Monbiot’s open letter to Canada

In Monday’s Globe and Mail, British journalist George Monbiot penned an open letter to Canada about climate change. Monbiot points out how Canada “will be the only [Kyoto Protocol] signatory to wildly miss its targets,” and calls for Canada to curb oil sands development and engage more effectively in international negotiations. He argues that: “The oil-sands industry is causing damage out of all proportion to its value – not only to the world’s ecosystems but also to Canada’s.”

Along with Elizabeth May, he will be debating what action Canada should take on climate change, with Bjorn Lomborg and Nigel Lawson arguing that Canada should not undertake a strong response.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

8 thoughts on “Monbiot’s open letter to Canada”

  1. The Urgent Threat to World Peace is … Canada
    Posted December 1, 2009

    The harm this country could do in the next two weeks will outweigh all the good it has done in a century.

    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 20th November 2009

    When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peace-keeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

    So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petrostate. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

  2. It would be great to hear your thoughts on tonight’s debate Milan.

    My main concern is that Elizabeth May’s incredibly emotional approach may have turned some off. That said, there is perhaps some doubt as to whether anyone paying close attention is really likely to be swayed in the first place.

    Another thought is that the question – positing climate change as mankind’s greatest current challenge – was possibly kind to Lomborg’s position. His thesis that climate change is an important concern but not one that supercedes others such as poverty alleviation may be appealing to those without the knowledge or foresight to understand a hotter planet’s impact on all aspects of our lives.

  3. “The oil-sands industry is causing damage out of all proportion to its value – not only to the world’s ecosystems but also to Canada’s.”

    I think Monbiot is wrong to focus on ecosystems. For better or for worse, most people see those as abstract luxuries – certainly not worth replacing our power plants over.

    The oil sands industry is causing damage to present and future generations of human beings out of all proportion to its value – not only to the world’s people but also to Canada’s.

  4. Transplanted from Facebook

    Nicholas E Sigh

    Lee J Monbiot said that transatlantic flights were as immoral as child abuse. Monbiot is now in Canada.

    Milan I If he can slow the development of the oil sands even by a small amount, it will much more than compensate for the effect of a couple of flights.

    The national debate in Canada needs to change, and quickly.

    Lee J The eco-elite always have their excuses. “I need to emit carbon to save the world…”

    Milan I If people like Monbiot and Al Gore spent all their time sitting at home of traveling by rail, the movement to deal with climate change would be significantly less developed than it is now.

    Milan I It comes down to a question of abstinence versus resistance

  5. The oil sands industry is causing damage to present and future generations of human beings out of all proportion to its value – not only to the world’s people but also to Canada’s.

    I agree that it is necessary, at this point, to stress how climate change is a threat to human welfare and prosperity. People may lack the imagination required to appreciate why we might change our behaviour for the benefit of coral reefs or tropical forests, but they should have some inkling of self-preservation that kicks in, once they appreciate how bad climate change could be.

  6. “Monbiot started with a question: “How lucky do you feel?” His point being that we’re gambling with the future of humanity. He said it’s easy to say don’t worry, be happy, do nothing until we really know we have to, because those living in developed countries may be able to afford a bit of delay and adaptation. But that really leaves developing countries in a precarious situation. Is it really moral to test the waters for sharks by throwing in the poor? Even worse, we — the developed world — are the ones who filled the waters with sharks. Monbiot also took issue with claims that it will cost too much. He cited an International Energy Agency report that said we need to spend tens of trillions of dollars over the next few decades to renew our conventional energy infrastructure. If we have to spend that, then why not spend it on cleaner sources of energy?”

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