By Rita Wong
Climate change is an urgent issue. 15,000 scientists have issued a warning letter telling us that we need to take it seriously. As Eileen Crist, one of the co-authors of this letter says, “Taking care of the planet is akin to taking care of one's family. We take care of our families: our children and our spouses and our parents. When you take care of your family, you don't do it because you're optimistic or pessimistic … it's because that's what you do. Our mandate is that we take care of Earth and earthlings and human beings because we're all family."
I teach environmental ethics at Emily Carr University, and something I say to my students is that when we feel like we’’re on the Titanic, it’s important not to panic. What we can do is take time to learn who’s here with us and how we can work together to build life boats.
We are lucky that BC is home to many lifeboats. We need massive reforestation, and we need to protect the land that’s already healthy and natural. These lifeboats include the Burrard Inlet (where I was arrested for opposing pipeline expansion), the Peace Valley, the Unist’ot’en Camp up north, and many other key places, sacred places. We need to protect these life boats and honour them because it’s the right thing to do. And they also happen to be crucial for our shared future.
I ask the BC Federation of Labour’s climate change working group to be careful not to accept greenwashing, to look hard at what kinds of green jobs actually help improve the health of the land. I caution everyone to avoid the trap of greenwashing. Two examples come to mind:
(1) LNG is fracked gas; it’s not clean; it’s poisoning the watershed and contributing to earthquakes and tremors. The recent injunction threat against the Unist’ot’en Camp endangers all of us. We need to honour the healing and the assertion of Indigenous ways of living that the Unist’ot’en embody. These are crucial for humanity to respect and learn from.
(1) There is plenty of evidence to show that mega dams like Site C, Keeyask Falls, Muskrat Falls, are NOT CLEAN AND NOT GREEN. They are methane and mercury releasing disasters that destroy the very forests we need to be increasing now. We need massive reforestation in a serious way. We need intact carbon sinks. We need to respect the land. We cannot afford to be clearcutting huge areas of forests and flooding them, not right now. Other forms of energy and green jobs are necessary and possible.
What links both examples is water. Our future depends on protecting the health of the water, the health of the land, the health of the people. That needs to be the lens by which we build green jobs.
As research from UBC’s Program on Water Governance shows, BC Hydro's alternative portfolio to Site C would create more long-term jobs and have better environmental outcomes. A diverse combination of wind, solar site remediation, geothermal construction and energy conservation would be better for the land, better for reconciliation, and ultimately better for people. We need the big contribution to food security that the Peace Valley can offer BC, and we need to honour Treaty 8. Now is the time to walk the talk; when Hydro has apologized for the WAC Bennett Dam’s harm to Indigenous peoples, how can it violate Treaty 8 and force the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations into an expensive battle to protect treaty rights?