The high-powered Canadian Youth Delegation here at the COP17 has the look of hope. Today hope looked like a bake sale to, as the youth say: ‘buy back our future’.
Canadian youth delegates have been busy cooking up “bitumen balls” to sell here in Durban, a bid to offset Canada’s rich subsidies to the oil and gas industry. To the youth delegates, those subsidies mean that Canada’s climate policy that has been “bought by the fossil fuel regime.” They’re orchestrating a buy-back, one tasty ‘bitumen ball’ at a time.
Immersed in so many serious words and technical negotiations here at the COP17, today’s sweet, simple demonstration ignited an energetic response from all of us moving through the Durban Exhibition Centre. These well informed and dedicated young adults aren’t wasting time or energy on shallow anger or unconstructive criticism. Instead, they’re drawing people from every part of the planet into serious policy questions with a wink and a nod – and treats. Paid for in South African rand and popped into a jar labelled “subsidies.”
They’re gaining the attention of Canadians here and at home. Of all the available options in the display hall today, they were the big draw. Just as I sat down to tell you about today’s extraordinary bake sale, an email popped into my box from my friend and former United Church of Canada General Secretary Jim Sinclair who sent a web link to today’s bake sale activity. Here’s what you’ll see there, in the words of the Canadian youth delegates:
“We know that the Canadian Government’s domestic and international climate policy has been bought by the fossil fuel regime. Our leaders have refused to show any kind of leadership at the international level and have chosen, instead, to become the lobby arm of the oil industry, putting short-term economic interests ahead of the rights and lives of millions today and all subsequent generations.
“Countless people across Canada have called on this government to end its destructive subsidies for dirty oil extraction and commit to a fair, ambitious, and binding climate legislation, however, it seems our demands have fallen on deaf ears. It seems we are speaking the wrong language when it comes to getting our government’s ear, so now we’re going to try to speak in a language they understand. We know that our government is quite sympathetic to the needs of the oil industry, handing out billions in subsidies each year, so it seems money and influence is what is needed to gain their support, so we’re going to take a page from the petroleum peddlers, we’re going to buy back our future.
If industry can buy influence, why can’t we?”
Why indeed. Oh, and if you want to have fun with another ‘Where’s the Moderator?’ game, if you look closely you’ll find me in one of the photos taken at the bake sale. I’m two down, checking out a photo on my phone, gobbling a treat – for a tweet.