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GUEST COMMENT: Why I’m voting for a Green New Deal

Sarah Pain is one of the founders of the Yellowknife chapter of Our Time. She says fears of how climate change could impact her children will affect how she votes in the Oct. 21 federal election. photo courtesy of Sarah Pain

I’ve always thought of myself as an environmentally conscious person.

Like most people, my family and I have always done what we can at home to help reduce our impact on the planet – reduce, reuse and recycle, and so on. Last fall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that hit me like a sickening punch to the gut. This report spells it out explicitly: it’s worse than we thought. We have 11 years to cut our carbon emissions in half, or the climate crisis will become irreversible and catastrophic. This isn’t 'alarmist': it’s world-class science.

This information put my eco-anxiety at an all-time high. My children, ages three and six, and their future, are my utmost concern.

If we stay on our current course, they’ll be adults in a planet that can’t feed everyone – they’ll live through the beginning of the extinction of our species.

It was clear that what I was doing wasn’t enough and would never be enough, even if each of us were to become the best composters and recyclers out there!

The science is calling for "transformative, systemic changes" to our economy – we need to change our trajectory as a civilization. I knew there had to be something more!

That’s when I stumbled upon a social media post from musician Dan Mangan. He talked about the challenges of being a parent, trying to balance a busy schedule and living "green."

He introduced the Pact for a Green New Deal in his post. This was what I was looking for: an ambitious and broad plan to not only tackle climate change, but also use the science-driven need to transform our society as an opportunity to address related challenges in Canada, like Indigenous rights, inequality and white supremacy. I signed my support online, and for the first time in a while, felt a renewed sense of hope for the future.

I was connected with some like-minded individuals here in Yellowknife, and the local chapter of "Our Time for a Green New Deal Yellowknife" was born. Our first event, a town hall for community members to brainstorm what we’d want a Green New Deal to look like here in the North, brought over a hundred Yellowknifers together to voice concerns and visions. Our Time has been the outlet I need to channel my eco-anxiety into action. My journey into climate activism has been fuelled by an overwhelming concern for my children’s future. When all is said and done, I want to know that I did all that I could for them.

While we need to build popular support, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to become a climate activist. We’re about to elect a government that will lead us through four of the remaining 11 years scientists have given us to act on climate. Our current government can’t even meet Stephen Harper’s old climate targets and is tied with the United States as worst on climate in the G7. This election is critical: your vote on Monday, Oct. 21 is one of the most important ways you can act for our children’s futures.

This is bigger and beyond a question of political allegiance; this is about a livable planet for our children. Youth-led Our Time hubs here in Yellowknife and across the country have done the hard work of meeting with local federal candidates and identifying 35 ‘champions’ across the country who have the experience and drive necessary to bring this sort of bold plan into reality. This election is a huge opportunity to get decision-makers into power who will fight for our futures.

Here in the Northwest Territories, that champion is Paul Falvo of the Green Party. After requesting meetings with all candidates, we’ve determined Paul is the only candidate with the track record and experience necessary to fight for social and climate justice for my children. Being part of the Green Party will mean that he can advocate for the North outside of party lines.

It should be known that Michael McLeod, local Liberal representative and current MP for the territory, did not respond to two meeting requests from Our Time. He did not acknowledge any of the climate strikes that occurred across the territory, and skipped the environment debate when the option to call in was available to him.

His absence speaks volumes – to every person who attended these strikes, to every person who has concern about the climate crisis – this is an insult. It is time to vote for what we want for our future instead of being overwhelmed by our fears. The history of our planet and humankind has never faced such dire circumstances.

A Green New Deal is what is needed for our children and for all of us. #GND4RKIDS