Friday, 24 April 2015

Earth Day, Budgets and Politics?

How many people are really listening to the message of Earth Day health?

Yesterday April 21st, Finance Minister Joe Oliver of the Harper Conservative Government in Ottawa made a 37-minute speech on the 2015 federal budget without paying attention to our environment.

Mari Weshke and Betty Muir represent Citizens Climate Lobby
and Climate Fast on Earth Day 2015.  See 30 photos.

Today, April 22nd, I was on Parliament Hill in Ottawa taking photos of a small group of Climate Change activists doing an annual fast and vigil and delivering a letter to the Prime Minister’s office urging the parliamentarians ‘to work toward urgent and substantial action on climate change.’  Specifically, these volunteers seek action on the following:
  • end fossil fuel subsidies
  • put a price on carbon
  • support the development of a renewable energy plan for Canada.

The arguments of the Canadian Conservative government appears to be that money trumps everything and that environment, poverty elimination, full health and pharmacy care are just too expensive at this time especially when a federal election is expected in the fall. 

And so a lot of political game playing continues. For example, the urban infrastructure package in the 2015 federal budget does not start for two years. Little bits of monies are given here and there to buy off votes. Militarization of Canada continues which is one of the big polluters in the country. Real environmental enhancement is ignored. So what is the meaning of Earth Day for Canada and the world?

In a tribute to the late US investigative journalist I.F. ("Izzy") Stone, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein recently called the celebration of Earth Day a ‘comfortable party,’ and wrote that ‘the ecological movement will get nowhere if it fails to connect the dots with other overlapping crises facing our society, from racism to militarism to inequality.’ (1)

Klein quoted Stone, who on the first Earth Day in Washington DC, described the holiday as a ‘cover’ to endless war, profiteering, and civil rights abuses. Stone declared in 1972:

There’s no use talking about Earth Day until we begin to think like Earthmen. Not as Americans and Russians, not as blacks and whites, not as Jews and Arabs, but as fellow travelers on a tiny planet in an infinite universe. All that we can muster of kindness, of compassion, of patience, of thoughtfulness, is necessary if this tiny planet of ours is not to go down to destruction. Until we have a leadership willing to make the enormous changes — psychological, military, and bureaucratic — to end the existing world system, a system of hatred, of anarchy, of murder, of war and pollution, there is no use talking about buying more wastebaskets or spending a couple of hundred million dollars on the Missouri River. (2, 3)

For those politicians who argue that there is no money for the health of  our environment, for extended health care, for full pharmaceutical and dental support, for a $15 hour living wage, free education, cultural support, banking reform, and infrastructure renewal, this is a matter of choice. We urgently need good leaders to provide a new vision for the world with a ‘win-win’ scenario for all.
We can choose to go to war and uselessly spend trillions of dollars (and become accomplices to participating in crimes against humanity), or we can spend it on the living.  Most citizens of the world (including peace activists) choose to support a full program enhancing environment and human life — not wars.


Photo album

Another independent journalist was there who posted his story:

1. Naomi Klein. Reading I.F. Stone on Earth Day: Why we still won't get anywhere unless we connect the dots. This Changes Everything blog, April 21, 2015

2. Lauren McCauley. RIP Earth Day: Voices Decry National Day of Corporate Greenwash: Critics call for overhaul of the exiting world system. Common Dreams, April 24, 2015

3. Earth Day--the beginning: a guide for survival, by Environmental Action (Association), Bantam Books, 1970, page 219.

Mark J. Perry. 18 spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, expect more this year.  American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. April 21, 2014


  1. Dale Dewar, MD, Wynyard, Sask. April 24, 201524 April 2015 at 21:12

    Stone really wrote that in 1972!! We subscribed to his "letters". Amazing foresight. At least, I find it amazing.

    I've just finished (sort of skimmed part of it) John McMurtry's The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. Aside from it being a weighty tome, I think that he has the appropriate metaphor for our times. If you haven't read it and are tempted, make sure that you get the more recent copy. The earlier version was virtually incomprehensible - maybe a trial run at his real thesis. And maybe since his writing is pretty inaccessible to most people, a few translators are required. People who can write it up for the Globe and Mall?

  2. John Woodsworth, Ottawa, Ontario. April 25, 201525 April 2015 at 05:41

    We need to be wary of the illusion of long-term profit from further development of the tar sands and shipping (especially) crude oil by means which have far from a perfect safety record (either rail or pipeline). Exploitation and transportation of fossil fuels poses a huge risk to the environmental legacy we leave to future generations, and will ultimately cost far more in terms of both finances and human health and well-being than environmentally friendly alternatives (solar, wind, geo-thermal power). Let's not be short-sighted. Let us reject costly blunders NOW and put those same efforts into active pursuit of safer (and ultimately less expensive) sources of power. The cap-and-trade legislation is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough to produce long-term effects on its own. It only buys us time. It must be matched with much more powerful initiatives to reduce our nation's consumption of non-renewable resources and promote long-lasting solutions for the health and preservation of our precious planet, Mother Earth.

  3. Excellent and timely! Seems to have some connection to Arbour Day in the states. How can this become an election issue in Canada? Nothing in the budget about environment.

  4. Rita Bijons, Ottawa, Ontario. May 1, 20152 May 2015 at 08:13

    Thank you. I really appreciate your blog - putting the Stone quote before us. I hadn’t read it before. Thank you for your reflections.

    Thank you for your photos. Sorry we didn’t have the chance to talk during the days on the Hill. It was a busy time.