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An interview with several world youth who protect biodiversity

“You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!” Jean-Jacques Rousseau As the time approaches for the critically important UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) summit (COP15) in Montreal this December, I have had the fortunate opportunity to speak with youth leaders from around the world, some of whom will be attending the summit. I met Jonas Kittelsen on a Zoom conference call in September. As members of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), he and other young Norwegian activists have a working relationship with the CBD, which strongly advocates the inclusion of young people in decision-making. Jonas and his fellow global activists Shruthi, Swetha and Sudha are knowledgeable and passionate about protecting Nature, and I was honoured to discuss with them their thoughts and actions to protect Earth’s biodiversity, of which humans are a part. The GYBN website makes it very clear that there is a global biodiversity emergency. The organisation is asking all young people to rally for biodiversity. Has Norway’s biodiversity youth network succeeded in rallying its peer group? Jonas: Unfortunately, there is no specifically Norwegian biodiversity network, but we have a Nordic youth biodiversity network, which aims to bring young voices to the forefront at UN negotiations for Nature. Our Nordic Youth Biodiversity Paper carries the voices of several thousand Nordic young people, who have articulated what they think politicians must do, and we will use this to push policymakers to take responsibility for this acute emergency. However, I wish more young people rallied for biodiversity, as the crisis is existential, and there are still very few of us working with these issues firsthand. Why did you feel compelled to join GYBN? Are you a member of other climate/biodiversity groups? What is unique about GYBN? Shruthi: GYBN is the first climate/biodiversity group I joined. The reason I wanted to join was the capacity building that they did around the CBD, which was my source of understanding this complex process, something I always wanted to do. The capacity-building training was my introduction to GYBN and the community. GYBN is unique in that they don’t just organise campaigns and awareness marches. They really make the effort to involve young people’s opinions and voices in discussions about policy and to get up to speed regarding these important negotiations. They are involved in a wide range of activities that engage artists, young people, decision makers, governments and international bodies. The fact that they have 40+ national chapters and several subnational ones speaks of the reach of the GYBN community. The global youth climate/biodiversity movement has gained much-needed momentum. However, the term “youth-washing,” whereby a corporation, government or the UN uses its seemingly engaging relationship with young people to foster its own agenda, is of concern for groups such as yours. For example, Egypt’s repressive regime, which is hosting November’s Climate summit (COP27), is going to have a Children and Youth Pavilion there. Greta Thunberg has said,

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We are in the fight of our lives

“The clock is ticking,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told participants. “We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible…It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact or a Collective Suicide Pact.” He added: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” The 27th UN conference on climate change, known as COP27, is currently taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. There are topics that cannot be thrown down the to-do list for next year. The delegates know that they must follow through on lowering fossil fuel pollution. Period. Last year’s summit in Glasgow, Scotland made it clear that if world temperatures are to stay below 2 degrees Celsius – or better, much better, 1.5 degrees Celsius – implementation of the aspirational goals set there must translate into signed and sealed legal agreements. Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a UN climate adviser, says: “Putting off to tomorrow that which needs to be done today has come back to bite us… Decades of under-investment in infrastructure, of too-slow progress on protecting Nature, faltering responses to rising inequality, undervaluing energy efficiency. Now we find ourselves scrambling to swing away from fossil fuels, ramp up renewables, respond to famine and food price shocks, and with inflation on the rise and growth stalling, and very little of the policy frameworks we need to make the transitions move smoothly at speed. 2021 was about ambition – 2022 is about following through.” If there were ever a summer to prove that speedily implemented decisions to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and the subsidies given to oil and gas, 2022’s months of drought, floods and forest fires surely would convince anyone. Demands from non-G7 nations to finally receive for climate adaptation the billions of dollars promised by those wealthy industrial countries that almost single-handedly caused the climate crisis will feature prominently at COP27. But the hypocrisy of countries like the US and Canada that subsidise or promote new fossil fuel projects while not doing nearly enough to accelerate the production of renewable sources of energy fuel projects will also be highlighted. With the spotlight now on Africa, as COP27 is taking place there, transitioning away from oil and in particular ending new fossil fuel projects will be a key barometer of this year’s conference. But are countries like the US really interested? Please see tinyurl.com/US-Africa-fossil-fuels Two other focal points will be aimed at having debt as well as loss and damage to developing countries examined. Massive debts that have grown in these countries must be rescinded, since those debilitating debts to rich countries stop them from initiating climate adaptation, including building infrastructure that can withstand the new reality of climate breakdown such as the devastation caused by flooding in Pakistan. Take a look at this summer’s catastrophes through this video:

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A summer of climate upheaval propels the world to autumn action

“The populous and the powerful was a lump,  Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—  A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.  The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,  And nothing stirred within their silent depths…” – from ”Darkness” by Lord Byron The English poet Lord Byron wrote the poem “Darkness” in 1816 to describe the horrors of not having sunlight and adequate atmospheric heat to grow crops after the eruption of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia the previous spring. The year 1816 is known as the “the year without a summer” because the dust in the sky blotted out the sun and caused temperatures to plummet. There was widespread famine in eastern Canada as a result of crop failure, as elsewhere in the world.  Clearly a stable climate matters if life is to flourish, and although 2022 has had quite a different sort of summer than 1816, its own set of catastrophic events rival what happened across the world in 1816. Unlike the natural event brought on with the eruption of Mount Tambora, our global woes are intrinsically linked to the fossil-fuel-addicted industrial countries, whose governments refuse to rein in oil and gas profits and stand up for young people’s right to a future. (Just twenty of the biggest oil and gas producers are projected to spend $932 billion by the end of 2030 on developing new oil and gas fields if they have their way.) Remember that global temperature is now 1.2°C higher than it was in 1816. This summer’s multi-disasters have brought into stark relief what chaos awaits us if we disregard broadly accepted scientific reports predicting what confronts us with an increase of 2–3°C. Exceeding even 1.5°C of global heating could trigger multiple climate tipping points, warns Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Climate tipping points such as sudden enormous water releases from Greenland’s ice sheet would engender a global emergency and are openly researched and debated. Many scientists believe that a 1.8°C rise is the most optimistic chance we have. After this summer, when 1.2°C has caused such mayhem, what global hell awaits the living at 1.8°C? If this summer hasn’t made abundantly obvious and with added urgency the imperative for industrialized countries to shut down the oil and gas schemes for energy reliance, civil disobedience will scream its way to the halls of power. We do this to ourselves. The poet John Donne, born in 1572, expresses this self-afflicting tendency of humans well: ”Nothing but man of all envenom’d things doth work upon itselfe, with inborne stings.”  What started with drought has moved to unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, putting a third of the country under water and displacing 32 million people. Two-thirds of Europe is suffering drought, and major rivers are becoming unnavigable for commercial craft. France relies on its rivers to cool its nuclear reactors, which produce most of its electricity, but those rivers are experiencing drastically diminished water flow. China’s summer of unprecedented heat waves has caused rivers there

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Blatant disregard for our children’s future fuels Bay du Nord project

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” António Guterres, Secretary-general of the United Nations “Letter to Cabinet: Reject Bay du Nord and focus on a fair transition for Newfoundland and Labrador” Sierra Club Canada Merriam-webster dictionary gives one possible definition of the word “radical” as “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs.” According to this definition, do you know of any “dangerous radicals” in Canada’s government? António Guterres said that these government officials were guilty of a “litany of broken climate promises,” adding, “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they are lying.” [tinyurl.com/ipcc-3guterres] Canada has never kept its promises to reach any climate targets it has set for itself, even though its own reports are scientifically certain that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that this is effectively irreversible. [tinyurl.com/ipcc-3-2022analysis] Canada has no national political “leaders” combating climate breakdown. On June 17, 2019, Canada’s House of Commons declared a national climate emergency by a wide majority. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, wasn’t there to support the motion, because he went to a Raptors basketball game in Toronto instead. The following morning, the Canadian government announced the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, which would almost triple the flow of tar sands bitumen. The key word that always brings into question Canada’s credibility is “target.” Targets are for governments 10 years in the future to ponder, on realizing that the nine previous years accomplished nothing to actualize those goals, so when Trudeau originally spoke about a 30% reduction in carbon emissions in 2030 from a 2005 level, a fact check by the CBC said Canada was not going to remotely make that “target.” When Trudeau and boy wonder Steven Guilbeault speak about a 40–45% reduction in emissions, no one believes them; who will be there in 2030 to admonish them and call them liars? Now, if Guilbeault’s power trajectory takes him to 24 Sussex Drive as Canada’s prime minister after the 2025 election, he might have to scrape around to come up with other reasons for not realizing those critical climate mitigation targets. Consider that 17% of all carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution were emitted between 2010 and 2019. Although the pandemic slowed down emissions, we are now greedily making up for lost time. If we are to meet a carbon budget that enables the world to stay close to a 1.5 Celsius rise, then definitely the Bay du Nord offshore oil project should be cancelled. The richest 10% of people on the planet are busily creating almost 50% of all carbon emissions, and Guilbeault’s goals can never be met, especially now that Bay du Nord has increased its original projection of 300 million barrels of oil to potentially 1 billion barrels of oil that will spew and burn by 2028. Keeping all this

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New Year resolutions, not aspirations, are needed.

The year-long preparations and lead-up by non-governmental organizations and activists to the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this autumn many times reverberated as despairing voices in the night reaching out to have others join in to take on governments and corporations. In fact, guarded optimism was expressed. By the last day of the summit, November 13, the myriad voices could still be heard by everyone except G20 governments and their hundreds of entrenched fossil-fuel lobbyists. Towards the end of the conference some delegates walked out onto the streets to protest with youth and other individuals against the intransigence of rich nations that saw only their immediate political advantages, often broadcasts for oil and coal lobbyists, ultimately resulting in governments’ outright and belligerent refusal to join a global fight to save our climate. After all, this was not, as promised, the most inclusive climate summit, but quite the opposite: it was a meeting of wealthy men that kept out world youth as well as those who suffer most from climate breakdown. Many declared it a flop.  Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s new minister of Environment and Climate Change, speaking soon after the conference ended, concluded that Canada had shown the world how serious it was in confronting the myriad climate challenges. He said, “When Canada, with one of the four largest oil and gas reserves in the world, committed to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector at current levels, that got attention.” So far this and other ‘commitments’ have dissolved into aspirations, not resolutions.  The last 15 years of precipitously rising fossil-fuel use in Canada and the federal government’s self-imposed benediction to continue driving more pipelines to completion through First Nation territories make that aspiration sound particularly hollow, just as Canada’s previous nationally determined contributions, as they were called at the Paris summit, never came to fruition. Can we actually believe that Guilbeault, a past Greenpeace campaigner, will have the clout to turn federal policy away from enabling gas and oil multinationals? A letter signed by a number of Bishop’s University students asking Guilbeault to outline what he intends to do about the climate crisis has gone unanswered, as have letters to Justin Trudeau and our local MP Marie-Claude Bibeau, all submitted on Climate Action Day in early November. A recent article by Barry Saxifrage in the National Observer entitled “Electrify everything? Canada cranks fossil burning instead” puts into perspective the grotesque failure of our federal government’s inaction in ending fossil-fuel production in Canada. Saxifrage takes information from National Resource Canada’s Energy Use Data Handbook, which covers 2000 to 2018, and a remarkable set of graphs emerges. For example, from 2005 to 2018 fossil-fuel energy use grew at a rate 10 times that of electrical power. And while fossil-fuel energy use increased from 70% of total energy consumption in 2005 to 74% in 2018, in the same period electrical energy use diminished from 22% to 20%. This is happening while this government pledges cohesive action to draw down carbon in Canada. Thankfully

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Giving young people a public voice: a conversation with Anne-Julie Bergeron

Please tell the Record’s readers a little about your background, Anne-Julie. Where did you spend your childhood? Do you feel this has shaped your attitude towards Nature and the climate crisis? I grew up in a small town in Bellechasse, Qubec. Where I lived, Nature surrounded us mountains, forests, rivers, and a beautiful lake. Of course, seeing this scenery every day shaped my view towards Nature. Before I was even aware of the climate crisis, I felt the need to protect my environment. Nature was my haven of peace and I felt lucky the forest was my playground. I cannot count how many hours my brothers, my friends and I spent in the woods, playing hide and seek or building tree houses. Sometimes I saw deforested areas in my town, and something didn’t feel right inside me. As a little child, I could not tell what this feeling was. I only wanted the trees back. It is paradoxical that I felt so close to Nature as a child, and at the same time I thought big farms were natural. My grandparents had a dairy and hog farm. I visited them often, so I thought animals were meant to be ‘caged’ and give us food. Even in small towns, it is normalized to possess and commodify other living beings. In a sense, I am glad I could witness the captivity of these beings, because these memories make me realize how society denaturalizes animals and living beings. Does your family support you in your deep interest in and actions to protect Nature? In the first place, I would have said “yes”, because my parents support me in everything I undertake. However, the only way I could feel their support would be if they took actions themselves to protect Nature. I have often tried to engage in conversations with them about the environmental crisis and the things we can do as individuals. As soon as they realize their behaviour might be harmful to our planet, they disengage from the conversation. Yet I do not blame them. I understand their mentality comes from a toxic society and years of capitalism indoctrination. Why did you decide to take the Bishop’s University ‘Ecological Crisis and the Struggle for Environmental Justice’ class? Do you feel an affinity with other students regarding climate justice? I want my years at university to be meaningful and that I can have a positive impact on society. I am studying to broaden my mind, not to narrow it. As a young person, I am extremely concerned about the ecological crisis. I thought this class would be a great step to act for environmental justice. I feel some people took this class because it fitted their curriculum, but on the whole we all have an interest in protecting Nature. It is empowering to connect with other people of my generation and understand how they feel about this crisis. Have you attended any climate protests? Yes, I took part in the 2019 September climate

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