Week Ten: Negotiating rupture and ways of life

Heading into the 1992 Earth Summit, or United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, then-U.S. President George Bush made clear, “the American way of life is not up for negotiation.” The following year, in a published chapter entitled, “Global ecology and the shadow of ‘development,'” Wolfgang Sachs argued Bush’s statement effectively yoked the right of countries to maintain their rates of economic and industrial development and expansion to the interests of maintaining the environment. He argued, further, keeping development as a core principle at Rio enabled international cooperation among a range of international actors, however, “it prevents the rupture required to head off the multifaceted dangers for the future of mankind” (Sachs, 1993, p. 3).

Heading into the last two weeks of Canada’s federal election, this word — rupture — is one I can’t help returning to. Have we had the honest-to-goodness rupture moment in this election? The moment when all the potential sacrifices, real-life impacts of climate strategies, and carbon taxes have been laid out before us, to judge and to weigh? Between media coverage and party platforms (as well as party advertisements), have voters seen all the options and all the plans? At times, it has seemed that, between troubling distractions and speeches emphasizing how the ways of life of middle class voters will be maintained and made better, discussion of serious change couldn’t be farther from this election.

Yet, rather serious people — people like former Bank of Canada Governor and current Bank of England Governor Mark Carney — talk openly about rather massive changes that need to be made, including, as the Globe reported from a speech Carney gave in London last week, “pricing in the risk of moving to a low-carbon future.” Soon after the Oct. 19 vote, Canada’s government will be expected to represent the country at Paris climate talks for a universal climate agreement, and the prime minister will have to engage with the notion of a “postpetroleum world.”

Meanwhile, according to a memo leaked last week, officials within Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs are looking for the post-Oct. 19 government to take up a more serious international role on climate change:

The memo recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development take a more active role in promoting climate change engagement by targeting programs at climate finance, clean technology and “climate-smart agriculture.”

“While the ultimate responsibility for multilateral engagement on climate change rests with Environment Canada, DFATD could encourage the new government to earmark resources for this purpose,” the memo says.

Cited work & recommended readings

Sachs, W. (1993). Global ecology and the shadow of ‘development.’ In W. Sachs (Ed.), Global Ecology: A New Arena of Political Conflict, pp. 3-21. London & New Jersey: Zed Books

McKibben, B. (2000). We’re all environmentalists now, right? Round one. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/roundtable/environment/mckibben1.htm

Vidal, J. (2012). Rio +20: Earth summit dawns with stormier clouds than in 1992. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jun/19/rio-20-earth-summit-1992-2012

New resources

Equiterre and Environmental Defence released a 16-page analysis of how the parties might tackle climate change last week, while the Anglican Church discusses “caring for creation” in its report, An Anglican Approach to Election 2015. (If anyone out there has seen similar resources from other religious groups, please send me a note!)

Other environmental news
Finally, speaking of politics and the Keystone XL

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