Now Is the Time for Climate Justice
Both controversy and agreement characterize East End Climate Action's session on the Leap Manifesto
By Leia Alves
On one of the first warm and summery Sundays of the year, 150 people gathered at Scarborough's own Variety Village on April 26th to discuss climate change and social justice. Climate Justice: How Do We Leap Forward? was hosted by East End Climate Action with assistance from organizers of the Leap Manifesto movement. The event featured guest speaker and one of the many drafters of the Leap Manifesto, Avi Lewis.
This Leap event was one of the only meetings about the Manifesto to take place outside of the downtown core. Despite a rather impressive attendance, a lack of diversity in both age and the presence of racialized persons was mentioned at the microphone by at least one speaker.
Lewis began by introducing the Leap Manifesto and its contentious history. He spoke briefly and without notes for only ten minutes before opening the floor to questions. Unconventionally, Lewis refused to impose time limits upon speakers and requested no assistance in moderating comments from the chair. He accepted comments from the audience as well as questions, emphasizing the need for open discussion.
Attendees eagerly queued at the microphone even before the conclusion of his opening remarks. Questions ranged widely and attendees did not refrain from asking Lewis about many of the more controversial aspects of the Manifesto.
The issue of the reception and treatment of the Manifesto within the labour movement was raised. Lewis responded by lamenting the lack of mention of trade unionists in the Manifesto. Leap drafters have concrete plans, said Lewis, to add an addendum to the Manifesto specifically addressing the needs and concerns of labour. He emphatically noted that trade unionists comprise an essential and integral part of the movement to stop climate change.
Lewis was also asked about the ideology guiding the writing of the Manifesto. Why, the attendee asked, was it so necessary to include any ideology at all? Why not address arguments based only on economic principles? It would surely encourage more folks to become supportive of the manifesto if ideology were left out. Lewis rebuffed this suggestion. Without including principles of social justice in the Manifesto, he argued, it would be an empty document. Lewis remarked that the participation of each segment of society, from the wealthiest to the least fortunate, from settlers and New Canadians to our indigenous and First Peoples, are absolutely basic to enacting the drastic changes necessary to setting our environment back on the right track.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a donation jar circulated the room and amassed more than 800 dollars in contributions to continuing the work of the Leap Manifesto movement to the delight of both Avi Lewis and East End Climate Action.
The 15 Demands
- The leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land, starting by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The latest research shows we could get 100% of our electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now.
- No new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn't want it in your backyard, then it doesn't belong in anyone's backyard.
- The time for energy democracy has come: wherever possible, communities should collectively control new clean energy systems.
- Indigenous Peoples and others on the frontlines of polluting industrial activity should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects.
- We want a universal program to build and retrofit energy efficient housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities will benefit first.
- We want high-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit to unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.
- We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean energy economy.
- We need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
- We must develop a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, absorb shocks in the global supply – and produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.
- We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.
- We demand immigration status and full protection for all workers. Canadians can begin to rebalance the scales of climate justice by welcoming refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.
- We must expand those sectors that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. A national childcare program is long past due.
- Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid and often performed by women, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income.
- We declare that "austerity" is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth. The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. An end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending.
We must work swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.
This transformation is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.
Now is the time for boldness.
Now is the time to leap.