Blog

Toronto Climate Action Review (YELP for activists)

Last summer, I decided to stop quietly freaking out about the climate crisis and start acting.  I don’t know how best to approach such a complex problem — so I’m trying everything, including attending a lot of climate organizing meetings.  Here’s what I’ve learned about what these meetings are like and what the groups are focused on.  These are first impressions from one point of view, so take them for what they’re worth.

1 Porcupine Warriors This group has been involved in some amazing and huge unis’to’ten solidarity rallies that shut down different parts of the city.  I don’t know if they have any open meetings or formal volunteer uptake though.  You should definitely follow them on Facebook, attend their protests and offer support.  https://www.facebook.com/porcupinewarriors/

Earth Strike  I have only attended one Earth Strike meeting — but it was organized and productive and even finished slightly early (which is rare)!  They are aiming to organize a General Strike in September and planning a number of smaller events in the lead-up to build awareness.  They are a smallish group and could really use help — especially if you are in a union, have connections to unions or have enough pull at your workplace to close shop for a day.  They are very focused on the September strike, so don’t attend if you don’t want to work on that specific project (email earthstriketoronto [at] protonmail.com to get involved)

3 XRToronto  Extinction Rebellion Toronto is quite new and is still formalizing its meeting process.  I’ve only been to two meetings — the first one was kind of chaotic, but the most recent one went smoothly and was really productive and exciting.  They are trying to deploy the UK Extinction Rebellion model of spectacular, but peaceful, civil disobedience in Toronto.  They have a big event coming up April 20 and need all hands on deck.  Weekly Meetings are at OISE on Sundays at 6:00.  252 Bloor St. W. Room 2211

Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/groups/525229444611827/)

4 Toronto Climate Save This is a group that organizes protests and lobbying around climate change with a particular focus on animal agriculture.  If you want to fight climate change and factory farming at the same time, this is the group for you.  I have not attended any of their meetings, but I have met their members at other meetings and they are good people.  https://www.facebook.com/torontoclimatesave/

5 Climate Fast Climate Fast is more focused on traditional lobbying — they have developed a people’s climate plan as a response to Doug Ford’s non-plan and they run deputation training for getting involved with city government.  I haven’t attended any pure Climate Fast meetings, but I have worked with them on some other projects and they are well-informed and compassionate.  Meetings are usually at the Friends’ House at 60 Lowther Avenue.  Sign up for emails about upcoming meetings on their website: http://www.climatefast.ca/

6 Toronto350 Toronto350 is probably the biggest and oldest non-professional climate group in Toronto.  They have tons of experience and knowledge, but their big open meetings can sometimes feel a little slow — but that is the cost of taking everyone’s opinion seriously.  They are currently redesigning their meetings and org structure though and hoping to develop sub-committees that can make decisions more quickly.  Their focus is on pressuring pipelines and banks and promoting indigenous solidarity, but they are open to new ideas and projects.

Meetings are Tuesdays at 6:30 at the Steelworker’s Hall on Cecil St. (https://www.facebook.com/events/2115357528584659/)

7 MobilizeTO is specifically focused on lobbying City Hall to declare a climate emergency and advance the decarbonization schedule of our TransformTO plan.  I have been heavily involved in this group.  Most organizing is by email and Facebook and the people are amazing.  There are occasional face to face meetings between the core organizers that are usually scheduled by email.  Contact form and more detail available here: (http://mobilizeto.ca/contact)

8 Drawdown Toronto If you want to focus more on building change right now and less on lobbying politicians check out Drawdown Toronto which is running information sessions on the Project Drawdown list of climate solutions.  I have not attended any meetings but the people running this program are kind and responsive!  http://www.unifytoronto.ca/connect.html

9 Green Neighbours Network This is the group for you if you don’t want to leave your hood.  With several smaller branches doing different projects within their neighbourhoods — from organizing local energy initiatives and clean-ups to film screenings.  Again, I haven’t attended any meetings, but the people I have met at protests are all super nice. (https://greenneighboursnetwork.ca/member-groups/members-map/)

10 Climate Pledge Collective Right now, the group is just my wife and I (Matt and Myrtle) with some help from friends on specific projects, so we don’t have formal meetings or an intake process.  That said, we have lots of ideas that we want to implement — so if you are a self-starter contact us and we will throw our skills and social media presence behind your work.  We are currently toying with the idea of a Climate Pledge for Restaurants and organizing Climate Troubadours to sing about climate and hand-out pamphlets in public places as well as organizing our Climate Picnic on May 5 (https://www.facebook.com/events/812559672441011/).

IMG_0218copy

Climate Picnic 2019

picnicposter3

 

Stop, Children.  What’s that sound?  Everybody look what’s going down.

The basic plan is this — we are going to gather in the Southeast corner of Christie Pits Park, bring our signs and songs and musical instruments, and then sit down on the grass and eat while we talk about what we can do about climate change.  While protests have their place, this event will be joyful and friendly — we hope everyone walking past will be curious enough to come over and ask what’s going on — and maybe even join us.  Bring guitars or drums or games or vegan cupcakes to share.  Or just bring your questions and ideas!

The first picnic will be May 5 at 11am — but we are hoping to make it monthly, or maybe even weekly.  This would also allow us to move around the city!

Most people now understand that we have to do something about climate change and we have to do it soon — but what do we do?  Individual changes don’t seem sufficient and organizing collective change can be frustrating in the face of so much misinformation.  Our climate crisis intertwines issues of equity, gender, food, environmental racism, indigenous sovereignty and daily life.  There is no single-solution: it will take different people building different solutions at different scales.  We need to make changes in our individual lives — eating less meat and dairy, driving less, flying less — but we also need to organize collective action to support those changes — bike lanes, better transit, renewable energy, new (or older) agricultural practices, macro-economic policies, regulations, divestment and new relationships with each other and our planet.  CLIMATE PICNIC is an open invitation to anyone working on climate from any angle — or anyone who simply wants to learn more — to come out and meet like-minded people, build new networks and enjoy low-carbon luxuries like food, music and good weather.

If you are part of an organization — anything from a school eco-club to an international environmental organization — we encourage you to come out, bring a sign, flyers or just a short pitch about your group.  We organized something similar for the Fridays for Future protest in March and it was a ton of fun.  With better weather — we’ll be able to learn more and hang out for longer.

Climate Picnic is vegan-friendly.  We recommend that you try to bring vegan food, even if you aren’t vegan. I’m not vegan myself, but I have given up red meat and am gradually reducing the amount of meat and dairy I consume.  If you end up bringing some leftover sausages or your kid only eats ham sandwiches — that is, of course, totally fine.  APIECALYPSE NOW — Toronto’s best Vegan Pizza Joint is right across the street.

Can I start a Climate Picnic near my house?  Yes please!  The wider we spread the better.  Email us if you want advice or just do it on your own!

Is Climate Picnic only in Toronto?  It is for now, but this event is super-easy to replicate.  All it takes is one sign or banner, a few picnic blankets and some outreach to people who are already working on climate in your city.  If it starts small, that’s okay — Greta Thunberg started by herself and has gone global and completely changed the climate policy discussion in six months.  Email us at contact [at] climatepledgecollective.org if you have any questions — but feel free to use the name, concept, anything you like.  We’re a no-ego organization, if you can spread our ideas farther than we can, do it!

Climate Picnic, The Christie Pits and all of Toronto stand on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.  Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.  The territory was also the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.  It is also important to recognize that indigenous history is dynamic and changing — both before and after the arrival of settlers.  The Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed from the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nation by the Great Law of Peace (Kayanerenkó:wa) which preceded and influenced the U.S. Constitution — although “some Haudenosaunee say that, in imitating the Great Law, the United States did so poorly, for their constitution neglects some of the most important aspects: peace, the Good Mind, obligations to the natural world, the importance of families, obligations to future generations, spirituality, respect for women.”(Williams, 2018).  We also encourage Climate Picnic visitors to visit Nish Dish, just down the block from Christie Pits, before or after the picnic in order to get a taste of contemporary indigenous traditions. 

Works Cited:

Williams, K. P. (2018). Kayanerenkó: wa: The Great Law of Peace. Univ. of Manitoba Press.

 

We should consider nuclear power, but advocates shouldn’t pretend it’s perfect.

Lately, it feels like half the discussions about climate change I encounter online devolve into a shouting match about nuclear power between those who support it and those who oppose it, neither of whom are taking a balanced view of the issue.  Instead, as in most situations where intelligent people disagree, advocates and opponents have both latched onto real and convincing evidence on one side or the other and closed their minds to the contradictory facts.  Nuclear power for example, does not solve our problems in one fell-swoop — concrete, land-use, animal agriculture, etc. are all separate problems that still need to be addressed.

homer

  1. Nuclear power is still the cheapest low-emissions form of power.

People who want to see all solar and wind will tell you that nuclear is far more expensive than wind and solar, I myself made this point to a friend who is an electrical engineer working on decarbonization policy for the Ontario government.  While wind is cheaper per kw/hr if you only look at the base price, creating a functioning electrical system with only wind is more expensive for a number of reasons. 1) Wind power is variable, so if you want to have a steady supply for a million houses, you might need to build wind power for two or three million houses to ensure there is power on quiet days. 2) Wind power (and especially solar power) need batteries and, after including the price of batteries, nuclear is considerably cheaper.  Building gigantic batteries all over the world will also have negative environmental impacts of their own.  But it’s not sooo much cheaper that we shouldn’t take a hard look at paying more for electricity to avoid nuclear’s downside.

2. Nuclear power creates radioactive waste and radioactive waste is a big gamble.

Although nuclear advocates will tell you that next generation reactors are perfectly safe, nothing is perfect.  All aspects of the nuclear power supply chain create risks — uranium mining and processing, shipping fuel, collecting waste, storing waste.  It is possible to design safe nuclear supply chains, but nuclear waste lasts effectively forever and the safety of nuclear power assumes a stable enough system of government to preserve safe-handling practices almost perpetually.  As good as engineers may be at calculating physical risks — our political and sociological prediction skills are extremely poor.  My father, who is an environmental political scientist, was part of a committee trying to design safer nuclear waste handling practices about ten years ago and one of the main sticking points was the question — how do we store nuclear waste and mark that storage so that humans ten thousand years from now, speaking languages we have not yet heard, living in cultures we cannot imagine, don’t dig it up out of curiousity.  There was serious thought given to not marking it in anyway, because people love to dig up the ruins of ancient cultures.  Creating nuclear power supply chains all around the world also increases the chances of rogue nuclear weapons becoming a reality.  Climate change is however more dangerous, more imminent and more certain than nuclear disaster — so it is worth considering if nuclear power is the lesser of two evils.

My personal view is that nuclear power should be included in the range of tools that we consider to slow our climate crisis — but that anyone who tells you it is a silver bullet is deluding themselves.  So let’s talk about nuclear power, but let’s all admit that it is a complex question with no obvious answer first.  My personal view is that we should probably pay more for renewables — but I’m not an expert and I’m open to being persuaded on this issue by people who know more about the real costs and benefits involved.

Our E-Newsletter: All-Killer, No-Filler

You don’t always have time to keep up with the overwhelming amount of climate change and climate action news — so we’re starting a newsletter.

A typical newsletter might include any of the following:

  • Key climate change news from the realms of science, policy and activism — with a focus on actionable information rather than doom and gloom scenarios.
  • Highlights from our blog
  • Projects we’re working on
  • Recent videos
  • Brief suggestions of other great climate orgs you might want to check out

SIGN-UP HERE: https://climatepledgecollective.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=d38769c69ed6df127711cce26&id=4e31ff4bed

 

 

 

BTW – We have a Youtube Channel

We started a Youtube channel and Matt is learning to use video editing software.  So far we’ve posted a climate action compilation, a video recap of an Extinction Rebellion event in Toronto that we attended, some AMAZING deputations about Toronto’s climate plan and one video featuring kittens explaining the climate crisis.

In the future, we intend to put up videos of our Low-Carbon Luxury blog series, more protest recaps and short informational videos (maybe with more kittens).

CLIMATE ACTION RECAP:

MOTHER DEMANDS CLIMATE ACTION FROM TORONTO CITY COUNCIL:

KITTENS:

Toronto Climate Emergency Action Plan

We’ve been working with MobilizeTO to build a plan to get a climate emergency motion passed in Toronto (similar to the one in Vancouver).  We have a plan, but we have no money, so we need people power — and that means you.

The first phase of the plan is to find one councillor willing to write and champion a climate emergency motion.  The second phase is querying every councillor to find out if they support that motion and recording their responses.  The third phase is getting out in the streets in the Wards of councillors who won’t commit to build support and get people to pressure them to act.

Right now, we’re on Phase One.  I know a lot of people have already contacted their councillors, but so far, no councillor has stepped up and drafted a motion.  So we need you to contact your councillor and keep contacting them until they give you an answer.  

Find your councillor here: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/council/members-of-council/.

  1. Going in person is best.
  2. Phone calls are second best.
  3. Emails are useful, but the easiest to ignore. 

If you call we have talking points here.  If you email, you can use the template below.  But please personalize it with your own feelings about climate change and your voting history or intentions in the next municipal election.

Let us (or MobilizeTO) know by email (contact[AT]climatepledgecollective.org) or in this Facebook group if you get a response.

___________________________________

Dear [COUNCILLOR’S NAME],

I am writing regarding the Climate Emergency motion that passed recently in both Halifax and Vancouver.
A climate emergency has also been declared in London England and dozens of cities in the US, the UK and Australia.  These motions typically connect a public declaration of emergency with new oversight and ambition in existing climate plans.  In our case, it would be an excellent opportunity to put TransformTO back on the agenda, get it the funding it deserves and increase its ambition by having city staff research a path to make Toronto net-zero by 2025.
I am a Ward [YOUR WARD NUMBER] resident and I am hoping to see a similar motion in Toronto.  [INCLUDE PERSONAL COMMENTS ABOUT VOTING OR CLIMATE CHANGE HERE]
Please let me know as soon as possible if this is a motion you would be interested in submitting or supporting.  There is a lot of energy building around this issue and many of us are trying to get a sense of where our councillors stand on this issue.  I will follow up if I don’t hear from you within a week.
Sincerely,
[YOUR NAME]
______
Once we have a champion, we will post more about where individual councillors stand on the motion and our plans to get out and sign-up more supporters.
climatemobimagesmall

Fridaysforfuture Pop-Up

Yesterday, we did a tiny pop-up for Fridaysforfuture at a busy intersection in Toronto.  I don’t like talking to strangers so it was super awkward for me.  It’s easier to join a large protest, but I reminded myself that Greta started alone.

Vash4change a young Ugandan climate striker makes the same point!

Yesterday, it was just my wife, my daughter and I.  And at first, we felt uncomfortable, banging a drum, making a disturbance and trying to hand out little flyers.  If you’re in Toronto download one and hand a few out (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-x6iRkvPmtg7ILe5u4D74tveEkHyhmJO).

But it got comfortable — and even became downright fun — within about ten minutes.

Haven Coleman is another young school striker who is striking alone. She recently shared a reflection about her situation on Twitter which hit me right in the feels!

Haven is right. Most people are still pretending climate change isn’t real. Even people who think they understand it.  As Greta says, “We all think we know and we all think everybody knows. But we don’t.” Because if you really understood it, you would be out in the street standing shoulder to shoulder with us — or in your MP’s office or a shareholders’ meeting or organizing a climate change book club.

Instead, most people ignored us.  Many refused to make eye contact.  But about 20 took flyers.  A handful offered kind words.  A man got off his bicycle to take a flyer.  One woman walked back and thanked us after reading the flyer.

And one single person said they would come to the next Fridays for Future at Queen’s Park on February 1st.

It only took about half an hour and just that tiny fraction of success will help our movement grow exponentially.

Fridays for future at symbolic sites is excellent — and it is obviously working — but unless you are in the hundreds, you are easy to ignore.  But imagine we were everywhere — in small groups — preventing people from looking away from the climate crisis!  If you have a group of dozens, it’s worth considering spreading out to the busiest intersections in your city and handing out information.  Maybe have Thursdays4seed-sowing and Fridays4future?  Or a morning pop-up on the same day as a larger protest at lunch time?  Let’s all try different things and get out of our comfort zones!