Thursday, October 16, 2008

The need for consensus

Details for the day below. First something far more important.

I would like to urge all our supporters to get in touch with their newly elected parliamentary representatives and demand that they build coalition around the issue of climate change. The time for politicking is over, the time for action is now.

I'm particularly distressed about the news highlighting concerns about Mr. Dion's leadership, which is a huge distraction from what needs to be done. We cannot afford to get ground down into issues of leadership. The Liberal Party took a beating at the polls, but they are still the largest opposition party and absolutely vital to mount an effective opposition to climate inaction. The single biggest reason that the party failed to mount a more effective opposition in the past was an expensive leadership dispute. We don't have time for another. Please write to Mr. Dion and urge him to remain and help build a coalition to protect the planet.

Failure to do this would leave Mr. Harper leading the delegation negotiating for Canada in Copenhagen in 2009, where the global post-Kyoto treaty will be decided. The Canadian delegation has so far been the greatest barrier to consensus, and PM Harper has indicated his unwillingness to commit even to the targets which all other Kyoto signatory nations agree are minimally necessary. If the Canadian delegation holds out with this attitude, we will be unable to find any useful international agreement at all. If we care about the planet, we cannot allow Mr. Harper to negotiate on our behalf.

We woke up this morning to streets wet with new rain. The clouds had cleared, the sky was blue, but the air had taken on an autumnal chill.

The apartment we were staying at was wonderful. It belongs to Wendy Lott, the deputy mayor of Perth. Thanks to Wendy, and also to Wolfe for arranging it. Have you ever had dreams about discovering rooms you didn't know existed? This apartment was a lot like this. We were delighted with the apartment long before we discovered that there was a lot more to it than we thought. It's curious and funky and absolutely delightful. In the morning, I took over the kitchen and made the best lunch I've had during this walk.

We walked into Perth from Highway 7 and met with Mayor John Fenik. It was a pleasure to speak with him. Not only was he very supportive, he demonstrated a deep and committed understanding of the issues. He gave us a bottle of ice wine and another of local maple syrup, and distributed town pins to us all. It was uplifting.

Rita is in love. With the town of Perth. She remained behind for much of the morning, spreading out flyers and cards, but mostly admiring the town. She kept telling us all how much she'd like to live in a town like this.

Highway 10 is calm and bucolic, filled with neatly trimmed fields, tidy old farmhouses and grazing animals. The roadkill is substantially reduced, you can sometimes walk for several minutes without seeing a car. You can hear birds.

We made arrangements to meet with Mayor Paul Dulmage of Carleton Place. Two local reporters came to cover the event as well. Mayor Dulmage began by expressing his support, and telling us about building retrofits, lighting upgrades, a micro-hydro project and other local initiatives that would reduce emissions. However, he expressed his doubts that a 40% emissions reduction could be reached, and his concerns about China's rising emissions. He made it clear that he cared only about local, not global effects, that he was unwilling to make any changes that weren't strictly economical, and that he was unwilling shift the economy to make them more economical by recognizing the external costs of fossil fuels.

The difference between the mayors of Perth and Carleton Place could not have been more stark. And yet, both are caring local mayors who want to do well and are clearly concerned about the environment. To us, it was clear that Mayor Dulmage had swallowed the official line of Canada's government hook, line and sinker. The experience leads to the conclusion that city officials, as all Canadians, urgently need a government in Ottawa that will be clear about the risks, the need for action and the solutions that will be required.

We returned to Highway 10 in the waning of the day, arriving at our endpoint when cars already had their lights on, even though nightfall had not quite fallen yet. We ended the day with large platters of Mexican fare before collapsing in much-needed sleep.

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