To all the skeptics

By Karen Rooney

To all the skeptics.

You might think that jetting halfway across the world to attend a conference on climate change is a little offensive. Well, I think that having a government who ignores me and jeopardizes my future is offensive. I think I have a duty to hold my government to account when it actively represents the interests of the industries and people who have caused this climate crisis in the first place. I think that as a passionate citizen of the world my silence would mean I acquiesce with the position my government is taking during COP17. And when that position ensures the destruction of communities around the world and the degradation of the natural world I care about so much, there is no way that I can remain silent.

People can talk about the economic benefits of the tar sands and the jobs created by their expansion. Fair enough, job creation and job security are concerns for everyone.  But the question I would ask you is this: does cementing ourselves in a dying industry while the rest of the world moves ahead with green innovation make sense when it comes to long-term economic planning? What sort of job security are we providing to Canadians when we are entrenching their livelihoods in a finite and non-renewable industry?

But what about the trickle down effect? Don’t the tar sands revenues get re-invested in local communities and other national ventures? In reality, the majority of tar sands revenues go to multi-national corporations that are based outside of the country. Canadians rarely see any of the trillions of dollars raked in by the companies invested in the tar sands and far too often the only thing that trickles down are the by-products of an environmental wasteland; cancer, respiratory illness, digestive issues, and the loss of their quality of life as their surroundings are slowly reduced to nothing more than an empty moonscape.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that people are dying. At home and around the world, people are dying because of the choices governments like Canada are making. We might not have to see it at home in Saskatoon, or Ottawa, or Halifax, but people are dying because of our inaction. True, I might not be an engineer who can design some great new technology but that does not mean that it is acceptable for me to sit back and pretend that none of this is happening. There is a need and a place for every contribution that everyone can make; whether that is through political activism, policy design, technology development or direct action.

There’s a quote that I heard a long time ago and took to heart. It was Thoreau who said “Be not simply good; be good for something”. It is not enough for me to educate myself and to know what is going on in the world around me  – it is my responsibility to act on that knowledge and to be a part of the movement of people working to change things.

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