While we can be happy that most of the world came together at COP26 in Glasgow last week, it was unfortunate that the Northwest Territories was so badly under represented by the government personnel it chose to send.
The North, which is affected by climate change impacts four times greater than that experienced by the rest of the planet, sent a member whose mantra while in cabinet, along with the head of that group, was, “Our doors are always open to those who want to talk mining.”
Environmentalists and those advancing ideas on how to meet our needs in a sustainable green way never enjoyed the same invitation or were even able to get a foot in the door. In fact, most MLAs avoided climate change rallies like the plaque choosing to turn away from young people and scuttle in the back door of the ledge.
It’s as though we were taking talking points from Jason Kenney. So much so, in fact, that mitigating and reducing the impacts of climate change did not even make the top 10 list of this assembly’s priorities.
And while we’re at it, how many First Nations people did we send to the summit since this is, after all, their land.
Climate change will not kill us — hypocrisy will.
The time for phoney photo ops and polite handshakes at national and international gatherings is over. As the young people who marched at Glasgow by the thousands while fighting for their lives said, no more “blah, blah, blah.” We need action.
All the social programs and new infrastructure in the world will mean nothing if we don’t have a planet to live on.
At the start of the two week summit, Prince Charles said that time had quite literally run out and called for “war-like footing” in our struggle to win this battle. The summit has been billed as the last chance for world leaders to hammer out decisive plans to avoid climate change disaster which is why it was so important to send our best.
To its great credit, the liberal government appointed Steven Guilbeault, one time green peace activist who scaled the CN tower to draw attention to environmental issues and a former protester at COP summits, to head its Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. His determination will not be more rhetoric but determined action. Case in point, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doubled down on his commitment to put a cap on fossil fuel emissions in the immediate future..no small feat considering the expected back lash from Alberta.
Now, about that pipeline…
Though we can be disappointed by some of the people representing Yellowknife and the north in Glasgow, we can take great pride in those from the public and performing arts communities who shone for us.
Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency room physician, professor and internationally recognized expert on the impacts of climate change on health, did a first rate televised interview on the topic. As well, a performance by Jay Gilday and other local musicians along with a beautifully choreographed dance inside the hallowed halls of the snow castle demonstrated in a heart rendering way the devastating impacts of climate change on our beautiful Arctic.
And further west, the community of Old Crow in the Yukon, hosted a workshop showing the world what a primarily aboriginal community can and will do to save the earth. It’s goal was also to demonstrate that we don’t have to wait for the cumbersome wheels of government to turn before we act. It was public sector groups such as these that made the points that needed to be made.
And more than a week in to November, there is still no snow in Yellowknife bringing with its absence a sense of foreboding of permafrost melt, methane gas release, and forest fires next spring. We are in it up to our necks.
It is time for the GNWT to get with the program. Too often these assemblies have left legacies that ran into multi-million dollar cost over runs and left voters shaking their heads. How about this time we leave a legacy worth remembering….a planet.
Despite the disappointment over some of our representation at COP, maybe we can hope that they will return with a better understanding of the sense of urgency that environmentalists have been trying to convey for years.
As Dr. David Suzuki said in a CBC interview on the first morning of Summit, the planet will be fine. In fact, it probably can’t wait to get rid of us. Indeed, what we need to be concerned about is the continuation of the human species itself. In the end, That’s what’s at stake here — our survival.
Ok GNWT, what now?