Extinction Rebellion Vancouver (Part 2): Protesters aim to stop government subsidies for fossil-fuel producers

To accomplish this, they plan to block major roads and hope to shut down Vancouver International Airport

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      Extinction Rebellion Vancouver activists are gearing up for 14 days of climate action from October 16 to 29.

      The ad hoc group of peaceful civil-disobedience advocates will make two attempts to block the Cambie Bridge on October 22 and 23. They also plan to shut down Vancouver International Airport on October 25, and shut down road access to UBC's Point Grey campus on October 26.

      These actions will take place in advance of the COP26 international climate conference, which begins on October 31 in Glasgow.

      The Straight was the only local media outlet to attend Extinction Rebellion Vancouver's October 9 news conference explaining why the group is taking these actions. It was held at St. Philip's Anglican Church in Dunbar.

      In the second of a three-part series, we are reporting on what the second speaker, Lauren Emberson said in her presentation.

      The first speaker, a man named Badger, emphasized the likelihood of mass starvation and societal collapse under a business-as-usual approach.

      Emberson, on the other hand, focused on federal and provincial government subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry.

      "Per capita, we pay more to the oil and gas industry than anywhere else in the world," Emberson said. "And that means that you, as individual citizens, are personally paying more to this industry—that is leading to the effects that Badger is talking about—than any other citizen, any other person on the planet."

      How high are these subsidies? Estimates vary. Emberson cited a $16-billion figure annually for the federal government and $1.1 billion annually for the B.C. government.

      Environmental Defence, on the other hand, estimated that there were $18 billion in federal subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry in 2020.

      Another group, Stand.earth, concluded that there were another $1.3 billion in B.C. government subsidies for the fossil-fuel sector this year. According to Stand.earth, that's double the amount given in the final year of the previous B.C. Liberal government.

      At 2:15 of this video, speakers begin discussing the various ways in which the B.C. government is subsidizing climate change.

      Regardless of the figure, Emberson said that Extinction Rebellion Vancouver's October protests have one demand: that these subsidies to oil and gas companies must be halted immediately.

      "We do not judge any individual person," Emberson said. "We love everyone. We want this money to be used to help any person in any part of Canada who will be affected by the end of these subsidies."

      However, she emphasized that she does not want these government funds going to "rich people who own these companies".

      She pointed out that the federal subsidies to the fossil-fuel sector could pay the annual health bill of three million Canadians. Or it could fund job training for an entire year for 1.6 million people. And it would fund education for 1.2 million children.

      "That's how much money we are giving to the oil and fossil-fuel industry," Emberson said. "Even today, one in five deaths worldwide is attributable to air pollution from the fossil-fuel industry."

      She insisted that this is the equivalent of 35,000 people in Canada alone dying as a result of air-quality issues.

      "We are not asking the government to shut down these industries," Emberson said. "We’re not even asking them to keep their international agreements for the level of carbon in our society. We are simply asking them not to use our own money to pay for our own extinction.”

      Emberson is a neuroscientist with a PhD from Cornell University. Her thesis focused on perception, cognition, and development.

      Prior to speaking at the front of the room, she told the Straight that a huge part of society is experiencing "learned helplessness" in the face of the climate crisis.

      She feels that the cure for inaction is actually taking action, which is what Extinction Rebellion Vancouver has been doing in its nonviolent civil-disobedience actions.

      She noted that one of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver's principles is telling the truth and not sugar-coating the danger posed by rising greenhouse-gas emissions.

      "Rarely do you see that in the public sphere, and that encourages people to downplay it," Emberson said.