Students called for action to curb climate change and a ban on plastic bags and straws during a protest outside city hall in Campbell River on April 5. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

DAVE’S DIGS: Politicians must answer young people’s calls for climate action

Policies should give a helping hand to workers and go beyond carbon pricing

When Jeff Lewis, a professor of geography at Vancouver Island University, spoke recently in Campbell River about the many risks associated with man-made climate change, someone in attendance bemoaned the lack of young people in the crowd.

The irony became apparent the following day, when students from at least two local schools staged a climate strike, walking out of classes for the afternoon and holding a protest at city hall.

Student leaders said they have two goals: the relatively modest local-scale objective of protecting the environment with a ban on plastic bags and straws, and the big-picture ambition of getting Canada to align itself with emissions targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.

During the rally, students as young as 13 told me they’re frustrated by the fact that they can’t vote.

READ MORE: Campbell River students walk out of classes to demand action on climate change

Meanwhile, full-grown climate change deniers – or increasingly, those who no longer deny that climate change happening, but who say it’s “natural” – remain highly vocal online.

One of my favorite variations of this gibberish is what I call the “natural cycles” argument.

One example from a Facebook user: “Nobody is denying climate change. We’re just saying that it’s completely natural and we have less to do with it than the Alarmist’s (sic) say we do.”

This has such a West Coast flavour: it manages to combine the Earth Mother worshipping language of Gulf Island hippies with a wholesale rejection of climate science that might as well have come straight from the lips of an oil industry mouthpiece.

But these people can vote. And they seem highly motivated to cast a ballot for anyone who will ditch the carbon tax, which the federal Liberal government is trying to implement in provinces that haven’t done so already.

It’s important to note that B.C.’s carbon tax has been in place for more than 10 years. It’s widely cited as a model for carbon pricing because it has been associated with economic growth and a reduction in greenhouse gases. It’s also largely revenue neutral.

But nobody should be surprised that such policies are generating resistance in communities like Campbell River.

Recall that when working-class jobs disappeared with the closure of the Elk Falls pulp and paper mill in 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis, many of those workers found jobs in the Alberta oil patch.

READ MORE: Canada’s failure to fight climate change ‘disturbing,’ environment watchdog says

Many of these people need a helping hand. They seem to regard the state as their enemy and the oil industry as their friend, or at least as an entity that helps feed their families.

A policy of nationalizing the oil companies and using the profits to invest in clean energy was put forward by my friend Martin Lukacs in his column in the Guardian back in 2014.

These energy corporations “would ultimately convert themselves into different sort of companies: instead of drilling wells or laying pipes, their workers would assemble solar panels and rig up wind turbines.”

It’s a bold vision and a good one. But politicians and technocrats of the neoliberal era are clearly more comfortable with market-based solutions to climate change – such as the carbon tax – than large-scale economic interventions.

But there’s a feeling of insurgence among the climate change deniers, and they will continue to pretend the problem doesn’t exist if it means they save a few dollars in the short term.

Political leaders who care about climate change would be well advised to take this seriously. Because the more they lose ground to politicians like Donald Trump and Jason Kenney, the worse the effects of the climate instability will be.

And if young people don’t see results from their peaceful protests, you can expect their radicalization as climate-related disasters multiply.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Students called for action to curb climate change and a ban on plastic bags and straws during a protest outside city hall in Campbell River on April 5. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Just Posted

Former Campbell Riverite reaches Everest summit

Clayton Matthews’ team got to the top of the world earlier this week

Strathcona Regional District fiscal health gradually improving, staff say

Tax and service revenue was up for the SRD in 2018, while grant money was down

VIDEO: Campbell River highschool event marks Canadian human rights milestone

50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality

Blaney plan helps seniors late with taxes

Simple solution to important issue: North Island-Powell River MP

Campbell River resident to campaign on climate, economy for Liberal Party seat in Ottawa

Peter Schwarzhoff joins race for the second time in North Island-Powell River riding

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

B.C. ferry stops to let bear swim past

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Most Read