By Karen Kelly
Photos by Mary Giles

Elizabeth May with mic - CDCC - Bell LectureGreen Party Leader Elizabeth May stood in front of the multi-generational audience at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, looking back over 24 years and marvelling at how environmental messages are much the same.

“What if, in 1999, governments had listened to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy,” asked May, referring to recommendations for emissions reductions that she helped draft. “If we listened, there would be no retreat of the Arctic ice; Hurricane Katrina might not have happened; and the glaciers would not be disappearing.”

Elizabeth May made these remarks at the 2023 Dick, Ruth and Judy Bell Lecture on May 8, 2023. The lecture was recorded and is sponsored by the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs in Carleton University’s Faculty of Public and Global Affairs.

May pointed out that while the messaging of the environmental movement may not have changed, the climate certainly has. Extreme weather events have become the norm, and that is with a 1.1° Celsius increase in global temperature over the past century. Meanwhile, signatories to the 2015 Paris Accords committed to keeping the global average temperature below 2° C.

“It’s not that 2°C is a safe utopia where everything will be great,” notes May. “We are already experiencing significant challenges at 1.1°C.”

But at age 68, May refuses to give up, as she draws from an encyclopedic knowledge of facts and often quips about the cowardice of politicians.

She did not lambast her audience, but instead identified the targets and then encouraged them to take aim.

“It’s simple: we need to stop adding and start subtracting,” she says. “Number one is to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline. There’s still time to halt it and convert the infrastructure to other uses. Number two is to ban fracking, extracting natural gas in shale.”

While Canadians can take individual steps to help the climate, she encourages people to protest the pipeline, which is a Crown corporation owned by Canadians themselves.

“How do we ask India and China to go cold turkey when we’re expanding pipelines and oil sands? Again, we need to stop adding and start subtracting.”

When a questioner asked whether the younger generation should bear the brunt of climate responsibility, May called on the elders in the audience to step up.

“We need a generation of grandparents to get more radical. We can’t leave this to our grandchildren. We still have time. There’s still hope. Be powerful, be positive and kick ass.”

Thursday, May 11, 2023 in , ,
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