Justin Trudeau gets a #ClimateWelcome from B.C. environmental activists

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      (Editor's note: Shortly after this article was posted, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada Corporation's application to build the Keystone XL pipeline.)

      Vancouver has often been on the cutting edge of social and political change.

      In the 1980s, local peace activists led the country in raising the alarm about the arms race.

      Huge demonstrations in Vancouver and other cities pushed then U.S. president Ronald Reagan to reach a landmark arms agreement with then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reyjkjavik.

      More than a decade later, Downtown Eastside activists made harm reduction a national issue. This led to the creation of Canada's first supervised-injection site.

      Vancouver's marijuana entrepreneurs, including Marc and Jodie Emery, have played a pivotal role in changing North American attitudes around cannabis. It's helped blunt the war on drugs.

      Vancouver also led the way in advancing equality for the LGBT community. It came through various court challenges dealing with pensions, school books featuring same-sex parents, and marriage equality. 

      Former attorney general Ujjal Dosanjh did his part with several progressive initiatives. It's worth noting that he was the first premier in Canadian history to march in a Pride parade.

      Now Vancouverites, including many indigenous residents, are at the forefront of pushing for sensible energy policies. They're eagerly promoting greater use of renewables like solar and wind power.

      UBC and SFU students have also been extremely active in campaigning for postsecondary institutions to dump investments in fossil-fuel companies.

      Many of these young activists were part of the #climatewelcome demonstration yesterday in Ottawa. It was held to remind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the importance of this issue. You can see some of the tweets below.

      Day 2 of #ClimateWelcome has resumed this morning.

      In the U.S., it took a while for climate activists to begin putting pressure on President Barack Obama.

      But when the demonstrations began in earnest, it led to long delays in the government's response to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. That bought enough time for the renewable-energy industry to become far more competitive with fossil fuels.

      As a result of pressure from climate activists, Obama has taken dramatic steps to reduce the use of coal in the production of electricity. The president also signed a landmark deal with China's Xi Jinping to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

      Meanwhile, Trudeau and his foreign affairs minister, Stéphane Dion, have each expressed support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

      It's being advanced to TransCanada Corporation to ship raw bitumen to U.S. refineries.

      This Sunday (November 8), you can do your part for the planet by joining the Great Climate Race, which is being held in Stanley Park.

      One of the cofounders, Vancouver activist Ben West, came up with the idea to raise funds for solar-energy projects.

      It's the first race of its kind in the world.

      Once again Vancouver will be showing itself as a leader in advancing a positive solution to a pressing global problem.

      Don't be surprised if the idea catches on in other cities in the years to come.

      Learn more about the Great Climate Race.

      Demonstrations are necessary for keeping pressure on politicians whose natural inclination is to bend to the wishes of the moneyed crowd and right-wing national newspapers.

      But events like the Great Climate Race are equally important in broadening the appeal of the fight to save humanity beyond those willing to risk arrest to advance the cause.

      The stakes are high but it doesn't mean that activists can't have plenty of fun along the way.

      Climate change is a defining issue for millennials. Sooner or later, Trudeau's going to recognize this reality, just as his American counterpart has learned this south of the border.