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Green Party leader Elizabeth May: ‘Is the world safer?’

by Archives September 13, 2006

The threat of climate change, Canada’s ecological responsibilities and the role of individuals in the global ‘green’ community were merely a few of the topics discussed Monday night during a lecture by Elizabeth May.

The audience at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim’s Adilman Lectureship on the Environment series were privy to May’s first public address as leader of Canada’s National Green Party.

As it was the 5th anniversary of Sept 11, her topic, “In an Insecure World, Are We Identifying the Right Threat?” rang particularly true amidst the group of approximately 125 audience members.

May added a personal touch to her speech when she described her own family’s experience post-9/11, and asked vital questions about the state of our personal and collective safety.

“Are we safer? Is the world safer?” Ultimately, she answered, “No.”

Our main threat is not a country or a militant terrorist group, May explained. Instead, our main concern should be the threat of global climate change, and its consequences.

An activist, lawyer, writer, and newly appointed Officer to the Order of Canada, May made reference to an article in Fortune Magazine which dared to say that climate change is a far greater threat than terrorism.

May also disillusioned her audience by stating that in the last decade alone, -Canada has become the largest supplier of oil to the United States. She pointed to the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta and said, “If we wanted to be America’s gas tank, we’ve achieved it.”

Fort McMurray, or as May dubbed it, ‘Fort McMoney’, the city that encompasses the highly profitable mining facilities, has seen an economic boom in recent years. “The economy is not only hot, it’s too hot to handle,” May explained.

Due to the nature of seasonal mining activities, May explained that the area is no longer capable of sustaining a full-time workforce, since many individuals leave the community once their work contract has terminated.

Primarily due to these Western-Canadian mining activities, May stressed that our country has not only failed to reach its Kyoto targets, but has ignored them altogether. “Canada is now lumped in with irresponsible nations who won’t take action,” she said.

According to May, we can and we must reach our obligatory, United Nations-appointed Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emissions, or risk devastating consequences to our country as well as our environment. “We don’t have to accept the minority government making Canada into a pariah,” May added.

May cited a U.S. defense department study that examined the plausible scenarios that could occur in the future due to climate change. One of the most alarming, she noted, was that the Gulf Stream could stall by the year 2010.

To date, the Gulf Stream has already slowed by 30 per cent due to melting Arctic ice. This phenomenon can be attributed to the fresh water of the Arctic mixing in with the stream, thus changing its salt concentration.

“There would be a domino effect of climate change,” May explained. She warned that possible consequences could include European countries experiencing Canadian winters, a massive human migration and war.

A brief question period followed her speech. A range of topics were touched upon including the balance of individual and community action, the Green Party’s platform regarding international relations and the idea of security certificates at border crossings.

During the discussion period, May made reference to Al Gore’s book and documentary-film, An Inconvenient Truth, and described it as one of the most influential works dealing with environmental issues she has ever encountered.

Raising awareness is one of main goals of Shaar Hashomayim’s lectureship series, which was made possible by the donations of Mona Elaine Adilman, a prominent Jewish community member with particular interest in environmental causes.

Shelly Solomon, Adilman’s daughter, described her mother as someone who was “extremely sensitive about issues close to her heart [who through] poetry, articles, and a course taught at Concordia combining literature and ecology” tried to bring environmental issues to the forefront of everyday life.

Through wit, factual evidence and her overwhelming stage presence, Elizabeth May fulfilled Adilman’s mission Monday evening. And with the consequences of climate change still in mind, May concluded her lecture with the powerful words of British author Barbara Ward: “We all have the duty to hope.”

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