A Grey Pall (September 13, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning!

I hope it will be a happy Monday. Tomorrow New Brunswickers go to the polls. I spent some of this week phoning in to New Brunswick communities to help get out the vote for our wonderful Green candidates. The three Green MLAs – leader David Coon, Kevin Arsenault and Megan Mitton – are working to hold their own seats and increase the number of Greens in the legislature.  Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow at noon, we will also know who the new leader of the British Columbia Greens will be.  With talk of a snap election, I so hope we will have a strong experienced leader - a brilliant Green already holding a seat.  You have until midnight tonight to vote for Sonia Furstenau!  If you have not yet voted, please do it before you make that next cup of coffee.

This week was dominated by climate news of the worst kind – raging wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.  People dying in the fires they could not escape.  The human toll is a heartbreaking. I cannot bear to think of the little boy found dead in a car with this dog on his lap; his grandmother nowhere to be found.  Dozens of people are missing and whole communities lying in ashes.

The Governor of California pulled no punches – these are deaths caused by global warming. 

Somehow the most chilling story out of these fires was the overlay of craziness in Trump’s America with the escape from the flames.  In Oregon, a group of vigilantes, armed with AR15s, threatened some journalists wrongly identified in social media as “Antifa” protesters, alleged to have been setting the fires. Local police and firefighters had to put out multiple messages that there were no protesters setting fires, there were no arrests of these non-existent arsonists and no one should be distracting the efforts of fire fighters and law enforcement with a potential powder keg of violence.  The 9-11 lines were being burdened with these scurrilous reports. 

For us on southern Vancouver Island and on the lower mainland, these fires have resulted in huge blankets of smoke. We are under health alerts due to reduced air quality.  Looking out my window, I usually have a view all the way to Mount Baker in Washington State.  All I see now is a grey pall. In a preview of life in apocalypse, we now have a debate – when meeting friends - is it safer to go inside and, even at 6 foot distance, and risk COVID or meet in back yards and do damage to our lungs.

One friend having this debate over the safety of an outdoor visit is Thomas (Tad) Homer-Dixon. He has promised to come by to give me his new book – which I already bought at Tanners because I couldn’t wait!  It is called "Commanding Hope: The power we have to renew a world in peril" (Knopf Canada 2020.)  My review of it has already been published in Policy magazine. Tad and his family are finding the smoke unbearable at their place near Sooke.  In a sign of our times, we are exchanging websites for the best smoke predictors and satellite views. We can get smoke forecasts here—and more accurate, global real time fire and smoke images from space. We are a very clever species, able to track and monitor our worsening condition. We have the technology to give us daily images of the smoke from space. You can see the way it spreads across the region, the continent, and even around the entire hemisphere. We also have the tools and power to change the trajectory to doom.  We only need to realize we do and take the steps to save ourselves   -- and that is what Homer-Dixon’s new book is all about and why I ran out to buy it as soon as it hit the shelves.

Belatedly, I want to note the dreadful late August announcement from Minister Bill Blair appealing the Federal Court decision that the “Safe Third Country” agreement violates the Charter Rights of refugeesWhen the ruling came down in July, we celebrated the strong decision and our Green caucus urged the government to rescind the agreement immediately. Instead, they are challenging it.

Lastly, I want to comment a bit about what appeared to be excellent news.  The Horgan NDP announced they were setting aside large areas of British Columbia’s old growth forestThe decision was based on a report by expert foresters.  Al Gourlay and Garry Merkel recommended a moratorium on all remaining productive old growth. I was thrilled, but dubious.  Horgan has been turning a blind eye to the rapidly vanishing old growth forest even since he came to power. Sure enough, it turns out Horgan did not follow the foresters’ recommendations. Instead, the government is picking and choosing; not protecting all of the little that is left. Rumour has it that they ran the report past the timber industry so key areas of valuable old growth will continue to be logged. Of the 353,000 hectares announced as protected, only 200,000 is old growth, the rest are logged areas.  Ken Wu of the Endangered Ecosystem Alliance has responded in detail. 

As ever, the war in the woods is not over.  In the context of the forests ablaze, we should know that old growth forests are not renewable.  They are essential repositories of carbon. They must be protected. We also want jobs in the woods, and those jobs are in tree planting with ecologically appropriate species, ensuring healthy watershed, resilient ecosystem, as well as by clearing fire breaks in the most vulnerable places – remote communities where vast areas of standing dead forests are an invitation to tragedy.

Until next week, stay well and safe.  And if you live in Saanich-Gulf Islands, please join me for a community meeting (details below) and check out candidates for the federal leadership in events over the next few days! 

Love and thanks,



Tonight will be the fifth in a series of one-hour Zoom sessions with our Green Party leadership candidates: 

The BC Tour with David Merner, Sunday, September 13, 4 pm. 
Register in advance for this meeting.
(Hosted by SGI)
The BC Tour with Amita Kuttner, Monday, September 14, 7 pm.
Register in advance for this meeting.
(Hosted by NIPR)
The BC Tour with Andrew West, Wednesday, September 16, 7 pm.
Register in advance for this meeting.
(Hosted by KLC)
The BC Tour with Glen Murray, Thursday, September 17, 7 pm. 
Register in advance for this meeting.
(Hosted by SGI)


Community Meetings: 

All participants will be required to register. Registration link requires first and last name, email address, and region in SGI. There is a reminder that these Community Meetings are for constituents, and questions from constituents will be given priority.

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