Ten things we can do to take action on climate change

by Lynne Quarmby

Dr. Lynne Quarmby

• The thousands who gathered for the People’s Climate March in Vancouver on September 21 enthusiastically agreed to wait five minutes – before taking to the streets – to listen to Dr. Lynne Quarmby, professor and chair at SFU’s department of molecular biology and biochemistry. They wanted to hear what we all need to hear – and know – to save the planet: Lynne Quarmby’s list of 10 things we can do to take action on climate change. When the applause died down and the march began, Quarmby agreed to work with Common Ground to publish her speech and list. For anyone wondering “What’s next?” or “What can I do?,” we share her speech and list below. It is also available on our website at www.commonground.ca – Bruce Mason, Common Ground

Look at you all! What are you doing here? Haven’t you been paying attention to the misinformation and propaganda that you’ve been bombarded with? Climate change is nothing to worry about. Our governments have confidently told us that it is not something we should be concerned about.

Trust us, they say.

We don’t need to consider climate change when we approve plans for new pipelines, new coal mines, new coal ports and new LNG gas plants [liquefied natural gas]. Ignore those pesky foreign-funded, radical extremists that are exaggerating the risks of climate change. Don’t worry. We wish it were so. But… we know that well-established science is telling us that human-caused climate change is under way and gaining momentum.

We know that people around the world are already suffering the consequences of extreme weather. We know about ocean acidification. Our beloved Salish Sea is already out of balance; oyster and scallop larvae cannot form their shells in our acidified waters. We know that we need to be transitioning away from fossil fuels.

We know all of this and much, much more.

So who is telling us that we don’t need to worry about climate change? Our governments? Wait. Aren’t they the people that we elect to look after the public interest? Let me see if I can think of a nice way to say this – the bastards have betrayed us. Stephen Harper and Christy Clark are answering to corporate persons, not to citizens. Our democracy is in trouble.

There is an urgent need for us to put a stop to the fossil fuel madness. I’ll pick one example out of dozens: A few weeks ago, the Vancouver Port Authority approved an enormous new coal port at the Fraser Surrey Docks to export US coal to China, via Texada Island. This project is such a bad deal that every single port along the US west coast has turned it down. Last month, we said “Yes.”

This project will create 40 jobs in BC – 25 at FSD, 15 at Texada. Those 40 jobs will put more GHG [greenhouse gas] into the atmosphere than all of the cars in BC, every year for the lifetime of the port. No one can tell me that we need this port because it is good for the economy. Unless by economy they mean the bank accounts of a few very rich people.

Are we going to take that “Yes” for an answer? I didn’t think so.

What can I do? I hear you asking. Here are 10 things. Are you ready?

1. Be tuned in. The Harper and Clark governments are both very good at slipping approvals through quietly. These things are often not covered in the mainstream media; they are discovered by activists with highly tuned radar. Get on mailing lists, follow us on social media. The more you are in tune with what is happening, the clearer it will be to you what you can do to help stop these projects.

2. Divest. If you are fortunate enough to have money to invest, make sure that you divest from fossil fuels. If you do it sooner rather than later, maybe you can avoid losing a bundle when those FF companies are finally forced to strand their still-in-the-ground-but-already-on-the-books assets.

3. Do your thing, but do it for change. If you teach, teach about climate change, social inequity and the dangers of an eroding democracy. If you are a member of a labour union, talk with your union about ways that labour can assist in the transitions we need. If you are an entrepreneur, find a niche; a society based on renewable energy and energy efficiency is entirely feasible. Help make it happen.

4. Pick a cause. Inequality is an important underlying cause of the problems in our democracy and those problems are feeding climate change. Campaign to make minimum wage a living wage; learn about universal basic income. Work for fair tax structures.

Find a political candidate to support. Run for office. Attend All Candidates Meetings. Ask questions. Put renewables on a level playing field: Insist that companies no longer get to freely dump their toxins into our air, our water and our soil. Learn why FIPA is such a bad deal for the climate.

5. Support others who have chosen a different cause or a different approach.

6. Change your behaviours: fly less, eat less meat, use less power, drive less, buy less. Doing these things without system change will not save the world, but they will empower you and they are part of building a better world.

7. Talk about climate change with friends, neighbours, co-workers.

8. Do not accept that the economy trumps everything.

9. Support those who do direct action. Deliver a hot meal to someone sitting in the mud in front of a crane at Fraser Surrey Docks. Show up and bear witness. And if you are willing to get arrested – please get trained in non-violent resistance. There is a guide posted at tssu.ca And make sure you are participating in a well organized action with sufficient support. Stay safe.

10. My final point is directed to law enforcement officers and national security agents: I call on you to recognize the deep frustrations that have built up in the face of this massive failure on the part of our governments. I ask you to think of your own futures, your own children. Stay tuned to your own moral compass. Refuse to be provocateurs. Remember who the real villains are and remember what brought us to this. And when you are face-to-face with an angry young person chained to a bulldozer – someone who may be spewing hatred at you because to them you represent the state and they are angry and frightened – please remember compassion. Understand their pain. The anger is not about you. Treat them gently.

Treat us gently… for I will be out there with them.

3 thoughts on “Ten things we can do to take action on climate change”

  1. Lynne, you want people to be with you on this issue? Just ask them one question – why is government charging them EHF (environment handling fee) when they buy electronic items, when the government itself does not care for the environment? People not only pay from $5 to $25 EHF for every item they buy, but they pay taxes on the EHF! Recently I bought something that cost me $15, however after the EHF and the taxes I paid $22.60. Taking into account EHF and its tax, I paid 37.6% extra on this item. People need to get really angry about this considering the fact that our government does not care about the environment and its consequence – climate change. Either the government gets its act together or it stops charging us the EHF. I am sure people will react to this!

  2. Great To-do list, Lynne. Although it is implied in what you state, and I think you did mention it in your speech to the crowd it needs to be stated explicitly — VOTE! Vote in municipal, provincial, federal elections.


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