Suzuki and Yano: Climate Action Must Counter ‘Unequal Privilege’, Rebuild Democratic Systems
At a time when 70 to 75% of Canadians are largely disengaged from a political arena often dominated by “unproductive partisan pot shots and misplaced accountability,” getting serious about climate solutions is one way for politicians to earn trust, two of the country’s leading environmentalists argue in a post for the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF).
“It’s not that people don’t care about climate change, affordability, equity, and creating a healthier, more just and secure future for their children and grandchildren,” write Suzuki and Sherry Yano, DSF’s renewable energy transition manager. “Polls show they do—as do [September]’s climate strikes and actions. They just don’t see politicians as relevant.”
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But with three-quarters of Canadians telling pollsters they’re concerned about the climate crisis, “technical and policy solutions to climate change are known,” Suzuki and Yano write. “All that’s lacking is political will—not only to implement solutions, but to address the power imbalances in our political system that obstruct them.”
Which means that rebuilding democratic systems and addressing “unequal privilege” will be key steps in building public momentum to get the climate crisis under control.
Suzuki and Yano cite the fossil-driven lobby network in the United States, driven largely by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, that “has worked to hobble progressive groups and ensure the corporate agenda is prioritized. This, according to The Guardian, has curtailed Medicaid expansion to poor, uninsured adults, rolled back state efforts to address climate change, and given massive tax cuts to wealthy people and companies.”
Closer to home, Koch-related foundations “have invested millions in Canadian think tanks and organizations that sow doubt about climate science and the most effective climate solutions.”
Fossils’ “long reach into civil and political society” has enabled them to “undertake organized, well-funded campaigns to block necessary climate action,” Suzuki and Yano add, leading to the need to shore up the country’s democratic institutions.
“Justice, equity and inclusion matter,” they stress. “Stifling these important values impedes our ability to act on societal challenges like climate disruption. Unequal privilege keeps the door open to those with influence who continue to manufacture distrust of climate science and meaningful solutions.”
The counter to that influence is to ensure that everyone benefits from the transition off carbon. And that begins with “listening to people who understand the importance of justice, equity, and inclusion, and the perils of letting these values slip away.” Suzuki and Yano point to the impact of #FridaysForFuture founder Greta Thunberg and the youth organizers behind Canada’s climate strikes, and cite a renewable energy conference earlier this year led by Indigenous youth that drew 200 participants from across the country.
“If we care about the climate, we must care about justice,” they conclude. “That means heeding Indigenous youth and the Elders who inspire them. It means listening to the climate strike and social justice youth leaders, helping them raise awareness and shifting the power structures that have advantaged the few over the many for far too long. It means reminding politicians who they are supposed to serve.”