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Stop Everything #11: Last Chance, Canada: Pump up the Volume

rebecca mcneil

UN Climate Change Summit Opens In Copenhagen

the opening ceremony of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 on December 7, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

“For those who claim a deal in Copenhagen is impossible, they are simply wrong.”

– – Achim Steiner, Director, United Nations Environment Programs

Yesterday marked the beginning of the International Climate Change discussions in Copenhagen. More than any other previous international agreements, so much emphasis has been put on this particular forum as it is widely believed to be our last chance to have a united treaty on climate change so as a world we can cap our CO2 emissions and keep ourselves from a dangerous tipping point.

The unprecedented importance and urgency is what prompted us to start this column where we have looked at the latest happenings in climate issues and focused on what actions people are taking to ensure their voices are heard by our international leaders.

The idea behind “Stop Everything” is that never in the history of our world have we had such a threatening issue, not only because of its severity but also its pervasiveness. The real threat of climate change is not balmier weather, but the domino-style effect it will have on other issues. We already have trouble with hunger, disease and epidemics, displaced people and political strife; how will we be able to address these issues any better in a world where ground and freshwater is contaminated, crops have a harder time adjusting to temperatures and there is less water to irrigate them with, natural disasters increase in scope, and drought causes wildfires in some areas and floods in others?

It would be easy to brush these off as the apocalyptic fantasies of extremists, but the fact is lots of people—people who know what they’re talking about—believe it to be true. Not only do recent polls show that Canadians think climate change is the issue of our time, but we are also, finally, reacting like it is. From a group of young people who occupied Environment Minister Jim Prentice’s office, to Greenpeace activists promptly arrested after draping their climate message across Parliament buildings, to the countless vigils, marches, flashmobs and more—people are taking the time to make one last plea to our government to participate in the climate change negotiations because its what Canadians want.

“Stopping Everything” is about turning our collective attentions to climate change, not to ignore the other important issues that face us, but to ensure that they won’t become worsened because of it.

What an important, yet scary, test in our humanity this fall leading to Copenhagen has been: do we have the ability to truly come to a consensus and create a path to move forward? This is a test of our leaders, but it is also a test of us as individuals. While they are our elected officials and the only ones able to represent Canada in the international discussions, we are the voters who put them there and whose opinion they ultimately need to win over. Will we make enough noise in Canada so that they can hear us in Copenhagen?

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