Welcome! My name is Joseph Boutilier and in April 2014, I will be embarking on a 5,000-kilometer, 5-month unicycle ride across Canada to promote unity for the climate. The trip will culminate in Ottawa after rallies, events and meetings in dozens of other communities along the route. I’m calling on the Canadian government to take rapid, strategic and collaborative action to tackle the climate change crisis, breaches to first nations treaties and inherent land rights and the muzzling of publicly-funded scientists. With the 2015 federal election just around the corner, time is running out for our MPs and political parties to make clear commitments to our environment and sustainability.
I ask you to join me on the road, in your community, on Parliament Hill and online, to demonstrate to our political leaders that we will no longer stand for their casual neglect of our environment, our first nations and our climate. In 2015, we will not vote for parties who fail to address the biggest global issues of our times, and we will not accept partisan blame-games as an excuse for inaction. We must demand justice for first nations, a voice for our future and unity for the climate.
The need for drastic action to address climate change is beyond urgent. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concludes that humans are responsible for 100 percent of global warming over the past 60 years, with 95% certainty. Out of 13,950 peer-reviewed climate papers published between 1991 and 2012, only 24 refute the existence of global warming.
The crisis is clear. Without substantial efforts to curb carbon emissions, the average surface temperature is likely to rise by more than 4º C within the century, triggering far more colossal, fatal and frequent hurricanes, heat waves, ice storms, floods, famines and typhoons than those that have already rocked the world with unprecedented violence in the past two decades. Other predictions are even more dire. We still have a chance to quell the most devastating effects, but time is rapidly disappearing.
From one of the great, green wildlife refuges of the world, Canada’s reputation as an environmental leader has plummeted in the last decade of political inaction. Canada was the first nation to rescind its commitments under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, and is off-target for the drastically diminished emission targets of the Copenhagen accord by almost 30%.
Worse still, our own government has predicted increasing emissions after 2020 without significant changes, while long-promised regulations are consistently delayed. Canada is the only country to have been awarded the mock ‘Fossil of the Year’ award for obstructing global negotiations to address climate change for 5 years back-to-back; in 2013 our nation’s own environment minister said those awards would be ‘worn with honour’. The Harper government has also made substantial changes to a huge range of environmental protection acts and massive funding cuts to scientific resources that aid in understanding and protecting the climate.
Publicly-funded Canadian scientists have been muzzled by federal gag-orders while media briefs are edited to avoid any mention of the pending climate crisis. Native treaty rights are repeatedly ignored, prompting widespread legal action against projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which threatens to destroy one of the most fragile coastal ecosystems in the world while contributing to rampant climate change.
Unity is the most important ingredient to address global warming. At the political level, the ‘climate change debate’ in Canada often unravels into a tangle of partisan finger-pointing and name-calling. Unity for the Climate recognizes that voters and MPs across the political spectrum are deeply concerned about climate change, and we aim to be inclusive, respectful and open-minded to swiftly resolve the deadlock that is fostering dangerous inaction. Climate Change is not a ‘left wing’ or ‘right wing’ issue, and neither is it merely an ‘environmental’ issue; the impacts span every conceivable field of social and economic endeavour. In 2015 Canadians will go to the polls to elect a new government, but even a change in party rule is not a guarantee of substantial action on the climate crisis. Unity for the Climate seeks to ensure that every MP who is elected, regardless of party affiliation, has committed to significant, calculable emission targets and adequate measures to meet them.
As fast as valuable environmental programs and policies are destroyed, global movements are blossoming from the grassroots to force climate change issues back on the agenda. The Unity for the Climate tour in Canada will coincide with the Great March for Climate Action in the US; a peaceful army of more than 1,000 dedicated protestors walking over 4,800 kilometers from LA to Washington DC to inspire action. Around the world, governments and citizens alike are petitioning, marching, rallying, and fasting to call on countries like Canada to act responsibly and rapidly to the climate crisis. The time is ripe for a peaceful international uprising to demand that the world’s leaders take global warming seriously, and act accordingly before it’s too late. Unity for the Climate will stay active until Canada restores its status as a respected world citizen and an active participant in the battle against climate change.
Joseph Boutilier (The Guy on the Unicycle)
Joseph Boutilier started Unity for the Climate with a commitment to ride from his hometown of Victoria, BC over 5,000-kilometers to Ottawa on one wheel.
Boutilier has worked in youth engagement, film, freelance writing and computer game design. He’s passionate about civic engagement, new media and environmental issues, and hopes to continue to inspire political change long after his unicycle journey ends. Email him at unityfortheclimate[@]gmail.com.