other living thing will suffer immensely. I challenge you, and expect you, to go and partake in this change, because to do nothing would be a betrayal of my generation.

Thank you.

Waterloo Region Town Hall – Federal Climate Action Consultation 2016 – Working Group Feedback

Nature Bonds

The petition to create a new financial security, Nature Bonds (E-1264 – Protection of the Environment) must be signed online by 3:00pm, 23 March 2018.

Addressed to the inhabitants of Canada

On the following interesting subjects:

  1. A move to protect 90% of Canada’s land and aquatic area as a permanent natural reserve.
  2. A move to zero carbon by 2024.
  3. As funded by the creation of a new financial security; Nature Bonds.

2017 marked the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of our nation. This same year also marks 35 years since the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. This is cause for celebration, but also a re-evaluation of what it means to be Canadian. What it means today to respect the ideals outlined by our forefathers.

I am thinking about the right to security of person, a right not only in our own country’s charter, but in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Climate change, and the biodiversity crisis violate my generation’s (I’m seventeen) right to security of person as set out herein. Although the current government has taken unprecedented action on this issue, it will not suffice. It is a drop in the ocean of things that need to be done. Therefore I propose a very simple solution:

That we create a new financial security, Nature Bonds, in order to fund the protection of 90% of Canada’s land and aquatic area as a permanent natural reserve, and a move to net-zero carbon by 2024.

I understand that this is an incredibly ambitious goal, that this is a kind of previously unheard of action. However, “We meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds” (Kennedy).

Everyone is susceptible to fear and ignorance, but we are stronger than that. We, as a compassionate and kind people, must come together to achieve the protection of the biosphere because if we fail, we betray every single generation to come. In six years the allied forces defeated both Hitler and Hirohito. In eight years humanity brought a man to the moon. We have had decades to counteract climate change and still no one has moved to do what must be done. Perhaps the ship has already sailed. But we must still try. A failure to do this would reflect cowardliness and an unprecedented failure of humanity when this generation and all generations to come need us most.

The goal to protect ninety percent of Canada’s land began with the knowledge of acclaimed biologist E.O.Wilson. He explains that, “The fraction of species that can be protected in one-half the global surface is about 85%. A biogeographic scan of Earth’s principal habitats shows that a full representation of its ecosystems and the vast majority of its species can be saved within half the planet’s surface. At one-half and above, life on Earth enters the safe zone.”

Canada has 9 985 000 square kilometres of land. When you combine the amount of arable land, permanent pastures, cities and other built-up land, the total occupied land is less than 10%. So, by that count we could easily protect 90% of Canada’s area— 8 986 500 square km.

Ninety percent makes sense because we must do more than we are doing now, as a country extremely gifted with space, and monetary resources. We must do more because other nations will be able to accomplish less. But truly, we must do more because it is the right and true thing to do.

I know that a good deal of land is already protected in Canada, through our national parks program, and other initiatives. This would just formalize and expand on what we have, and this 90% would include the parks and other currently protected areas. In addition, it is not my intention that people are forcefully relocated in order to create these protected areas.

The exact land that is protected should comprise of all the different ecological zones and regions in Canada, and as many different species as possible should be protected within this land. Sometimes, this will mean that areas such as roads will need to be temporarily closed, for example, during the migration of animals, in order to protect species.

Ninety percent should also apply to our coastlines, which are fragile and not well protected. 243,797 km of coastline, times the 360 km out that Canada claims, is 90 204 890 square km of ocean. If we include the great lakes’ 3800 km of coastline and all our smaller lakes, rivers, streams, etc. we have thousands more of square km of water to protect.

I propose that:

  1. This land and water will belong to all Canadian citizens.
  2. It is not allowed to be used for corporate gain for the next 30 years, to allow the area to regenerate to full health. At that point, a new discussion can begin on the topic of sustainably harvesting renewable resources.
  3. This protection means that all resources both underground and aboveground on the protected land will remain where they currently are.
  4. Aboriginal citizens will be allowed to harvest what they need in small and reasonable amounts for personal use, and all citizens who are camping or whatnot should be able to do the same.
  5. This land is to be maintained and restored so that it is as healthy and diverse as possible.
  6. It is to be extensively researched so that we better understand the nature of the ecosystems and wildlife that comprise it.
  7. All Canadians are allowed to inhabit this land on temporary and net-zero carbon structures.

As for climate change, in order to meet the Paris targets, we must aim to be carbon neutral by 2024. Most of our target dates are set for 2030, and so we only have to shorten the timeline by six years. If we do not aim for 2024, we will most likely not succeed in staying below 2 degrees of warming, the models show us. The government of Canada has not put out any information showing how their goals will bring us directly to the targets in time, and I believe that this is because they have not set ambitious enough goals to make good on the Paris treaty. We have already started the transition to zero carbon, as seen in the government report, Achieving a Sustainable Future. We must simply do it much more quickly and on an even grander scale.

And regarding how to pay for this I propose that we issue a new kind of bond, Nature Bonds, to fund it. I know that Canada recently made the decision to end the Canadian Savings bonds program, but what I am suggesting is a way to directly involve our citizens in our efforts, and it is an opportunity that cannot go ignored. I would like to remind you of the success of our private refugee sponsorship program, and I think that this bond program will allow us to accomplish similar successes with the environment. I am also thinking of war bonds, which are a capitalistic way of allowing individuals and corporations to raise funds for a common, patriotic goal. However, I want it to be clear that nature bonds would not be a privatization of government. They are a way for citizens to enable government initiatives that otherwise would not get the necessary financing.

Please note that the projects funded by the bond must have a clause in their contracts saying that if the project is not finished by 2024, there is no payment.

Despite a large investment on the part of the present government, we will not meet our Paris agreements if we go on like this. This bond will create the money that we need to invest in our society in order to create this fundamental shift. I cannot guarantee that all the benefits of investing in our society like this will create a monetary return in the traditional sense. However, it is not about the return on investment in the normal sense of getting whatever percentage on the money one originally puts in. The real return on investment in this case is preserving the earth for future generations.

I know that as a society newly come of age, we wish to prove to the world and to ourselves what are capable of. We have an opportunity to be visionaries, as we were in the making of historic moments such as at Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as peacekeepers in the Suez Crisis, and the signing of the Paris Agreement. We must do the seemingly impossible, and use the rich resources of our land, and the resourcefulness of our people in order to reverse this massive destruction of life. We must choose to protect our wildlife, our atmosphere, and an entire generation, not because it is an easy feat, but because it is hard, because it is a challenge that Canadians are willing to accept, one that we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.