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Climate and Place: The Future is Here

By Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

May 2017

This spring I have been busy with the development and facilitation of an exciting new pilot program. “Climate and Place: The Future is Here” is designed for middle school students in Grades 6-8.  In this workshop, students collaborate together to learn more about climate change solutions. It is based on Sierra Club BC’s vision document The Future is Here.

The Climate and Place workshop creates opportunities for students to critically observe and evaluate the behavioural patterns of individuals and communities in their home place, within the urgent context of climate change. Coast Salish teachings are entwined throughout the program using stories and cultural examples to facilitate discussion about taking care of the earth for future generations.

Ideas for reconnecting with nature from the Climate and Place program.

In this workshop students are provided an opportunity to voice their opinion on climate change in an open and respectful environment. They apply their knowledge and experience with their community to solutions that can address climate change impacts. They brainstorm ideas such as riding a bike or walking to school instead of getting a ride in a car, establishing and supporting recycling and composting programs in their school, and spending more time outside in nature.

My hope is that the Climate and Place program inspires and advocates for change, where necessary, in our school communities and local neighbourhoods.  During the experiential community walk, students make observations as they walk through their local neighbourhood and look critically at what they see happening in the context of climate change. Has anyone in the neighbourhood installed solar panels? Is there a recycling and composting program taking place? Are people growing their own food in backyards and community gardens?

The “Turtle Island” activity engages students in problem solving and encourages them to come up with possible solutions to major causes of climate change, such as old-growth logging and the fossil fuel industry. In one recent class, students stood on a tarp representing Turtle Island as climate problems were presented. They began to experience uncomfortable circumstances as the tarp became smaller and smaller. They had to stand increasingly closer and closer to one another. As students suggested their ideas for possible solutions, the tarp became larger and the people standing on the tarp became more comfortable with their surroundings.

“As we reduce our use of fossil fuels, reconnect children to nature and enforce sustainable harvesting practices in our forestry industry, we all here on Turtle Island will have a chance to continue to be healthy and happy.” – Grade 7 student

Students also really enjoyed the canoe journey activity. This is a facilitated discussion to help guide students to voice their opinion and make statements about how climate change is personally impacting their lifestyle and behavioral choices in their home and community.

“I learned today how we all play a role in creating an environment that will be sustainable through our choices such as how we travel to school each day or if we use plastic bags at the grocery store.” – Grade 7 student

“I never knew that spending time outside was so valuable and important in the fight against climate change and nature deficit in children in our society today.” – Grade 8 student

Overall, this program has actually been a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs. It can be challenging to get this age group to speak up and share how they feel about the environment within the urgent context of climate change. Some students feel that it doesn’t matter—that their opinions don’t count.

“No one ever listens to how we feel we should be taking care of the planet.”  – Grade 6 student

I also discovered how much it varies between communities in terms of how children are mentored to show concern for the environment.

“How can my school be more involved in reducing the impacts of climate change?” – Grade 6 student

“Why do we have a pack in/pack out rule for garbage at our school?” – Grade 8 student

Kirsten with students.

Every school is doing something. The biggest challenge I see within middle schools is how they can purposefully make the connection between their actions and the expectations they have for their students, nature and the climate. For some students, this was the first time they had ever heard about the reality of how climate change will impact our lives here in BC.

The reality is that climate change is happening and students need to become aware of their role and how they can play a part in creating solutions. They are the future and they must be given the opportunity to be mentored in protecting nature and spending time outside so they can learn how their actions will directly impact their future lives.

 

Resource List:

Sierra Club BC “The Future is Here” Document

  1. Stabilize our climate, by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, reducing our emissions and increasing the price on carbon.
  2. 2. Defend intact nature to preserve biodiversity and natural carbon banks, and protect the ecosystem services on which human economies and health depend.
  3. Rapidly transition to an equitable post-carbon economy that leaves no one behind.

Climate Change activities you can do with your students

Communities taking the lead on solar energy:

T’Sou-ke First Nation

Bear Lake Cree

 

 

Federal Approval of Petronas: A betrayal of salmon and climate

October 3, 2016

For months, we have been asking whether Prime Minister Trudeau would side with B.C.’s wild salmon and a liveable climate, or with foreign multinationals who just see B.C. as a place to exploit for profit.

Sadly, his choice became clear last week, with the federal government’s announcement that it has approved the Petronas fracked gas plant at Lelu Island.

This is terrible news for salmon populations on the Skeena River. The plant is slated to be built right next to the river’s estuary, a nursery for hundreds of millions of juvenile salmon. Canada’s second largest salmon run may have just had its death warrant signed by the federal government.

The approval of Petronas is also very bad news for the climate. The Petronas fracked gas plant is a carbon bomb that will make it impossible for B.C. to meet its already weak climate targets. This plant alone would be responsible for an astonishing 11.5 to 14.0 megatonnes of climate pollution per year, equivalent to five times the official reported emissions for all of B.C. As the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has noted, the climate impacts of the plant would be “high in magnitude, continuous, irreversible and global in extent.”

Simply put, expanding the extraction of fracked gas is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2⁰C.

Canadians who voted for action on climate change want real commitments and real action, not just empty promises of sunny ways. Placing conditions on the approval won’t add up to concrete action against climate change. Instead, the conditions are a rubber stamp on new fossil fuel infrastructure that feigns a rigorous approval process.

It has been almost one year since Canadians elected a government with a mandate to take real action on climate change, but it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the Trudeau government’s climate change action from those of the Harper government. The federal government has now adopted the woefully inadequate Harper-era emissions targets—a slap in the face to all Canadians who wanted to see bold action.

We need to safeguard our environment while pushing our economy into transition toward a post-carbon future of green jobs. Now is the time for transition to renewables, not the time for building more climate-polluting projects.

This decision is not the end of the story. Petronas says it will review the project to see if it’s financially viable before deciding whether or not to proceed. And First Nations are considering legal challenges.

Sierra Club BC will continue to highlight the dangers posed by Petronas, its incompatibility with decreasing global demand for fossil fuels, and the benefits of the alternatives. We’ll also continue to push for both the federal and provincial governments to include a rigorous climate test in all future environmental assessments, so this kind of climate-killing approval can never happen in the future. In the process, we will help build the case for Petronas to walk away.

Please donate today to help us continue our work on climate solutions.

Site C betrayal: Federal government sides against First Nations, science, endangered species, food security

Appalling decision signals Ottawa supports B.C.’s plans to electrify LNG industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 29, 2016

VICTORIA—The federal government’s approval of construction permits for the $9 billion Site C megaproject is a cowardly betrayal, says Sierra Club BC.

“The federal government’s decision is an affront to First Nations and to the scientific work that proves Site C is the most destructive project ever reviewed in Canadian history,” said Sierra Club BC’s Peace Valley campaigner Ana Simeon. “Prime Minister Trudeau has said honouring First Nations rights is a ‘sacred obligation’ not an inconvenience. But this decision is a profanity that clearly views those rights as nothing more than an inconvenience to be swept aside.

“The same goes for science: yesterday’s decision continues the previous government’s appalling practice of suppressing and ignoring inconvenient findings. This is a cowardly decision and a betrayal of the principles the federal government has claimed it wants to restore to Ottawa: respect for First Nations rights and science-based decision making.”

The B.C. government will shortly reveal its climate plan, which is expected to announce plans to electrify any LNG plants that are built. This will make Site C a climate disaster, enabling the export of massive emissions to Asia.

“We all share the same atmosphere and whether LNG is burned here or overseas it will have the same catastrophic effects on our climate,” said Simeon. “Ottawa will soon announce its decision whether or not to approve the Petronas plant in Prince Rupert. It’s another watershed moment for Trudeau. In combination, greenlighting Site C and Petronas would be a crime against our climate and against Canada’s second largest salmon run.

“This is not the end of the fight. Sierra Club BC will pursue all possible peaceful, legal avenues to stop Site C and with our allies and common sense British Columbians we will prevail against this abomination.”

 

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Media contact:
Ana Simeon
Peace Valley Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
778-677-4740

Statement from Sierra Club BC on NASA data showing unprecedented increase of global temperatures

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

VICTORIA—In response to new NASA data showing global temperatures are rising faster than measured ever before, Sierra Club BC released the following statement from climate and energy campaigner, Larissa Stendie:

“The data from NASA shows an alarming acceleration of global temperature increase. We are in a state of climate emergency and our governments need to act even more rapidly than previously thought. If our governments goes ahead with just a fraction of the proposed fossil fuel projects we will be contributing in a major way to pushing global temperatures into uncharted, very dangerous territory.

“The B.C. government needs to halt all climate damaging projects until a scientifically rigorous climate test is implemented in environmental assessments. A climate test would ensure that new infrastructure projects would only be approved if they allow us to hit our climate targets, thus helping us move investments towards a post-carbon economy.

“While the B.C. government is currently accepting public input into a new climate action plan, they continue to push an LNG program that is incompatible with the climate emergency we face.”

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The NASA data can be found HERE

Contact:

Larissa Stendie

Climate and Energy Campaigner

Sierra Club BC

(250) 891-8245

The Obama-Trudeau Dinner: Putting Conservation on the Menu

On March 10, President Obama will hold a State Dinner at the White House for Prime Minister Trudeau, the first time such an event has been held for a Canadian leader in 19 years. In an open letter issued today, conservation groups from both sides of the border are calling on the leaders to use this opportunity to discuss the protection of the Flathead River Valley in southeast British Columbia.

“Saving the Flathead is the single greatest opportunity for US-Canada conservation cooperation today, and I hope our leaders use this event to discuss how to accomplish this once and for all,” said Peter Wood of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

For Trudeau, this could be a chance to follow through on Jean Chretien’s 2002 intention to add this “missing piece” to the transboundary Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, created in 1932. “Americans and Canadians should be proud to have initiated the world’s first international peace park,” said Harvey Locke, co-founder and Strategic Advisor of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “Protecting the ‘Missing Piece’ in the Flathead is one of the most obvious major conservation gains available in the world today.”

For Obama, this presents an opportunity to build on protections added to the US side of the river in 2015. “We were thrilled when Congress passed the North Fork Watershed Protection Act last year, which protected the US side of the Flathead from mining. We hope that this dinner could lead to a significant announcement to further transboundary conservation in the Crown of the Continent,” said Dave Hadden of Headwaters Montana.

Premier Clark has confirmed the importance of this area to conservation in B.C., and has given Ministers Mary Polak (Environment) and Bill Bennett (Energy and Mines) the mandate to pursue a wildlife habitat corridor that includes the Flathead. But nothing has moved ahead.

“We are pleased that the Province of B.C. has acknowledged that this area is a vital wildlife corridor, but we must act now if we are to make sure that wildlife values are not further compromised by ongoing pressures,” said John Bergenske of Wildsight. “This is one of North America’s best opportunities to maintain healthy wildlife populations in the face of climate change.”

The conservation groups have extended an invitation to the two leaders for a guided tour of the Flathead Valley.

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Have your say on B.C.’s climate action plan today!

Over the next 60 days, the B.C. government is seeking public input into a Climate Leadership Plan. The Province is considering the 32 recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team, a government-assembled group of experts.

At a minimum, Sierra Club BC believes these recommendations should be adopted by the Province. However, some simply do not go far enough for B.C. to do our part to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We encourage you to look over the Climate Leadership Team recommendations and have your say on how B.C. should move forward to reduce emissions and make our communities more resilient in dealing with the impacts that we can’t avoid.

 Check out our New Climate Toolkit for Teachers

Although talking to young people about climate change can be challenging, preparing them to work towards solutions is an important part of their education.

With this in mind, our education team has developed a new teaching resource. Creating a Better Climate Future for B.C.: A Teaching Toolkit for Grades 6-8, outlines ten steps B.C. can take towards a safe and healthy future.

The toolkit was inspired by our new report The Future is Here, Sierra Club BC’s vision for a better climate future for B.C.

SCBC's Kirsten Dallimore teaching at Willows Elementary.

SCBC’s Kirsten Dallimore teaching at Willows Elementary. Photo Credit: K. Zolotas

We’ve created 10 infographics to explain the 10 steps and put together sample lesson plans and activities to accompany each infographic. Together the infographics and suggested lesson plans could constitute a whole unit on climate change and how we can build a better climate future together.

We wrote this toolkit with students in grades six to eight in mind. However, we also feel that many, if not all, of the activities can be adapted both for lower and higher grade levels.

Check out our range of teaching resources and we encourage you to share this new resource with educators you know.

 

 

Speech by Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon to Unifor, Sep. 2015

It is an honour to be here with you today, on unceded Coast Salish territory.

I’d like to first express my deep respect and gratitude to the labour movement, for uplifting us all, through many long years of struggle. Thank you.

And in particular, I would like to commend Unifor for the strength and leadership you bring to the challenge of climate change. It has been a real honour to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we learn to work together.

Sierra Club BC is an environmental organization with almost 50 years of history. We work to protect and conserve BC’s wild places, and keep fossil fuels in the ground – for example opposing the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines. And we promote green job alternatives and the shift to a low carbon economy.

We have an environmental education program in the schools, our work is based in science, we recognize aboriginal title and rights. And we have a commitment to building alliances and working in solidarity across various movements – for example with First Nations and with labour.

Climate change is game on. We are feeling the impacts all around us, in the drought, fishing closures and wildfires this past summer.

The science predicts that here in B.C., grasslands will expand, there will be less water for agriculture, the ocean will acidify – making it harder for shellfish to form their shells, large old growth coastal trees won’t grow back.

When I think about climate change I think about the environment, but I also think about jobs, and the economy.

Because it’s not a question of jobs versus the environment – it’s a question of what kinds of jobs, and who gets to decide.

Maybe it’s because I grew up on picket lines as well as in the woods, but I really believe that social justice cannot be separated from environmental justice. We can lobby all we want for environmental protections, but no policies or protected areas will hold up over the long term unless the people who live there have sustainable livelihoods. And if we have secure jobs but can’t drink the water or eat the food, if our kids can’t go outside to play, is that really security for our families?

Talking about jobs versus the environment perpetuates an economic model that isn’t working for people, or for the planet. The more I think about it, jobs vs environment feels like a strategy to divide us, to pit us against each other, while someone else runs away with the profit and leaves an ecological mess behind.

Are we going to keep letting them do that?

Our economic model assumes that endless growth is possible. But we live on a finite planet, with limited resources. There is only so much that we can take from the earth, or dump back as waste, before the ecosystems stop functioning, and stop providing us with the water and food we rely on.

We need an economy that operates within ecological limits, where wealth and resources are distributed more equitably. And where both people and the planet are put before profit.

Never has this been so urgent as it is now, as together we face the challenge of climate change.

Economists are warning of a carbon bubble, and stranded assets in the fossil fuel industry. To support workers in these sectors, we need to get out in front of the upcoming changes, and build the post-carbon economy that we already know is possible.

Unifor is demonstrating bold leadership in this direction.

Brothers and sisters, we will continue to look to you for leadership. The role of unions and workers couldn’t be more important. You have the skills, the courage, the creativity and the organizing expertise that is so very needed. Together we can and must build a post-carbon economy that supports workers and sustains the environment we all depend on.

We are talking about a big shift – some call it a great turning – and our task is to ensure job security and healthy families along the way. To do this we need all hands on deck.

A couple years ago I was in Fort McMurray for the tar sands healing walk. Led by First Nations, we walked past the tailings pond and smokestacks, our lungs hurting along with our hearts, as we bore witness to the dead zones we’ve created on the land. We walked for hours. And all through those hours, truck drivers honked their support as they went past. Workers waved from the windows of their buses. It felt like an outpouring of support from the workers who make their living from the tar sands.

I tell this story because it so clearly demonstrates how we are all in this mess together, whether we are the ones digging holes in the earth, or the ones trying to stop them. And it is only by working together that we will find solutions that work for everyone, and for the earth.

Sierra Club and Unifor are part of Green Jobs BC, an alliance between labour and environmental organizations. We are finding common ground, and promoting policies that support the good green jobs we can all say yes to.

Because here’s the thing. The challenges we are up against are very real, but so are the alternatives. Whether we are talking about local energy generation or mass transportation, the alternatives to fossil fuels are known, are possible, and will create more jobs. All that’s lacking is the political will.

We can look to Germany for inspiration. They went from 6% of their energy from renewables in 2000 to 23% in 2013, through a generous and well-designed incentive program that created an industry that employed 300,000 people.

Germany also pushed forward a massive retrofit program in the early 2000’s that not only created 140,000 jobs, but made Germany the leader in green architecture, design, and energy-efficient products, which they now sell all over the world. It’s worth noting that Germany is a world leader in solar without being a particularly sunny place.

We can create good green jobs through renewable energy, transportation initiatives, and energy efficiency retrofits. And it’s not just about creating new jobs – we also need to better value existing low carbon jobs in other sectors, many of which are held by women and people of colour.

So how do we get there?

We can shift subsidies away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and energy efficiency.

For every million dollars invested, instead of only 2 jobs in oil and gas we could create 15 jobs in clean energy.

We can raise the carbon tax and invest in transportation.

We can build alliances between workers and environmental activists, and take to the streets to ensure we have good policies in place to support all workers in the shift to a post-carbon economy.

We can build alternatives in our own communities, with locally-controlled regional energy projects.

This is no small challenge, but I don’t think I’m in a room of people who shy away from taking on big challenges.

Climate change is the fight of our generation and it is a labour issue just as much as it is an environmental issue.

We face a choice about what future we want to live in, and the time to choose is now.

We might not always agree with each other, but we can always learn from one another.

By building a green economy and doing something about climate change, I hope we can build a world in which we respect the earth, and respect one another as well.

Thank you.

Statement on COP21 Climate Agreement

Sierra Club BC released the following statement from forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting in response to the recently-announced international climate agreement in Paris:

“Today is a historic day, heralding the end of the fossil fuel era.

“200 countries have agreed to reduce their emissions to keep global warming at 1.5°C and have recognized that the vast majority of fossil fuels must remain in the ground.

“While this is historic news, in practical terms, the world is still far away from limiting ourselves 1.5°C of warming. The greenhouse gas reduction commitments of nations coming into the Paris talks will lead to 3°C of warming, which is incompatible with human civilization as we know it.

“If the 1.5°C goal is to have anything more than symbolic value, tougher, enforceable  targets are needed now. The world cannot wait for the five year review called for in the Paris agreement. Here in B.C. and Canada, we must accelerate the clean energy revolution and turbocharge the shift to a post-carbon economy by ending fossil fuel subsidies, more aggressive taxation of carbon and public investments in energy efficiency, transit and other climate-friendly measures.

“In particular, both B.C. and Canada’s environmental assessment processes must be revamped to incorporate a formal climate test into any decisions about projects that will emit greenhouse gases. Sierra Club BC calls upon Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Clark to commit to a climate test as a key building block of achieving the 1.5°C ceiling. For B.C., that means the government must abandon its climate-destabilizing push to build an LNG industry. For Canada, it means flawed pipeline reviews already underway like the Kinder Morgan proposal must be put on hold and re-assessed under an improved process.”

Contact:

Jens Wieting

Forest and Climate Campaigner
Cell:  (604) 354-5312

We did it! Pull Together Raised $600,000!

Amazing news, and a major milestone!

Today, the Pull Together campaign reached its fundraising goal of $600,000. Over 15 incredible months of solidarity, people like you have danced, marched, sang, paddled, stretched and eaten together to raise money for seven First Nations facing down Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers in the courts.

A huge thank you to so many Sierra Club BC supporters who organized events, donated, attended and spread the word, showing solidarity with the Nations and helping support their cases.

Today we celebrate Pull Together alongside the Haida, Heiltsuk, Nadleh-Whuten, Nak’adzli, Gitxaala, Gitga’at and Kitasoo- Xai’xais Nations who have taken a strong stance against Enbridge in court.

The solidarity that Pull Together inspired has helped provoke the new government to re-commit to formalizing a moratorium on oil tankers on the north coast, as one of its top priorities.

What a beautiful way to wrap up a momentous year!

Let’s be clear, though: our work isn’t over yet. Enbridge is still fighting to keep its pipedream alive.

While we await the judgement in the First Nations lawsuits that you have so generously supported, send a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau today, to let him know we look forward to seeing a permanent, legislated oil tanker ban passed into law at the earliest opportunity.

Please consider donating to Sierra Club BC today, so we can build upon what we’ve achieved with Pull Together! 

Pull Together infographic