Green party leader looks to the future

“We have fallen from leader to laggard, but unfortunately our opinion still carries significant weight.”

Canadian author and political environmentalist Elizabeth May visited the University of King’s College campus on Oct. 16 in support of her latest book, Who We Are: Reflections on My Life.
“My publisher didn’t want to publish the book that I wanted to write,” says May. “I wanted to write a policy book…and they wanted to publish my autobiography. What came out was a hybrid, with lots of personal reminiscences about how I got to have the opinions and the knowledge base that I have.”
The book attends to May’s vision of the future of the green movement and democracy in Canada in relation to her own experiences as the Leader of the Green Party of Canada, and the first elected Green Member of Parliament in Canadian history. May says she would like to inspire her readers to “take personal responsibility to change everything.”
Later that evening, May provided an answer to the question “How Did Canada Go From Sustainability Leader to Laggard? And how do we get Back on Track?” the title of her lecture at Dalhousie University through the College of Sustainability and the Marine and Environmental Law Institute. She began by telling the audience everything she was going to say in the next hour was a non-partisan statement.
May highlighted past environmental successes that Canada has taken leadership on such as the Montreal Protocol in 1989. The treaty focused on minimizing damage to the ozone layer by banning harmful chemicals and other substances, and is widely regarded as one of the most successful international agreements in history. “We have fallen from leader to laggard,” said May, “but unfortunately our opinion still carries significant weight.”
May outlined what she considered to be the decline of Canada’s environmental policy. Citing the widespread failure of the Kyoto Protocol, May criticized Canada’s current government. “Harper has been committing an act of serial vandalism on this country,” she said. She referenced the 2012 introduction of Bill C-38, an Act which amended dozens of legislations, including numerous environmental regulations, the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, and the federal standard for Employment Insurance. “Our environmental laws are weak. They’re not effective, and the legislation is not strong,” said May.
While King’s has a small and contained campus, it lacks a standardized green plan. Facilities manager, Alex Doyle says that despite a lack of environmental protocol policy, “we strive to use green, earth friendly products where possible and undertake sustainable initiatives when the opportunity presents itself.” Recent environmental initiatives on campus include the installation of recycling and organics bins in Alexandra Hall, and efforts to reduce food waste in Prince Hall.
As she closed her lecture, May steered her focus towards the future, going on to say “sustainability is not an isolationist concern. It’s planetary, and ours is the only one in the solar system that can sustain life. Every one in this room is not an observer. You are a participant with the power to change what’s happening…live on the earth as though we plan to stay.”

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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