Government should heed Unist’ot’en message

Government should heed Unist’ot’en message


Posted on: March 14, 2019 4:26 pm
by: David Suzuki

Chief Freda Huson, who leads the people at the Unist’ot’en camp near Kitimat, B.C., shares their message of fighting to protect the land and water and to exert traditional values and priorities. (Photo: No One Is Illegal Vancouver via Flickr)

I visited the Unist’ot’en camp near Kitimat, B.C., a year ago. The people, led by Chief Freda Huson, are trying to re-establish a sustainable relationship with territory that has enabled them to flourish for millennia. Ever since colonization and settlement, much of that traditional way of life has been lost or seriously constrained. These are modern people with all the accoutrements of the globalized economy.

As is obvious from news photos of the RCMP intrusion, winter at Unist’ot’en camp is cold, which makes it all the more remarkable. It did not spring up in protest against a pipeline; it began in 2010, in a search for a way to return to living on the land year-round.

Canada’s government has accepted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and committed to implementing the recommendations of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Indigenous rights, legitimacy of Indian Act–imposed band councils, sovereignty over land and other issues will reverberate through the country for years.

In fighting to protect the land and water and exert traditional values and priorities, the Unist’ot’en pipeline opposition is at the forefront of a fight for all people in Canada. In November 2018, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report warned that global average temperature has risen by 1 C since the Industrial Revolution. If it increases above another half degree, we’ll experience climate chaos.

In fighting to protect the land and water and exert traditional values and priorities, the Unist’ot’en pipeline opposition is at the forefront of a fight for all people in Canada.

The scale of humanity’s fossil fuel use, especially by industrialized nations, created this crisis. The IPCC urged emissions reductions of 45 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050 to keep within a 1.5 C rise. Failure to achieve these targets will have unpredictable consequences as the ecological, social and economic repercussions of our current trajectory threaten the foundations of human civilization. That dramatic scenario comes from a virtually unanimous conclusion of the scientific community.

After almost a decade with a government that did all it could to ignore climate change, Canada elected a new one in 2015. On the global stage at UN climate talks in Paris, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada was “back.” He not only committed us to the Paris target of keeping temperature rise between 1.5 and 2 C but announced a preference for the lower target. It was a welcome relief to have a government that based its position on science, not ideology or economics.

Despite that promise, Canada has taken little action to achieve the goal, even with the obvious “low-hanging fruit” that could immediately be implemented: cease subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; put money saved into rapid renewable energy expansion, public transit and electrification of all sectors; halt approval of new exploration or drilling; help workers with skills in the fossil fuel sector transition to renewables; phase out extreme energy sources, including oilsands, deep-sea drilling and fracking; and begin a massive program of public education to reduce energy use and convert to sustainable energy sources.

The people at Unist’ot’en camp show us a perspective and value system based on our immersion in and dependence on the biosphere for our health, well-being and survival.

Trudeau once remarked, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there.” It was shocking to hear this justification for expanding oilsands production. He proudly announced approval of a $40-billion facility to liquefy fracked gas, calling it a transition fuel to help China reduce coal dependence, even though fracked gas has a carbon footprint at least as bad as coal (because of fugitive methane release), requires vast amounts of water and induces earthquakes. The government approved building a megadam at Site C on the Peace River, even though that land could be the breadbasket for the North. And when Kinder Morgan rejected financing of a multibillion-dollar pipeline to increase the volume of bitumen transported from the oilsands to the Port of Vancouver, the government bought the project on behalf of all Canadians!

When we elevate the economy above the atmosphere on our list of priorities, we raise a human construct over the air we breathe — air that brings us climate, weather and seasons. The people at Unist’ot’en camp show us a perspective and value system based on our immersion in and dependence on the biosphere for our health, well-being and survival. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for leading the struggle for us all and those yet to be born.

Does your MP recognize your environmental rights? Find out!

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About the Author


David Suzuki

David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. David is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.

Education

As a geneticist. David graduated from Amherst College (Massachusetts) in 1958 with an Honours BA in Biology, followed by a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He held a research associateship in the Biology Division of Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Lab (1961 – 62), was an Assistant Professor in Genetics at the University of Alberta (1962 – 63), and since then has been a faculty member of the University of British Columbia. He is now Professor Emeritus at UBC.

Awards

In 1972, he was awarded the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for the outstanding research scientist in Canada under the age of 35 and held it for three years. He has won numerous academic awards and holds 25 honourary degrees in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and is a Companion of the Order of Canada. Dr. Suzuki has written 52 books, including 19 for children. His 1976 textbook An Introduction to Genetic Analysis(with A.J.F. Griffiths), remains the most widely used genetics text book in the U.S.and has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Greek, Indonesian, Arabic, French and German.

Find Out More

Head over the the David Suzuki Foundation website to find out more at http://ibew993.org/faq/

 

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