I was two years old when Trudeau swore in Parliament. Pierre Trudeau. A few years later, in my grade 3 class, we had daily current events where a class member would listen to the news or read the newspaper to acquaint ourselves with issues of public importance. At school, we had a large wooden television case, with the television removed. The current events person of the day would sit inside the box and report on the news. I remember once, when it was my turn, quoting a politician -- maybe even Trudeau -- when he used strong language, and getting away with it because it was a quote about something important.
Fastforward few more years to the early 1980s when you yourself used strong language -- not profanity -- to warn us about the dangers of global warming and climate change. I was in high school then, already scared to death by movies like The Day After. But climate change was something we could do something about.
Or so you said.
So now, here we are in 2011. You go off to South Africa -- without giving permission for opposition party members to join the Canadian delegation (Elizabeth May got permission from Papua New Guinea, for heaven's sake!) -- and break our promises. And then another Trudeau swore.
My own kids -- who range from grade five to nine - sat at the dinner table the other day and imagined, not current events, but future history classes when this historical moment is described. You know you'll get a footnote, of course--as the minister responsible for the first ever ratified treaty broken by Canada. You know too that comments like Archbishop Tutu's will be attached to your posterity: "Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection. Today, you're home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change." You know that you listened as a 17-year old delegate spoke at the conference: “I speak for more than half the world’s population,” declared Anjali Appadurai of Maine’s College of the Atlantic. “We are the silent majority. You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not at the table. What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money? You have been negotiating all of my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.”
You know, that's not how I'd like to be remembered. It's not how Canada wishes to be known or remembered.
The alternative is not merely pie-in-the-sky. There are good, practical, creative, economically viable alternatives to fiddling while tar sands burn. In Calgarian writer Chris Turner's new book The Leap, he agrees with you and many others that Kyoto is not the most practical of solutions -- but, he says if delegates to the Copenhagen conference had stepped outside the conference hall, they would have seen innovative, green solutions that build community and profit.
(Hint: Do something that is innovative, green, community-building and profitable and not only will you get re-elected, you'll be able to sleep at night.)
As for me, I'm riding my bike instead of driving. I'm turning off lights, buying energy efficient appliances, shoveling my driveway, hanging my clothes to dry, constantly looking for ways to reduce my carbon footprint.
Frankly I don't even care to debate whether this helps lower the world's mean temperatures or gives us a white Christmas and coastal cities a fighting chance. What I'm doing can't hurt and very well might help.
I'd like to suggest you take that approach in your legislation and your treaties. I'd like to see Canada restored to its former role as an admirable world leader. I'd like to have my grandchildren be able to see snow someday.
It's a really busy time of the year. Maybe the hope is that we'll be too busy with our shopping and cooking to say this kind of consumption must stop.
You know what? I am that busy -- and I'm still making time to send you this note. Because it matters that much. I'm not going to swear, but I still hope my voice, my passion and my fury will be heard.
Maybe Kyoto targets were unreachable -- someone said the original plans to meet targets had 'other reductions' listed as the main ways of reducing emissions and likened it to a miscellaneous spending category on a family budget exceeding the mortgage payments. Fine. That doesn't mean we have license to wait until 2015. The time to act is now.
I think of the visitations of the spirits upon Ebenezer Scrooge -- the past, the present and the future. How will you be visited this Christmas? I imagine your own 1984 broadcast as your Ghost of Christmas Past -- the one that shows you your youthful idealism. I see Bishop Tutu as your Ghost of Christmas Present -- the one who shows you the true state of things. But, the third ghost is the one who frightens Scrooge, the one who foretells the doom of Tiny Tim and the unmourned death of Scrooge himself. It is to the third ghost that Scrooge asks -- Are these things that will be or things that may be? Your Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Minister, is Anjali Appadurai, my children and yours -- those for whom climate change is a life and death issue.
Now is the time to act. Throw open the shutters. Buy the biggest turkey you can find -- so to speak -- and send it to Tiny Tim that he may be well. Dream dreams. Find solutions. Put them in place. Ride your bike. Take the bus. Skype your meetings. Change. The. World.
And then, this Christmas, with grateful hearts, we will say "God bless us, every one."