For the first time in my life, I wrote to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Thanks to the Honourable and tremendous Elizabeth May for inspiration today. Here’s what I sent (obviously not as a rep of UBC).
Please act on climate change: A letter from a citizen you inspired to care
Over the past few weeks I have been inspired by Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership, the whole Liberal team’s energy, and the hopeful positive messaging your team has spread throughout Our Nation. The only other swearing in ceremony I have ever watched was Barack Obama’s inauguration—until this month when I was glued to CBC.ca’s live broadcast of yours. I was deeply moved not only by the diverse social groups represented in Cabinet, but also by their exceptional resumes: a rich collection of doctors, scientists, and other specialists. I believe that you, Mr. Trudeau, and this whole Cabinet team, are capable of leading Our Canada to greatness.
When your team announced on day two to reinstate the long form census, tears of relief came to my eyes. My country is back. I can be proud of Canada once again.
You see, I am a social scientist by training—I have a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of British Columbia, where I now teach hundreds of undergraduate students each year in my tenured faculty appointment. It has enraged and saddened me through the years to teach my Research Methods students about why the Long Form Census was so important and why the National Household Survey just could not produce acceptable substitute data. Yet despite my years of rage about this and many other issues, I have never felt empowered enough or hopeful enough to speak up to the government. It is because of my faith in your team that I write this letter now.
The Climate Summit in Paris is happening December 7-8, 2015, less than three weeks from today. I am no climate expert, and I’ll admit that I have not spent much time thinking about international affairs. However, I was ashamed and horrified as a Canadian that our government pulled out of the Kyoto Agreement. The Climate Summit is an opportunity to re-establish Canada as a world leader in confronting Climate Change. In a talk today at UBC-Vancouver’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, Green Party Leader Ms. Elizabeth May eloquently linked climate change to issues of social justice and equity. Climate change is a problem of social equity. We in the developed world have created this disaster by our constantly consumptive lifestyle. And yet it is not us but the most disadvantaged people of the world who are already bearing the costs of our whims: flooding and tsunamis and droughts and ensuing famines and death. Canadians are a people of compassion. We do not harm our neighbours. We lift them up. We must restore our culture as Canadians by taking global leadership on climate change. Like having a gender balanced cabinet, it’s 2015. It’s just the right thing to do.
Climate change is also a problem of intergenerational equity—and as a social psychologist I have seen enough evidence to know that people are typically terrible at making decisions that serve the future, let alone two or four or seven generations hence. If Canada does not emerge as a proactive leader on Climate Change at the Climate Summit in Paris, Canada will be complicit in an atrocity of social justice that you and I may or may not have to bear, but other people including future generations will. As I scanned the list, all Cabinet positions seemed to me to have a climate change imperative, some more obviously than others. As Minister of Youth, Mr. Trudeau appointed himself a particular obligation to act in their best interests.
I don’t know what the answers are. Maybe it’s strict taxation for oil so people will care enough to conserve. Maybe it’s providing incentives for companies and citizens to recruit renewable sources of energy rather than rely on “the grid” (thanks to Ms. May for that idea). Maybe it’s crowd funding solar panels for people or companies in disadvantaged countries. It’s probably all of those and more. It’s not my job to figure out the answer to this tough question. But it’s yours. And you have the power to do it.
I do dream of #SunnyWays for all Canadians, and for all people of the world now and yet to be. Please act on climate change now in time for COP21.
Your Fellow Canadian,
Catherine D. Rawn, PhD
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada