QJPolitics: Demanding attention

Devastating changes to the global climate are imminent. As if this weren’t enough, humanity also faces the prospect of a crippling water crisis. These issues demand attention from those with the privilege to act.

In North America, the debate over climate change has approximately three outspoken factions.

The most retrograde group believes that climate change isn’t happening or that it’s inevitable and humans should simply “adapt” to its ravages.

A second group recognizes climate change as a problem and advocates policy reform to combat it.

A final group –comprised of environmental activists and other incredulous humans- advocates civil disobedience and targeted opposition to great symbols of what they perceive as an outdated oil-based economy. This group also advocates policy reform but is increasingly turning to these more radical measures. Protests against the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines are the foremost examples.

Many who exclusively advocate for reform deem these actions counterproductive. However, those concerned about climate change disavow more radical tactics at the planet’s peril.

To generalize, positive societal paradigm shifts —like the one demanded by climate change— don’t occur without civil disobedience and other impositions generated by an impassioned minority.

Those advocating for incremental reform through established avenues aren’t being pragmatic about the power wielded by oil companies and other degenerate sectors of industry. Public opinion in the US is still split down the middle on whether climate change is caused by human activity. Make no mistake; this is the direct result of a misinformation campaign created by big oil and coal companies.

Reformers also assert that climate activists should focus on climate change itself rather than any given pipeline. However, specific battles can be used to bring the larger war to public consciousness. Presumably the same people who scoff at opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline would have undermined Gandhi.

“Doesn’t this idiot realize it’s about colonialism and not a salt tax?”

The Idle No More movement is an ideal opportunity for Canadians to consider the impact that industry has on our planet. Protecting Canada’s innumerable bodies of fresh water is a moral imperative that Idle No More has put front and center.

An underreported aspect of the Idle No More movement is that it has received a decent amount of international solidarity. This is a critical part of any contemporary movement that seeks to defend the environment. Environmental problems are created by multinational corporations so it logically follows that their opposition should straddle jurisdictions.

It should be noted that Idle No More is first and foremost about a colonial relationship. This basis shouldn’t be downplayed in favor of more narrow environmental goals. More generally, climate activists should be extremely wary about the unintended consequences of their actions. For example, the new market for bio-fuels has increased global food prices.

While Idle No More may not be the ideal vehicle, broader solidarity and sustained pressure is necessary if the grave threats to the planet are to be confronted. The reformers will have their moment; they will relish their role implementing the measures they advocated all along. However, the intermediate period demands more radical action.

David Hadwen is QJBlogs’ Political Columnist. He’s a fourth-year history major with a specific interest in American Politics. Follow him on Twitter @David_Hadwen.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.