By Zack Metcalfe
I’ve never enjoyed talking politics, always searching of the genuine behind blatant facades, but at times like this it’s critical we pay attention.
This coming election is the most important in my lifetime. I say that about every election and it’s always true, because each takes us closer to the climatic deadlines which will shape the success or failure of society going forward. It’s difficult to argue the finer points of social inequality, healthcare and economics when food and water security are in doubt, when hurricanes annually devastate millions of dollars worth of infrastructure, and the natural resources on which we depend run dry. There are foundations on which our country is built, so often taken for granted, and a stable climate is among them.
A growing number of Canadians have, through some mechanism or another, made it very clear that climate change, and its lesser appreciated cousin mass extinction, rank among their voting priorities, a swing in public awareness which caught me off guard. Vague promises of employment and economic growth don’t seem to sway the electorate like they used to, responding instead to concrete plans for long term sustainability and, to my amazement, our leaders are listening.
Maybe recent climate marches across the country, such as those in Halifax, finally made the point. Maybe it was the blocking of bridges by citizens willing to face arrest in exchange for climate justice. Maybe it was the critical mass of scientific studies and reports illustrating the slow death of our only planet. Whatever the reason, when researching the platforms of our major parties, and more specifically when sitting down to our most recent leadership debate, I was surprised to see the majority had plans for addressing climate change on their masthead. For the first time in my adult life, action on climate is not being treated as a political luxury, but instead a necessity.
This isn’t to suggest that all climate plans are created equal. The majority of Canadians are not adequately informed on this hopelessly complex issue to see the gaps in many of these proposals, a fact some parties are exploiting to claim salvation when their goals in fact fall far short. Atmospheric physics, after all, are not interested in negotiating, nor partial to compromise. But still, this is progress, and some plans are quite strong.
The climatic tipping point identified last year by the United Nations gives us about 11 years to make drastic changes in this country, such as investing heavily in solar, wind and tidal power, electric cars, habitat restoration and the widespread protection of intact ecosystems, ending fossil fuel subsidies and strengthening carbon taxes, catching up on species-at-risk legislation and minimizing our use of environmental toxins, be them plastic or pesticide. I won’t go so far as to endorse a political party here, because such endorsements are problematic and the correct choice depends a great deal on the political climate of your particular district, strategic voting being what it is. I will say, however, that as we search our souls and assemble our values in time for October 21st, we absolutely must consider the climate, and vote for that likely winner with the strongest proposal. The needs of a country are met by the planet first, and politicians second.
Zack Metcalfe is a freelance journalist, columnist and author active across the Maritimes