Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner October 8, 2020
The 1980s were a decade of nuclear dread in Peterborough, the Cold War era. Russia was seen as a great threat, and the Darlington nuclear plant near Port Hope a major target, which, if hit, would badly affect us.
Peterborough has long had a group of conscientious people alert to signs of the times, thinking critically and taking non-violent action. Members still make waves, regarding poverty, racism and climate chaos. Then, they hosted SAGE.
Into town came four teenagers from Montreal, all of them 18 years old, with a youth group called SAGE: Students Against Global Extermination. They were driving a rusty old station wagon, two boys and two girls, articulate and motivated, who had promised their parents that on a two-month-long, cross-Canada trek to show a documentary film and organize youth groups for peace, there would be “no funny business.”
We had a call asking us if we could billet two of these youth. Gladly.
We took in Seth Klein, the son of filmmaker Bonnie Sherr Klein and physician Michael Klein. This couple had fled the United States for Canada as part of the Vietnam War resistance movement.
The kids did a great job, showing “If You Love This Planet,” and conducting vigorous discussions with high schoolers here. Next morning, the front-page story in the Globe and Mail was the SAGE tour.
More than three decades later, Seth Klein, now in Vancouver, has worked for 20 years as British Columbia co-ordinator for the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, a think tank which turns out the Alternative Federal Budget each year.
Seth, married to a Vancouver city councillor, has written his first book: “A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency.” Like his sister, Naomi Klein (of “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Logo”), he is shaping Canadian opinion and policy formation.
He was the first to note the irony of his title. The child of “peaceniks,” he was reluctant to adopt the metaphor of war for his thesis, but when he researched how Canada behaved in the Second World War he realized it was fitting to describe the scope, scale and speed of what was needed then, which Canadians rose to, and what is needed now. It is bracing to recall that our small country of 11 million people, in a six-year span, produced 16,000 aircraft and 800,000 military vehicles. We sacrificed 45,000 lives overseas.
He turns to climate chaos and our dismal record. But Klein’s attitude is, we did it then, we can do it now. From 2000 to 2018, our high greenhouse gas emissions were flatlined at 700 megatonnes. Yet the world has just until 2050 to reach the decarbonization of the atmosphere.
Klein writes strongly and clearly and with good nature. He assumes we have already grasped the science; the dire calculations of climate scientists around the world. He focuses on political and cultural necessities with many ideas: a Youth Climate Corps, national resolve to spend what is necessary to win this “good war,” because if we lose, nothing else matters; new taxes on the wealthy and the sale of Green Victory Bonds.
He calls for new Crown corporations, to “get the job done,” and for the leadership of creative people.
“Determine the conversion needs,” he says, “just as C.D. Howe did in 1940.” How many heat pumps, solar panels, wind turbines, electric buses and so on? Invoke the War Measures Act. Match workers to needed jobs, lower the voting age and prepare to receive tens of thousands of climate-displaced people annually. Mandate the end of gas-powered vehicles by 2025; mandate the end of fossil-fuelled homes by 2040.
Canadians are deeply anxious about the threats upon us, so Klein’s ideas do not seem so drastic.
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