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And on to Copenhagen…

Interview with Elizabeth May on the International Day of Action on Climate Change

And so it’s come and gone. After 18 months of planning and preparation, over 4000 events took place in over 180 countries all over the world this past weekend to push the number 350 into the global consciousness. Why? Because many scientists (most prominently James Hansen of NASA) now feel that 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere should be the upper limit in order to avert potentially catastrophic climate change. As we’re already at 387 ppm and still can’t seem to agree on how (or whether) to reduce emissions, this is no small task. Nonetheless, organizers of and participants in the Oct. 24 international day of action on climate change are hoping that the events around the world this past weekend will lead to a groundswell of public opinion that will help push leaders towards a new, stronger international climate treaty at negotiations in Copenhagen this coming December.

So will it work? This is the question I am asking myself having returned from the ‘Fill the Hill’ event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, has been making the point that advocates for action on climate change constitute a “movement without a movement” in the sense that there has never really been any coordinated mass action on the part of citizens around the world.

I have to admit to being a little disappointed to have seen only about 1000 people turn out on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for what was billed for months as an event that would “fill the Hill’. If the possibility of a catastrophic climate crisis isn’t enough to spur Canadians into action, one wonders what is? On the other hand, perhaps the impacts just seem too far off in the distance, too uncertain, too slow to become manifest. Or maybe it was the rain on Saturday that kept people away.

Whatever the case, I couldn’t help but be reminded of an article from last fall by Eric Pooley called ‘How Much Would You Pay to Save the Planet?’ The author argues that a deadly meteor hurtling toward the earth would surely result in a herculean and coordinated effort to avert catastrophe, regardless of the economic cost. Yet in the case of climate change, no such mobilization has occurred despite the best efforts of scientists to warn of the severe to catastrophic consequences of inaction.

So where will we go from here and just how will the world manage to forge a new agreement in Copenhagen in December? For some thoughts on this, I caught up with Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, who was at the rally on Parliament Hill. Click on the audio player to hear the interview I did with her for CKUT radio.

Categories: Climate breakdown
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