OPINION: Why I’m Finding it Difficult to Believe in the Current Corporate-Owned Capitalist Political System We Have

I wish I could believe. I respect progressive politics– the creators of the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation – they were my people after all [Baptists!]). I’ve believed for a long time. I want to believe now. I really do. Trudeau has nailed the final nail in the coffin of me not believing in the voting and election process. I wrote “Spoiling the ballot” as a shout out to trigger an example of the level of civil disobedience needed. I really feel we have flatlined as far as governments go–there are no worse and no better because what we desperately need NOW– a declaration of a state of emergency and a war level effort to slow global warming–they cannot produce. They are all chained to being bad because the corporate capitalist takeover of democracy is complete.

I’ve been reading and listening to Chris Hedges for eight years. He’s saying we MUST carry out acts of legal, peaceful civil disobedience. Most of us who have slipped from the middle to the lower income quintile are now the “underclass” that indigenous Canadians have been for 250 years. We really need to join with them in resisting environmental “extractivism” and degradation. John Risley doesn’t need any more profit for a second private plane. Galen Weston doesn’t need any more profit from his palm oil-laced processed foods to the detriment of the rainforests being decimated and the habitat of orangutans and tens of thousands of species lost. For our junk food? To make us obese? Why is this allowed? Because governments will not regulate industry because industry owns them, the way Northern Pulp owns McNeil, the way the Big Boys owned Dexter and every other politician who gets into power.

All our employment must come from small organic farming (permaculture) operations. Everyone must go “back to the garden” and governments need to help people get back to growing their own food. Focusing on a non-polluting energy industry and an improved grid, as well as a new tax system which heavily taxes the richest (as FDR did in the 1930s) in order to create clean infrastructure jobs,  should be prioritized. Selective silva culture forestry and rebuilding of the Acadian forest will follow.

Prevention of lifestyle disease through nutrition education and massive numbers of public government-run kitchens which distribute fresh food and teach skills about what our bodies need and what the environment can handle now is key for a healthy future. Extreme heat and irregular weather is upon us, so we must shut down biomass, fracking, coal mining and pulp mills, (nationalize our energy system), restore salt marshes for protection from storm surges and put people to work doing all these things.

We need to encourage the creation of organic farms, clean energy technology, conservation (rewilding, tree planting), a plant-based diet and active transportation programs to encourage exercise and healthy eating. Redistribution of excess food to low-income households should be a law–no corporation should be throwing out perfectly good food. All these things must be put in place by government.

Thirteen-year-olds are striking from school and suing federal governments. They know they have no future. We have to do something more radical because of the climate crisis is fully upon us. Even at the oft-quoted 1.5 degrees temperature rise limit, growing food may be too difficult. PEI ploughed under 30% of its potato crop this summer. Growers told me it was the hardest year to grow food they have seen in 30 years. If that’s the case at 1.1 degree temperature rise that we already have, what will 1.5 degrees bring?

Seven years ago we were at 380 parts per billion of CO2. Now we’re up to 412 and it’s rising in greater increments all the time, especially in the last two years. We have to draw down, and drawback from business as usual which federal and provincial governments exemplify as fast as possible on our own and maybe with the help of municipal governments declaring a state of emergency. We need to collapse unregulated corporate capitalism. Piketty’s book is called ‘The End of Capitalism‘. The sooner we get there, the very slight chance we have to create a green economy and a more socially just world.

Climate disruption demands we change everything from plastic bags to limiting flying to the shifting the tax system to upping public transportation and limiting car use in urban cores. We must tax the rich heavily and use all the money to transition to a no carbon, zero growth economy. We have no time to wait for governments who are under the thumb of Big Oil in the case of Trudeau and the Mafia (in the case of Thug Ford). We have no socialist party in Canada. Otherwise, the NDP or the Greens would have promoted things like “The Leap Manifesto” (in the case of the Federal NDP) or “Carbon Fee and Dividend” (in the case of the Green Party). There are no parties that will do what is needed. It’s a state of emergency, no less.

Chris Hedges doesn’t even get to talking about climate change. He has just thoroughly dissected and exposed neoliberalism, austerity and the corporate takeover of government. In Canada as well, we have books and articles written by whistleblowers. Such as ‘Deep Oil State‘, which spells out how the multinational oil companies took over the federal government, and Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret exposes what factory farming is doing to the atmosphere, not to mention our health. The UN has announced our global food system is broken. People are starving; people are morbidly obese; people are full of disease caused by what they eat or don’t eat. Corporate agriculture and billionaire food processing giants are killing us so that big pharma can squeeze millions of insurance dollars out through heavy drug prescribing.

As Chris Hedges said, “If we don’t stop them, they’re going to kill us all.” Climate change is the most obvious evidence of how the thugs, the goons, the greedy, the sociopaths, the criminal, the power mongers that control the world are killing us.

We need to have face to face discussion about what we, the people must do in Nova Scotia and all across Canada. That’s why I’m trying to bring activists together to brainstorm and listen to each other. Convince me that the NS NDP will come with policies that address all these concerns.

The frog is seconds from croaking its last croak. We need to get him out, do major revival work on him and there’s a minuscule chance he will recover. But we have to make Nova Scotians understand what Hedges is saying and that’s a big challenge unless maybe they can see how serious it is now because of the difficulty growing food.

By Joanne Light

A Short but Sweet Chapter in the Long Journal of a Climate Activist

This fall, in my seventh year as a volunteer climate change lobbyist of a “little power pony” called Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada, I asked myself: “Do I have the resources and energy to go to Ottawa for the third time to once again lobby MPs, Senators and aides for a revenue-neutral price on pollution? Back home three or four others and myself had spent hundreds of hours of the last seven years meeting with all but two of our Nova Scotian MPs and many MLAs, leaders of political parties, people in the faith, business and government policy bureaucrat communities, as well as hundreds of fellow citizens to get for Nova Scotians, especially low and middle income households, a fair shake if and when we would begin to price carbon pollution. That could only happen with a system where the revenue collected on a steadily increasing cost of fossil fuel products would be given back as rebate cheques to the citizens.

 

I looked at my bank account and said: “I just can’t do it.” Then I did something I’ve rarely done, I asked my fellow citizens for help to get to Ottawa and stay with a billet for four days. Donations of $250 from a city councillor, $210 from four fellow climate activists and $100 from a faith community came in over the next few days. I felt so supported in a government climate that had mostly ignored what we had been saying for so long. It was one of those times when you feel all warm and fuzzy like when you fall backwards into the interlocked arms of a group in one of those group dynamics’ trust exercises. I can’t thank those five individuals and one church body enough for catching and catapulting me to Ottawa.

 

I was about to face an intense four more days in the long journey of a citizen of a democracy where, despite evidence that we, the people, have little sway in the matters that affect us (compared with oil executives and those in their back pockets), we feel compelled to act tenaciously with patience and discipline (a motto a very smart businessman told me that is the creed he lives by ‘TPD,’ he calls it) to “be the change.”

 

Off I went, yes, using a lot of fossil fuels to get there. Please spare me the fallacious ‘ad hominem’ ‘You’re a hypocrite!’ attack. Until we have hemp biofuel and high-speed trains, I am forced to use what I have depended on and squandered in my misguided, brainwashed practise of focusing on my wants, rather than my needs.  I am told my generation was the worst offender. I wear it. I own it. But anyone from my generation can counteract what we didn’t realize we shouldn’t have been doing. In the late 1970s, most revoked our commitment to clean energy under the avalanche of the Reaganomics-led corporate takeover that killed the electric car and manufactured the self-centred materialist “yuppified” 1980s. 

Back in the future present, for four days, from October 13-16, I paid my penance as a gas and oil chugging baby boomer as one of 55 volunteers of at least four generations, who met with 54 Parliamentarians (talk about jet fuel junkies!), including cabinet ministers, both opposition critics for the environment and most members of the All-Party Climate Caucus.

Prior to lobbying, we spent 16 hours learning from a stellar line-up of climate change and communication experts including Mark Cameron from Canadians for Clean Prosperity – which produced a groundbreaking report in late September showing that the vast majority of Canadians would come out ahead with carbon fee and dividend. At the end of the weekend, three new Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapters were activated in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Oro-Medonte, ON, and Saskatoon, SK.

It turns out seven (years lobbying) and thirteen (national meetings) are my lucky numbers. This time, we heard a rumour on the hill that implementation of our preferred plan (carbon fee and dividend) was going to be announced as the official backstop policy for pricing carbon pollution. Independent Senator for Alberta, Grant Mitchell (who CCL’s former national director, Cathy Orlando and team have been lobbying since 2011) (since November 2011) announced (in her meeting with him), “You are one of the most successful lobbying groups I have worked with because you are about to get what you lobbied for.”

 

So it came to pass. On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau announced (announced) “It is free to pollute, so we have too much pollution.” He presented the solution simply: “Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. We are going to place a price on the pollution that causes climate change from coast to coast to coast. We’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality” in response to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which released a report on October 8th of this year. Its heartbreaking bottom line is that we have just twelve years left to reign in the climate crisis with severe consequences of inaction being felt by as early as 2040. That urgent message was brought to parliamentarians. On Monday, October 15, while on Parliament Hill, an emergency debate on the IPCC’s 1.5C report happened.  Many CCLers watched in the House of Commons Gallery including eleven-year-old Sophia, who concluded afterward, “I wish they would cooperate.”

 

Using one province as an example, the PM stated that a family of four would receive $307 with their tax return this spring, more than doubling to $718 by 2022. Eight in ten families will get back more than they pay.  The policy also includes extra support for small, rural and remote Canadian communities. Trudeau emphasized that every nickel of this revenue (Climate Action Incentive)would be returned to Canadians.
And so it was that Canada became the first country in the world to enact a carbon fee and dividend policy. The story is far from an “…and they all lived happily ever after” ending. With a national election coming up next year, political attacks on the policy are already coming fast and furiously, so the job of generating political will for carbon fee and dividend is by no means finished in Canada for the sitting government. Success will hinge on their continued approach of persistent and respectful engagement that eschews partisanship.
As one Conservative MP told the group, “We like you because you are nonpartisan.” As another MP said, “We need you volunteers to tell the public far and wide about this.”  I say, how about this government restoring the funding for the Canada-wide provincial Environmental Networks, like the NSEN, which former PM Harper eliminated and PM Trudeau hasn’t reinstated.  Now would be a good time to do so because those networks would get the word out in theri climate change caucuses if they had a little money to catch them.”  
I told you it was a long journey. 
by Joanne Light