Bill McKibben on Idle No More

Does the future of the planet rest in this movement?


As Stephen Harper and a delegation of Canadian First Nations Chiefs went into a highly anticipated meeting last Friday, Bill McKibben penned this bold and haunting article. McKibben paints a real clear picture of #Idlenomore as the immmune system of our ailing planet – a movement with greater scope and power than many are realizing. It is nothing less than our only hope.

How so?

Answer: Alberta's tar sands continue to be hailed as the "dirtiest energy on earth," the most environmentally destructive project we've ever seen. NASA's James Hansen explains that burning this bitumen guarantees "game over for the climate." Which means, to McKibben, "Canada's First Nations are in some sense standing guard over the planet." As he explains:

The stakes couldn't be higher, for Canada and for the world. Much of this uprising began when Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper rammed through Parliament an omnibus bill gutting environmental reviews and protections. He had no choice if he wanted to keep developing Canada's tar sands, because there's no possible way to mine and pipe that sludgy crude without fouling lakes and rivers. (Indeed, a study released a few days ago made clear that carcinogens had now found their way into myriad surrounding lakes). And so, among other things, the omnibus bill simply declared that almost every river, stream and lake in the country was now exempt from federal environmental oversight.

Canada's environmental community protested in all the normal ways – but they had no more luck than, say, America's anti-war community in the run up to Iraq. There's trillions of dollars of oil locked up in Alberta's tarsands, and Harper's fossil-fuel backers won't be denied.

But there's a stumbling block they hadn't counted on, and that was the resurgent power of the Aboriginal Nations. Some Canadian tribes have signed treaties with the Crown, and others haven't, but none have ceded their lands, and all of them feel their inherent rights are endangered by Harper's power grab. They are, legally and morally, all that stand in the way of Canada's total exploitation of its vast energy and mineral resources, including the tar sands, the world's second largest pool of carbon. NASA's James Hansen has explained that burning that bitumen on top of everything else we're combusting will mean it's "game over for the climate." Which means, in turn, that Canada's First Nations are in some sense standing guard over the planet.