Australian news, and some related international items

Bill McKibben on the Virus and the Climate Movement

How the Virus Has Hit the Climate Movement: Bill McKibben

The Tyee talks to the prominent activist and author about fighting on two fronts. Geoff Dembicki 23 Mar 20  |

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee. His work also appears in Vice, Foreign Policy and the New York Times. A few weeks ago, this was looking like a big year for Canada’s climate movement.

After years of grassroots opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline in B.C., an eruption of rail blockades across the country in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en natural gas fight and Teck Resources shelving a major new oil sands mine for economic reasons, all the conditions seemed there to push for economy-transforming policies on the scale of the Green New Deal.

Then the coronavirus hit.

At a time when climate leaders in Canada, the U.S. and Europe imagined millions of people on the streets pressuring financial institutions to ditch fossil fuels and forcing political leaders to enact bold legislation, people are now fearful and physically alone, stuck in their homes to prevent a public health catastrophe as outside ecosystems veer towards collapse.

To help Tyee readers make sense of this new reality, we reached out to author and activist Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate group 350 and a global authority on what must be done to fight the climate emergency. It was McKibben who wrote the book The End of Nature about climate change in 1989 that put the threat firmly on the public radar.

On the impact of coronavirus on the climate movement:

In a conversation that has been edited for length and clarity, he urges Canadians to pressure politicians to keep the climate emergency front and centre as we navigate this crisis, while using these terrifying and inexplicable times as a chance to reflect on the fairer and more sustainable world we must build after the crisis is over.

On the similarities between coronavirus and climate change:

There’s a sense in which something like coronavirus is like climate change except encapsulated in a few months instead of a few decades…The biggest difference is that there’s no enormous industry that gets rich off of coronavirus, so there’s not like a built-in opposition to doing what needs to be done and that’s always been one of the problems with climate change.

On how coronavirus is helping kill off the fossil fuel industry:

One thing that’s happening I think is that last year will mark the peak of fossil fuel demand. I don’t think fossil fuels will be able to recover to the point they were at before. I can’t imagine anyone deciding that what they’re going to invest their money now in is another tar sands mine. I find it hard to imagine that even the Canadian government is going to want to spend $12 billion to build its pipeline out to Burnaby. I think we’re going to be reminded that there are other more important things to spend money on.

It seems to me that probably some of the landscape of oil and gas is getting rewritten even as we watch. That is a direct testament to the power of protest and organization over this last decade and to the incredible work of people, especially Indigenous organizers, pushing this case for a very long time. And it’s gotten through. Earlier this winter, the decision of investors that they weren’t going to throw more money into the Teck Frontier mine was a kind of bell ringing and those echoes will reverberate for a long time.

On the message Canadians should send to businesspeople and politicians:

I do think that the best thing for people to be doing in North America at the moment is to be putting huge pressure on the banks and financial institutions that fund fossil fuels, like JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Liberty Mutual, RBC, all the Toronto banks, reminding them that it’s not ok to be trying to profit off the end of the world.

Some of these banks are going to need bailouts as the economy tanks and it should be pretty clear that we should not be bailing out them without making sure that they’re not going to contribute to the next even larger crisis facing the planet.


March 24, 2020 - Posted by | General News

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