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Environmentalists’ Responses to the Reelection of President Obama

The Olympic Mountains in Washington State over the Strait of Juan de Fuca
The water separates our two countries the USA and Canada. This photograph was taken by me in Victoria, British Columbia looking across the water to Washington. We share the ocean, the air, the climate. I am listing Canadian and America responses here: an open letter from my friend to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources and a response to the re-elected President Obama from Canada’s only Green Member of Parliament along with a variety of American responses.

Responses to the re-election of President Barack Obama

From Grist by Lisa Hymas

Beyond Obama: Here are green ballot measures that won and lost

From, founder Bill McKibben’s response was to organize a Global Movement to Solve the Climate Crisis. Here’s what he wrote about Hurricane Sandy in The Guardian:

Hurricane Sandy has drowned the New York I love
I’m an environmentalist: New York is as beautiful and diverse and glorious as an old-growth forest. It’s as grand, in its unplanned tumble, as anything ever devised by man or nature. And now, I fear its roots are being severed.

From Hon. Elizabeth May, Canada’s only Green Party Member of Parliament:

No Time For a Victory Lap, Mr. President. Your Planet is Calling.

In the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the summer of parched earth and lost crops, the president must listen to his science advisor, Dr. John Holdren, and the head of climate science at NASA, Dr. James Hansen, and actually lead on climate. The world needs the U.S. to join the European Union in moving aggressively to a low-carbon economy. Barak Obama got a second chance. Let’s hope that the rest of us did too.

From the Center for Biodiversity:

Mr. President: 5 Ways to Salvage Your Environmental Legacy (and Our Future)
1. Address climate change and ocean acidification. There’s no crisis bigger than the one that’s rapidly transforming the world’s climate and oceans. We need to fix this, and fast. 2012 is on track to become the warmest year on record; some 40,000 temperature records have been shattered in the United States this year, while Arctic sea ice has melted to a record low.

The urgency of this crisis is manifested in the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, record droughts, massive wildfires, disappearing coral reefs, floods and a terrible, continuous stream of bleak headlines. Left unchecked, climate change threatens millions of people around the globe and countless species already on the brink of extinction. It’s time to stop waiting for someone else, including Congress, to lead. The best way to start: Fully harness existing laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to reduce carbon pollution.

Environmental Defense Fund Statement of president Fred Krupp on the results of the election

“Congratulations to President Obama on his re-election to a second term, and to all of those who will be serving in the 113th Congress. We look forward to working with them to solve our country’s most pressing environmental problems, including global climate change. As the President declared last night, ‘We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.’

“Exit polls confirm that for millions of American voters, Hurricane Sandy and climate change were decisive factors in this election. As the historic storm just reminded us, we have no time to waste; we must get serious about climate solutions in order to protect our loved ones and communities from terrible impacts — extreme weather disasters, droughts, heat waves, and other dangerous consequences of global warming. Especially in the wake of Sandy, which demonstrated that doing nothing about climate change is much costlier than taking action, this issue clearly should be a top priority for our leaders in government.”

– Fred Krupp, President, EDF

From Greenpeace, by Kumi Naidoo

On the future of America’s children or whether Obama will have a different approach this time around

I felt relieved when I heard Obama’s victory speech this morning, and I particularly resonated with him when he spoke about the future of America’s children.

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burnt by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” said Obama during his speech. Crowds burst into applause, while probably millions of other citizens of the world heard his vision.

My relief came with the realisation that Barack Obama shares our vision. When President Obama was elected four years ago, his challenge was to stop the US from going into financial freefall. His challenge is even greater now – he needs to play a more assertive roleinternationally on the issue of climate change and stop us all from climate freefall.

Canada: Open Letter to Minster of Natural Resources

From a writer/artist friend who asks for bipartisanship on the important issue of the Tar Sands Project and its pipelines. The Minister has been calling those protesting the Tar Sands and the Pipeines, radicals and extremists.

To: The Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources
Re: Decision time

Dear Mr. Oliver,

I find myself a little surprised to be addressing you in what I hope is a cordial manner. Only a few months ago, I would have had difficulty doing so given my deep frustration with your decision to publicly defame Canadians (and others) concerned about the environmental consequences of Alberta’s bitumen sands. But instead of feeling angry, I feel circumspect and somewhat curious about how you regard the security and integrity of your stance and your office.

Support among online communities for a greater measure of transparency regarding undertakings like the Enbridge pipeline, FIPA and Nexen seems to be growing daily. For someone in my generational demographic, it seems almost a given that popular resistance to the way in which your government has chosen to handle these situations (which some have chosen to characterize as -for instance- sweeping, secretive, summary, high handed, opportunistic, Machiavellian, corporatist, criminally negligent, or, in a more sympathetic frame of mind, short sighted) will eventually win out, though what ‘win out’ means is crucially rather ambiguous. Will your potentially disastrous policies win out in the short term, leaving your detractors (including the many victims of your successes, past, present and future) to fight the battle for posterity, or will the potential harm caused by those policies be reduced, diminished or curtailed, the potential benefits distract from or ‘outweigh’ that harm?

I am writing to ask you to consider the value of bipartisanship at this crucial time. When I look southward to today’s United States election, I think about the perspective offered by Hurricane Sandy, the way that a natural disaster reduced for a moment the cacophonous final phase of campaigning with its negative advertising and rampant poll watching and hog calling. What I would like for you to consider is the balance between your detractors’ claims and your own sense of self-justification and commitment. Is it so critical to maintain your partisan position, and if so, is it out of conviction that in the future the facts of the events themselves (punditry aside) will prove you right? Or does the balance of potential consequence – the legal, environmental and economical hazards at stake – threaten to outweigh your convictions?

How anxious do you feel about these decisions? Personally, I cannot imagine having to bear that kind of responsibility, and can understand why you might be tempted to label and condemn your detractors. But what concerns this letter is that while plenty have chosen to return your slurs in kind, others have made quieter, stronger arguments. I was really surprised the other night at a family dinner to hear my in-laws (generally ardent “small-c” conservatives) cite Elizabeth May’s position with obvious respect, even reverence. I often debate the value of politics-as-usual with my son, a senior student in high school, whose strengths are writing and social studies and whose outlook is grim; in these debates, a Elizabeth May comes up often in the name of salvaging some respect for parliamentary process. I offer you these little family anecdotes as to underscore the possibility that those who disagree with you might do so not out of partisanship but out concern that the administration you represent, and the policies – and policy making processes- you endorse are rapidly moving towards an historical tipping point.

What is that tipping point? The point past which “ordinary Canadians” (to use a phrase your government seems to enjoy) will no longer be able to separate the three components of that triad I mentioned earlier: legal, environmental and economical. When the price for cleaning up the Athabasca River, or the consequences of the generational legacy of aboriginal communities poisoned and neglected, comes to be paid, where will you be? When pipelines built by Enbridge or Kinder Morgan spring leaks whose cleanup costs and consequences challenge the financial benefit of temporary jobs, will your office issue a statement that rationalizes the loss to provinces in believable terms? When China’s economy threatens to become less stable, the motives of its leadership more questionable, and its trade policies more restrictive, will you feel the compunction to concede error or relinquish your position in cabinet? What I am implying, Mr. Oliver, through this string of rhetorical questions is this: that moment has already arrived; the probable costs can be conscionable acknowledged, even if (as I am sure we both fear) with each passing month they become more daunting to calculate.

Should you carry on denying and accusing, or will your detractors and opponents move on to other causes and subjects, will history pass over rather than indict your policies? That too is only a rhetorical question. There is another option; it is not rhetorical. It is pragmatic, practicable and immediate. Acknowledge the reality of your (our) situation. Work with your opposition.


John Luna.

Arctic Fox
Arctic Fox (photo credit World Wildlife Fund)
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