Climate Justice Meeting on Salt Spring Island
written by Jan Slakov for the Island Tides Paper
Climate Justice Meeting on Salt Spring – Jan Slakov Salt Spring hosted ‘two of our national treasures’, Lynne Quarmby and Tamara Lorincz, giving everyone present a chance to learn from two leaders of the struggle for peace and climate justice. Tamara brought a banner: ‘Demilitarize— Decarbonize. Stop the wars. Stop the Warming’ which the local Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) group put to good use a few days later, at Salt Spring’s November 29 climate justice rally.
How are these issues related? In Barry Saunders’ book on the environmental costs of militarism, he states, ‘the greatest single assault on the environment […] comes from one agency, the Armed Forces of the United States.’ With almost 40% of the world’s military spending, the Pentagon spends about as much as the next nine top military-spending nations combined. To give an idea of the massive amounts involved, the B-52 Stratocruiser burns 500 gallons per minute; ten minutes of flight consumes as much as an average US car driver uses in a year.
The audience was shocked to learn that those military greenhouse gas emissions are not included in each nation’s tally, the result of an exemption the US insisted on in climate negotiations in the late ’90s.
Tamara handed out copies of the ‘Consolidated Statement of Revenues and Expenses’ from the Public Accounts of Canada, which shows clearly that the federal department which gets the most money is the Department of Defence. One particularly striking statistic: In the 2013–2014 budget year, the Environment Canada spent $125,118,027 on ‘Climate Change and Clean Air’ (including spending on climate negotiations and contributions to international funds for the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion). That same year Canada spent $79,358,889 on a defence program which ‘fosters pride in Canadian military heritage’. Without such a program, the government argues, ‘Canadians will not identify with the CAF and will not support its operations and budget commitments.’
Lynne Quarmby, internationally renowned biochemist, has seen funding for basic research conducted by her lab cut by three-fourths. Some might consider it ironic that someone so devoted to ‘esoteric’ research became so engaged in day-to-day climate justice struggles that Kinder Morgan sued her and four other people for $5 million (in Lynne’s case, because of an op-ed she wrote). Quarmby is currently the Green Party’s science critic.
A question from the audience provoked an interesting discussion on how nations could improve their security through nonviolent measures, avoiding the destruction and horrors of war. The first step towards saner policies for security and peace-building is awareness of the impact of what is currently being done in our name.
VOW board member Tamara Lorincz recently moved to the Saanich Peninsula after spending two years in Britain as a Rotary International Peace Fellow. 0