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JIM VIBERT: Climate change key to younger voters

Hundreds of high school students rally at Province House on March 15 to urge government to act on climate change. FRANCIS CAMPBELL   THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Hundreds of high school students rally at Province House on March 15 to urge government to act on climate change. FRANCIS CAMPBELL THE CHRONICLE HERALD

Leave it to a baby boomer to think of Bob Dylan lyrics while surveying the audacious agenda adopted by a rising tide of politically charged, young voices demanding climate and social justice.

Jim Vibert
Jim Vibert

“Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand.”

“As the generation that will live through wildfires, crop failure, and extreme weather, millennials and young people are leading this fight, but everyone has a critical part to play in this movement.” That’s the Canadian campaigners — who’ve taken the name Our Time — spreading their youthful arms to embrace the relics who are willing to come aboard.

“While the political establishment continues compromising our future, inequality keeps rising, injustice deepens, and the climate crisis gets worse and worse. Their time is over. The 2019 election is Our Time,” the organization declares, and it has the demographic charts to prove it.

Millennials (born circa 1977-95) are the largest generationally defined block of eligible voters in this fall’s federal election, finally surpassing the boomers, whose lengthy plurality began with great promise but, alas, as history’s final verdict draws ever nearer, a hung jury is the best we can hope for.

Because good timing is a hallmark of the baby boomers — we arrived just in time to be coddled by the greatest economic expansion in history — most will have the good sense to die before the full force of the climatic cataclysm they failed to head off is upon the good Earth.

Millennials and their successors — along with some hearty GenXers (sandwiched between boomers and millennials) — have no such escape.

In increasing numbers, on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border and stretching to Europe and beyond, young people are driving a progressive political agenda, including bold — some would say radical — action to combat climate change and to promote economic justice through the fair distribution of the wealth.

In Canada, Our Time is building a national voting alliance in support of the Green New Deal for Canada and says it will organize thousands to vote for candidates that champion the GND and against “politicians in the pocket of Big Oil.”

The Green New Deal for Canada is a plan to address climate change at the scale that science, and justice, demand. The science says that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half by 2030 to avoid the worst calamities of climate change. That target far exceeds anything the world’s political leaders have signed on to.

The GND calls for “a historic economic mobilization” to take Canada to 100 per cent renewable energy and create an economic and employment boom in the process. Our Time promotes reconciliation with First Nations and espouses principles of economic and social equality.

South of the border, similarly motivated, mostly younger Americans are pushing the mega-field of Democratic presidential hopefuls further to the left with each passing pronouncement. Last week, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren signed on to the Keep it in the Ground pledge, promising an immediate end to all fossil fuel-related activity on public lands in America, including the offshore.

Democratic presidential contenders are being measured against three criteria — support for the Green New Deal, the Keep it in the Ground pledge, and a refusal to take money from the fossil fuel industry — established by the 350 organization, an international coalition of groups fighting climate change.

The fear harboured by many Democrats and others who want only to end the Trump presidency, is that the more radical elements in the party will produce a Democratic nominee who is too extreme on climate change and other social and economic issues to win a presidential election.

The Canadian GND advocated by Our Time will run into the same headwinds from folks who hold to the myth that modest, incremental action is enough to ward off the worst of climate change.

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand. Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.”

And, they are demanding serious action on the issue that will define their world.

It seems like those of us who were here while the problem got kicked down the road ought to get on board with those who are sticking around to deal with it.

“It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.”

Journalist and writer Jim Vibert has worked as a communications advisor to five Nova Scotia governments.

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