I became active in politics because I’m worried.
I’ve grown up in Canada, and appreciate not only the beauty of the land and the diversity of the people, but above all the good government we’ve had. We have vibrant community centres, beautiful parks provided by every level of government, superb public services, health care whenever we need it, a solid education available for students who want to learn and security for the poor. I’m not saying these services can’t be improved. But for someone who was born in Brazil and remains a citizen, for someone whose husband is a citizen of our big neighbour next door, it’s apparent how, in the grand scheme of things, we’re doing quite well.
So I always expected our government to take good care of us. The climate change issue which drove me into politics emerged as an important concern in the late 80s. I was pregnant with my first daughter when the world’s climatologists gathered in Toronto and declared a global emergency. As I expected, Canadian governments at multiple levels responded by declaring ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets and announcing substantial investment in research for the solutions. I was sure we would address the problem and move ahead. It was something I was interested in, but not something I felt I needed to take time away from my growing family for.
A decade later it was apparent to anyone following the science that our politicians were failing. Emissions were rising globally, and at every level of government in Canada, we failed abjectly to meet the lofty targets we set, often moving in the wrong direction. But still I continued to trust that governments would now, finally, come to their senses. Early this century, though, I started reading about the worst case scenarios that climate change could bring. It chilled me to imagine the possibility that we could be paving the way for a world where methane released from the north could drive temperature changes far beyond what we imagined or where an anoxic sea belched toxic plumes over a lifeless landmass. These are not likely scenarios. But they are frightening possibilities. And we know very little about what forces we will unleash at significantly higher temperatures.
Meanwhile, the response from our Liberal government of the time was wholly inadequate. Emissions continued to rise even as we signed the anemic and defective Kyoto Accord. Stephen Harper at the time was ignoring science altogether and proudly announcing his intention to defeat the meagre Kyoto Accord, which he declared to be a socialist plot. And the NDP under Jack Layton, who I had counted on to inject a respect for environmental limits into his party as the new leader, instead ran a campaign in 2004 not only ignoring the crisis, but exacerbating it by promising to subsidize gas if necessary so people could continue driving. Meanwhile, even though we had chosen specifically to move to an area with excellent transit connections, my newly adopted infant son was wheezing from the close proximity to the exhaust from the Don Valley Parkway.
So I voted Green for the first time in 2004, not because I expected the Green Party to get the seat, not because I hoped for an electoral breakthrough, but simply because I could not, in good conscience, vote for any party that seemed poised to help destroy the planet for our children. In my mind, a vote for the Green Party would establish where other parties needed to go to get my vote.
Just over a year later, ever more worried and now determined to do something, I contacted the party and asked how I could get involved. As it turned out, the Green Party in Toronto-Danforth needed a lot more help than I had counted on. I became the CEO and revitalized the riding association. Within days we were thrust unprepared into another election.
The election period for the January 2006 election opened with the arrival in Montreal of negotiators from every country on the globe along with many of the world’s top climatologists, as all of Canada’s parliamentarians except Stephane Dion ignored the issue. It was in nobody’s platform and it barely made the news. No one mentioned it but the Green Party. And during that election, I was drawn into realizing how much the values of the Green Party resonated with my own, not just on the issue of climate change, but in much broader terms.
I support heart and soul every one of the core principles of the Green Party of Canada. I want to build a world for my children that’s cleaner, safer, more just and more peaceful. I want communities that are diverse yet cohesive, healthier, more secure and more resilient to economic and other upheavals. I want to celebrate diversity and reach out to understand other cultures and lifestyles. I want to build a respectful democracy of productive dialogue where differences are bridged rather than exaggerated, and citizens are engaged in decision making at every level. I want our governments to respond to public opinion more than private money. I want to respect the limits of the Earth which is our home. I want an economy that serves us rather than one we are slaves to. I want a national government that enables every citizen to perform to his best, and yet also gives every Canadian enough time to enjoy his family and friends, and to participate in his community. I want to use the progress and efficiency we’ve achieved not to promote the fierce pursuit of more, but to enable the calm enjoyment of less.
And I desperately want to get to work building that future while we still have time.