The Fatigue from Fighting the Good Fight
By Cam Mather
I remember a night back in 1989. My second daughter was less than a year old. I was at a Burlington City Council Meeting as a member of the city’s “Sustainable Development Committee.” During the interview process they had asked me for my definition of “sustainable development” and I told them it was an oxymoron. So they knew going in where I stood on the issue.
I had recently been successful in getting grass clippings banned from our municipal garbage. The conservative types on the council hated me and the proposal, but the landfill was filling up quickly and by eliminating grass clippings from the garbage, the city could save $600,000 a year, so they were forced to support the motion. On the night that I am remembering I was there on another issue and I remember using some scientific projections on the possible outcomes of putting too much carbon into the air. In 1989 the science was pretty new, but many of the projections were quite bleak. I was accused of being a “Chicken Little”-type. Their response was along the lines of, “No Cam, the sky is not falling.” That was fine, I have big shoulders and if I seemed a little over the top I felt as though I had reason to be. I had two young children. This was their future we were talking about.
Fast forward to 2012. So what’s happening 23 years later? Oh, what do you know, the sky is falling! Or at least it’s filling up with so much carbon it’s getting really hot down here. How hot? Well, every temperature record was broken this summer. The drought, which was catastrophic for farmers in the U.S., continues. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 65% of the U.S. is still in drought. Yup, it’s getting kind of hot in here. “I read the news today, oh boy…”
In 1989 I could not conceptualize experiencing climate change in my lifetime. This July I did experience it. And it sucked.
So what’s happening on the climate change front? Well Mitt Romney seemed to speak about it in a mocking tone during the election. And here in Canada? Well, a new session of Parliament just started and the first things the governing Conservatives did was attack the new leader of the opposition, Thomas Mulcair, for supporting a carbon tax. Well it turns out he doesn’t, but he does support ‘cap and trade,’ as did the Conservatives in the 2008 election. So after the hottest summer in history, with signs of climate change kicking everyone’s ass, our government feels doing something about it has such a negative connotation to the electorate, their first act was to attack the opposition for supporting cap and trade. Don’t do anything positive yourself with a majority government, nope, just come out swinging against the opposition. Makes me proud to be a Canadian, let me tell you. (That was sarcasm, just in case you missed it…)
Recently our local Green Party asked me to speak at their fall fundraiser and I said no. I told them that after the summer that we have just experienced, I just couldn’t find the energy to speak to their group. I was too afraid of telling people what I really feel about how things are going. My Green Party contact suggested that maybe this should be the topic since many in the party are probably feeling the same way. I suggested that I didn’t think discussing “green fatigue” would be a good motivational tool. I suggested that they needed to find someone who is still young and enthusiastic about the environmental movement.
Then over Thanksgiving (which we Canadians celebrated in October) I got to thinking about what I am grateful for. I sent an email to Stephen Dionne, a Liberal MP who ran against the Conservatives a while back, about his “Green Shift” plan. It was a program to shift taxation away from income tax and on to carbon. It’s a brilliant way to deal with climate change. There would be no more tax; you would just shift what it was attached to. And the Conservatives screamed “Carbon Tax” and won a majority government with a whopping 37% of the popular vote.
And then I started thinking about Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada who just keeps plugging away, fighting the good fight. And I thought about Jill Stein (http://www.jillstein.org/) who against all the odds of a two party dominated system, ran for President of the United States. Jill Stein and Elizabeth May are not young by any means, yet they’re still plugging away, trying to keep THE most important issue ever up front and visible.
I started feeling pretty guilty about being tired, and allowing my environmental fatigue to give me an excuse to sit around and watch Honey Boo Boo rather than put in some time to try and motivate others to get crackin’.
This video also helped me. Bill McKibben was one of the scientists whose data I was probably using in 1989, when I told Burlington City Council the sky was falling.
Bill Maher makes a great comment here. “I never understand why people with kids feel that way … I mean, they’re gonna be on the clean up committee …
I’ve been involved with many events and many times I’ve been on the cleanup committee. Being on the clean up committee after a fundraising potluck is a good character builder. Leaving a planet where my kids have to be on the clean up committee is morally repugnant.
So in the end I decided to speak at the fundraiser and continue to raise the alarm to anyone who will listen. Regardless of how compelling all that excellent reality TV is, I will not go quiet into the night … yet.