Environmental inaction an ethical issue

By Rachelle Meeres

Climate change is comparable to women’s rights movements, institutionalized racism and slavery, said the speakers at Monday’s Climate Change as a Moral Issue retreat.

Such comparisons may seem disproportionate, but the speakers at the retreat — hosted by the faculty of social work — were armed with daunting statistics and calling for political action.

Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada, one of the day’s keynote speakers, argued that climate change action should be viewed as an ethical issue because 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from industrialized societies, while the globe’s poorer countries are affected first and worst.

He also spoke of inter-generational justice, and the moral obligation to leave a healthy planet for future generations.

“We have a government which is one the poorest actors [on climate change.] Canada needs to do its fair share,” he said.

Saul believes five actions are necessary for Canada to be ethically sound in this international issue: Put a price on CO2 emissions, invest in green technology, support vulnerable communities, boost efficiency standards and protect stored carbon in existing ecosystems.

World Vision’s Dave Toycen, another keynote speaker, shared a quote from The Lancet medical journal: “Climate change is the largest global health threat of the 21st century.”

The conference was advertised publicly, although many of the attendees were from various religious and charitable organizations.

“Historically, environmental groups and the faith communities have not seen eye to eye. It’s nice to see the two groups come together,” said Greg Powell, an event organizer from the Pembina Institute.

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