Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Today's Youth, Tomorrow's Leader's

After meeting a number of like minded youth over the past year, the following are similarities in the priorities of environmentally progressive youth I have noticed:

*We care about communities. We want to experience the caring relationships and sense of sharing that comes out of these sort of arrangements where we take care of each other. Not only are communities sustainable, they are an essential part of human nature that has been misplaced for generation X by the computer age and widely dispersed families of the modern day. We are coming together to form communities, and we are already benefitting remarkably by doing this.

*We recognize the responsibility of technology. We know that computers are a tool and must not replace people, or control our lives. We are beginning to see cell phones as a mistake for our health, the environment, and our pocket books. We know that natural is better than artificial, and that profit often overrides human rights. We may feel this way about technology as a whole because we are the generation that would have the hardest time going back to a computerless world. Technology has brought so much good to us that we recognize the importance of using and developing it responsibly.

*We are willing to change our materialistic upbringing, often drastically. It is easier to change our ways when we are still young, and since we have many years ahead of us, we feel the urgency perhaps even more than older generations do. For example, many of us have given up driving, even more of us have given up meat or are eating less of it to lower our ecological footprint, etc. We demand organic because it is healthier for our young bodies and our young minds. We are willng to live with less "things" and to replace material goods with good times and friendship.

*We know the power of freedom of speech, and we are not afraid to use it. Never has youth been so passionate about the causes we tackle. The world is finally turning green out of necessity, and today's young environmental activists will potentially see the hard work of activists from the past 30 years come to fruition in our own lifetimes. It is exciting! We are on the verge of a revolution. My generation recognizes this, and we want to fight that much harder. We see that despite all the hard work of incredible activists who came before us, things like the tar sands or palm oil plantations have not been stopped, and truthfully, we get scared by that. We feel that we must be that much braver, that much stronger, and that much louder than out predecessors. Amazing older activists will one day be passing the torch down to the younger generations, and we will be more than ready!

The Fight for Democracy in Canada

This fall, I experienced just how unfair our electoral system can be. I have been a Green Party candidate three times in the last three years—twice federally and once provincially. It has become apparent that Canada is suffering from democratic bankruptcy.

Without democracy, we are not able to address climate change. The public is remote from those who make decisions in this country, and decision makers are remote from the environmental consequences of their decisions.

We must overcome the barriers of democratic bankruptcy in order to take urgent action on climate change.

With a new year comes a chance for new beginnings. I would like to invite you to help create a new beginning for this country. Let's bring back democracy!

Founding meeting of "Fair Vote Canada" - Saskatchewan Chapter
Sunday January 18th, 11:00 A.M.
Manitou Beach Hotel, (near Watrous, Saskatchewan)

If you are interested in learning more about electoral reform and standing up for democracy, please join us at the founding meeting of the Saskatchewan Chapter of Fair Vote Canada on Sunday, January 18th, 2009. This local Fair Vote chapter will be a great opportunity to foster public education on proportional representation. Carpooling is encouraged.

·According to Fair Vote Canada, the votes of 50.7% of Canadians who voted in the recent federal election elected no one.

·More than 60% of Canadians voted against the Conservatives, yet they were elected as the governing party anyway.

·In Saskatchewan, the Conservatives received 54% of the votes in the recent federal election, yet they won 94% of the seats (all but one).

Let This Be the Last Unfair Election in Canada!

Canada’s “first-past-the-post” voting system is outdated and is failing to produce results reflective of the general public. Democratic politics has evolved significantly in Canada, yet our voting system has stayed the same. Our voting system was designed for a two party system, but many political parties now represent the interests of Canadians, not just two. Canada, the U.S., and Great Britain are the only democracies in the world that do not have an electoral system of proportional representation.

While political parties with broad support across Canada are ignored by our current electoral system, political parties with dense regional support are often over-represented in Parliament. The Green Party received 7% of the votes in the recent federal election, yet they did not receive a single seat in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the Bloc received 10% of the votes and won 50 seats. Under a system of proportional representation, the Green Party would have received 23 seats instead of zero, and the Bloc would have received 28 seats instead of 50. Our electoral system is clearly unfair. An electoral system of proportional representation would make every vote count.

Our current electoral system turns candidates and political parties into competitors instead of colleagues. Proportional representation would reduce the overly partisan nature of Parliament that tends to make cooperation difficult. An electoral system of proportional representation would encourage collaboration and compromise so that Parliament can stop fighting and can start taking action on the environment.

Supporters of all political parties stand to benefit from proportional representation. In the recent federal election, our electoral system ignored Conservative supporters in urban ridings, Liberal supporters in Alberta, NDP supporters in Saskatchewan, and Greens all across Canada. Plus, restoring democracy in Canada will be beneficial for all Canadians, especially the many young Canadians suffering from a severe case of voter apathy.

Anyone can join Fair Vote Canada at www.fairvote.ca

In solidarity,

Larissa Shasko

For Sale On eBay: Toxic Alberta Tar Sands Water Bottle

Hello! What I have copied below is a press release from the Sierra Youth Coalition about a very unusual item up for auction on eBay. They did a brilliant job of writing this press release, so I have chosen to directly copy it below instead of paraphrasing. For more information about the Sierra Youth Coalition, contact Youri Cormier – National Director, Sierra Youth Coalition or visit www.syc-cjs.org.


Press Release - for immediate release. For Sale On eBay: Toxic Alberta Tar Sands Water Bottle

CAUTION! ATTENTION! ACHTUNG! CUIDADO! This product is not recommended for human, animal or plant consumption.

January 12, 2009: The Sierra Youth Coalition, Canada's largest youth environmental organization, is selling a bottle of water from the Athabasca River on eBay. Proceeds from the sale will go towards a nation-wide campaign in high schools and universities to raise awareness on the ecological and social impacts of tar sands development in Alberta. The eBay webpage can be found by typing "Tar Sands" or "Tar Sands Water" into the search bar at: www.ebay.ca.

The bottle was filled by cyclists during SYC's To The Tar Sands bike trip in 2008. The cyclists pedaled from Fort McMurray to Calgary carrying such bottles for the ride, in order to engage with people along the way, as they noticed its brown and mucky bitumen sediments. The water, which is being directly contaminated by the growing mining and extraction of bitumen from in the northern regions of Alberta, has exceptionally high levels of mercury, arsenic, and volatile organic matter. The increasingly potent cocktail has be linked to a sudden surge in rare and virulent cancers in local downstream communities.

Sierra Youth Coalition National Director, Youri Cormier, describes the eBay initiative, "The sale of bottled water is something that SYC normally advocates against, because we find it wasteful, and we regard water not as a commodity, but a human right. But what if you are living in Alberta and the oil industry has destroyed your ecosystem to that point that not buying bottled water can kill you? We decided to turn this equation around for a try. We want Canadians to know what's happening to their beautiful wild lands and rivers. We want to give someone else in Canada the opportunity to touch this water, and imagine the everyday reality of living in an impacted community. It's a touch of history, a time capsule for this decade. It's something we'll all regret in 50 years, regardless, but really, we should be regretting it and fighting it right now."

Tim Murphy, SYC member, tar sands cyclist, and editor the book Journey To The Tar Sands adds, "Once you've seen the tar sands mines, you ask yourself: what on Earth are we doing to our planet? It's the biggest industrial project in the world already, and it could grow to be the size of Florida. It produces nearly as much greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in Canada combined, and frankly when you reached that that point, it's time to start setting limits, saying 'no more!' and at the very least, enforcing environmental protection laws... and even that's not being done."