By BF Nagy
As reports of record-breaking heat waves, floods and other extreme weather pour in; Beach residents are joining the conversation on climate breakdown.
They came out in force on Monday, June 10 to a Green New Deal Town Hall Meeting at the Beach United Church.
The event was organized by the Sunrise Movement Toronto and attended by about 160 people from the community, who are concerned about the crisis facing our planet.
Representatives from Sunrise, Friday’s for Future, Our Time, and the Beach Community Energy Co-operative each made a few comments, but most of the event was devoted to hearing from citizens.
Guided by schoolteacher Earl Salzman, attendees in tables of eight or 10 people engaged in a structured group discussion process, before each presented their lists of ideas to the whole room.
They were asked to develop some constructive solutions to mitigate unhealthy pollution and also some items that they thought we as a society should stop doing. Clearly a knowledgeable crowd, the groups presented numerous good ideas with some common themes emerging during the process.
Proactive ideas included: invest in urban and rural public transportation and consider making it free for everyone, incentivize electric cars, alternative electric transportation, and ways to move to zero emissions for buildings and industry, invest in clean energy infrastructure such as wind, solar and storage, ensure a just transition so that no one is left behind, by retraining fossil fuels workers in clean energy industries, ensure that indigenous people have a voice in the climate conversation, ratify their rights, establish their primacy as to the activities taking place on their lands, plant and protect our trees, plan for more local food, community gardens, bicycling, parks, and pedestrian–only streets, and give governments more power to control and penalize unhealthy pollution.
Deal breakers mentioned were: Put an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks, eliminate coal, nuclear geo-engineering and gas, stop approving and building pipelines, no more gas cars, stop allowing companies to take huge amounts of water from the Great Lakes to sell as bottled water, ban single-use plastics, no more tampering with our greenbelt, clear cutting and urban sprawl, create regulations against cruise ship pollution, eliminate corporate influence on government, outlaw disinformation on the climate crisis, require banks and public entities to divest from fossil fuels, no more government investment in fossil fuels, disallow credits trading unless it directly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, no more protection for corporations from climate liability, consider taxing meat, and no more sending our waste abroad for pseudo-recycling.
THE GREEN NEW DEAL
The session was one of hundreds of similar events taking place on both sides of the border in support of the Green New Deal (GND).
The GND was originated by environmentalists and recently popularized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States, a dynamic congresswoman who, along with Senator Ed Markey helped drive the introduction of two resolutions that would make many of the ideas mentioned above the new normal in the U.S.A.
Needless to say the resolutions did not make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. However, along with the aforementioned intense weather events and the increasing positive economic opportunities emerging in clean energy, the GND has helped move sustainability up to the top of the list of priorities for American democratic voters, and has even made some headway with US conservatives.
The Green New Deal name echoes the New Deal, a set of successful social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression in the 1930s. It has been a catchy tagline for the environmental movement, and may not always mean the same thing to everyone using it.
The GND event in the Beach wound up with Salzman asking everyone to choose some actions to which they could make a commitment.
Volunteers mentioned buying an electric car, insulating the house, ditching their gas furnace, becoming more involved with local governments, voting for leaders with climate plans, or joining one of the organizations represented at the event. What will you do for our planet?
BF Nagy is a long time Beach resident and author of a new book, The Clean Energy Age. He has interviewed more than 700 experts and written 155 articles on clean energy. The Clean Energy Age is available online, from your favourite bookseller or bfnagy.com. It contains expert solutions, success stories and top 10 lists of climate actions for homeowners, business managers, government people and others.