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Editor's column: Change is coming — for better or worse

Richmond News editor Eve Edmonds' take on the efforts of Extinction Rebellion protestors in Richmond earlier this year
Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Protest
Extinction Rebellion, a environment activist group,tried to disrupt people getting to YVR earlier this week.

If you were heading to or from the airport on Monday afternoon, you might have encountered a group of “rebels” causing traffic chaos at the intersection of Templeton Street and Grant McConachie Way.

The group Extinction Rebellion was staging a protest, calling on the federal government to end fossil-fuel subsidies. It also had issues with YVR’s claims about reaching net zero emissions by 2030.

Earlier this month, YVR outlined how it was investing $135 million to, among other things, transition its vehicles to electric, make its buildings more energy efficient and help remove carbon from the atmosphere with “direct air capture.”

These are all great ideas, however the problem in their net-zero equation is they leave out the emissions from planes themselves — it is an airport after all.

“An airport is where planes land and take off, so you cannot have a net-zero of carbon emissions,” said a protest organizer.

Extinction Rebellion’s traffic disruption in Richmond was one in a series of daily protests it has staged throughout the Lower Mainland in the last two weeks. They’re hoping to bring awareness to the global climate crisis, and Canada’s role in it, ahead of the UN summit on climate, which opens this Sunday in Glasgow.

Extinction is known for protesting in ways that inflict maximum inconvenience to average commuters. Prior to sitting in the middle of the road at YVR, protestors were blocking the Cambie Street Bridge at rush hour.

I’m not sure if infuriating a bunch of people, who may well be sympathetic to the cause, is the best way to slow global warming. That said, I’m not sure what is.

There have been impassioned appeals from experts, scientists and children, yet we’re still hurdling towards an ominous future. It was discouraging to hear earlier this week countries such as Australia were lobbying scientists to downplay the impact of coal in their final report to be presented at the COP summit in Glasgow.

I get nations want to protect their economic interests, but how do they not get that those economic interests are dependent on us living on a habitable planet?

Regardless, this gathering of world leaders (minus a few notables such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping), diplomats, activists etc. is being billed as a potential turning point in our effort to avert the worst effects of climate change. In other words, our last chance.

It’s single, most pressing goal will be to get closer to fulfilling promises made six years ago at the COP in Paris.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to collectively cut their greenhouse emissions enough to keep the planet from heating up more than 1.5 degrees C compared with pre-industrial times.

It’s a critical target but still far from being met, so what’s to gives us hope things will be different this time around?

I guess the answer is simply pressure. The kind of pressure that comes from knowing what that ‘heat dome’ felt like last June and seeing the town of Lytton basically burst into flames as a result of it. In other words, pressure from the likes of us.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is expected to be in Glasgow next week, but not to attend the conference. According to her Twitter account using the hashtag #UprootTheSystem, she’ll be there to march at Glasgow’s climate strike. Her tweet reads: “Climate justice also means social justice and that we leave no one behind. So we invite everyone, especially the workers striking in Glasgow, to join us.”

I do believe this conference matters. We need to hear from scientists, know what targets have been set, what targets have been missed. It also provides a focus for Thunberg and striking workers, as well as rebels at YVR.

While I don’t know if blocking traffic to YVR is the best means of protecting the planet, I do believe an act of rebellion shows a belief in change — and in that we can have hope.

an act of hope; it demonstrates faith that change can happen.