Eoin Madden: Why I’m helping organize a cross-border climate rally at the Peace Arch

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      I remember the day I first got word that something big was coming for all of us seeking an opportunity to stand up and demand action on climate change. I was chatting with an organizer from 350.org—a group cofounded by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben—and he looked at me with the resignation of someone who knew he was about to get very, very busy.

      He said, “Bill thinks we should create the biggest climate march in history.”

      I knew then that I wanted to do my bit to make that wish come true, through a global solidarity event that has now become known as the “People’s Climate March”. The march happens in New York on September 21.

      This global event is not just about folks gathering in the streets of New York; it’s a call to action for every climate activist across the world to put boots on the ground, marching to the beat of the words “Climate action now!” Solidarity events have sprung up all over the world on that key weekend.

      In some of those places, climate action means shutting down dirty coal-fired power plants and investing in renewable energy. Here on the West Coast, it means stopping plans for new tar sands pipelines, oil tankers, and coal shipments.

      For those of us in Vancouver, we’ve got an amazing opportunity to play a role in this international affair.

      In a manicured park straddling the B.C.-Washington border stands a white arch, built to signify a peaceful and respectful relationship between Canada and the United States. It’s a unique place that allows residents of both countries to come together without crossing a border.

      The Peace Arch Park lies on the traditional territory of the Semiahmoo First Nation, and is situated right on the 49th parallel. It is flanked by lineups of cars waiting for border inspectors to approve their entry into another country. Those lineups are parallel to a rail line scheduled to transport ever-increasing amounts of dirty coal to ports in Vancouver, destined for coal-fired power plants in Asia. In other words, this place is tailor-made for a giant climate rally in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in New York.

      The idea of hosting a major gathering at the Peace Arch was sparked by the awesome organizers at 350 Seattle. We at the Wilderness Committee and Georgia Strait Alliance jumped at the offer to ensure Canadian involvement. We have joined together as partners in our campaign to Save the Salish Sea, referring to the body of water along our coast that is slated to become a carbon corridor for dirty coal and tar sands oil. The campaign seeks to build a human wall in the face of an onslaught from the fossil fuel industry.

      First Nations allies from the Protect the Sacred initiative will also be part of the Peace Arch event, along with members of the Semiahmoo First Nation, who will officially welcome the crowd.

      We have the opportunity to create a beautiful ceremony of solidarity and friendship, bringing together a diverse group of the change-makers eager to end the onslaught of fossil fuel exports in the region. On the Salish Sea alone, those exports could soon total more than 300 million tonnes of carbon per year. That’s a monstrous contribution to runaway climate change, and five times what is officially produced by the whole province of British Columbia. We are not about to let that happen—not on our watch!

      We realize there’s a little distance involved in participating in an event at the border crossing, but it takes effort to make change. The climate crisis will not get addressed by our political “leaders” until it is clear to them that a diverse and determined community has come together around the issue. Leading up to the march in New York on September 21, there will also be solidarity events in other countries such as Australia and India on the 20th. Over 300 solidarity rallies are currently planned in North America alone.

      On Saturday, September 20, come join us at the Peace Arch. We need your help in making a clear and united statement to the fossil fuel industry and governments everywhere: we will not lie down. We will not allow our place in this world to become a doormat for the fossil fuel industry in its bid to accelerate destructive climate change. We are standing together, on the 20th of September and every day after that.

      I hope to see you there.



      Harold Steves

      Sep 11, 2014 at 2:20pm

      Why I am attending the cross border climate rally at the Peace Arch. I was the organizer of the first environmental demonstration held in BC on Feb. 21, 1971. It was at the Peace Arch. Organized by the "SPOILS" committee (Stop Pollution From Oil Spills) it was a demonstration against supertankers along the BC Coast to Cherry Point. Aside from a plainclothes RCMP officer in every tree, the highlight was when all 4,000 people turned in the direction of Cherry Point, raised their index finger in the air and yelled the new canadian profanity"Fuddle-Duddle" People cut up their spOIL credit cards. Not a political speaker at the time I composed and sang a song for the event, the "Spoils Song". Keynote speaker Bob Hunter correctly predicted the Exxon Valdez oils spill " with a slick as long as long beach ... a statistical inevitability. Other speakers were Surry NDP MP Barry Mather and Evelyn Paul of the Indian Homemakers Association.

      Shortly after I was elected as an NDP MLA. As a direct result of our event the Barrett Government set up a Legislative Committee on Oil Spills. The rest of the SPOILS committee, Irving Stowe, Bob Hunter, Bill Darnell, and Jim Bolen went on to found GreenPeace.

      At the time we knew the climate was changing. What we didn't know was that fossil fuels were fuelling our changing climate. Today we are faced with the prospect of supertankers in both Vancouver Harbour and the Fraser River Estuary and a double whammy of potential oils spills and a changing climate


      Sep 11, 2014 at 3:31pm

      Our first step in the Climate March!

      "A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy." ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

      "As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"

      “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

      If Al Gore can do it, you can too! I did it 26 years ago and consider it one of the best decisions of my life.
      Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/step-by-step-guide-how-to-trans...


      Sep 12, 2014 at 8:55am

      Harold Steves....I was there. Attended with Gwen Dowding (Gordon's wife). A memorable day indeed.

      Unfortunately I'm out of the province and will not be attending this rally.

      Best wishes to all participants.

      Petroleum Geologist

      Sep 12, 2014 at 12:20pm

      What I notice about environmental movements is that you are always trying to solve the problem on the "supply" side. " No tankers! No exports!"
      I would personally like to see more problem solving directed towards the "demand" side of the issue incorporated into these environmental rallies. "What can we do to cut our carbon emissions? Are we willing to take public transport to work and give up luxuries such as taking our personal cars work giving up that personal space" Lets work together no?

      Realize it is the supply which creates the demand for oil. Living in a economically privileged metropolis like Vancouver, we all create the demand and need for supply; More than other cities ( we are at the top of the world, in terms of quality of life).

      I see a few posts above regarding fossil fuels fuelling climate change. Those statements are largely incorrect. But I can see how the public will like these comments as the general consensus is big oil is bad and the climate is changing. Put the two together, it is a simple enough statement to gather favor in opinion.

      I may be a petroleum geologist but that also makes me an geoscientist. Fossil fuels do not purely drive climate change. Positioning of tectonic plates, solar radiation flux, Milankovitch cycles drive climate change. The globe was in a state of icehouse 10,000 years ago. Now it is not. Were fossil fuels combusted 10,000 years ago to bring us out of an ice-house? No.
      Increased CO2 & methane concentrations, as a result of burning of fossil fuels, do increase the rate at which climate changes. But it is not the main drivers. Think about the Sun, its positioning and how this relates to radiation influx. This is the main driver of climate change.

      Now this is completely understandable, from my point of view, how you non-scientists automatically make the assumption and correlate burning of fossil fuels with climate change and think once we cut down all emissions our climate will stay static for the rest of eternity; You have no concept of geological time, climate cylcicity, geochemistry or other disciplines necessary to understand that climate and sea level naturally fluctuate. Anyways, I digress.

      What I would like to see from the general public who occupy one of the most economically privileged cities in the world is incorporating more " What can we do ourselves to bring change?


      Sep 12, 2014 at 1:05pm

      @ Petroleum Geologist

      Stop being so factual, balanced and clear-thinking - you're confusing the issue. I lost respect for the enviro movement after I moved to Vancouver several years ago because of simplistic one-sided views and refusal to question the glaring hypocrisy that beautiful, green Vancouver consumes/guzzles down more energy than anybody west of Toronto. There is nothing you can't buy from the smallest hamlet half way round the world. Also noticed that the most 'committed' environmentalists tend to have larger living spaces, take at least 2 or 3 long-haul flights a year, have the 'best stuff' from all around the world and have a car when biking doesn't suit.

      Lynn Perrin

      Sep 13, 2014 at 8:58am

      I cannot look my 10 year old grandson in the eye and tell him I love him if I do not do everything possible to ensure that his future is free of the risks from climate change. Our federal government and regulators are not protecting us from the ever increasing risks from climate change. Therefore, we must stand together and take care of each other.