The City of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada declared a Climate Emergency in September 2019. However, the current City Mayor and Council remain committed to business as usual, and there is no sign of them taking the time to learn what it will take to do their job and help their own citizens live in the Climate Crisis Long Emergency.
It’s shameful… especially in consideration of what we should be learning from the COVID-19 Pandemic!
Drew Monkman, one of the Peterborough areas most prominent naturalists and climate change activist, in his Examiner local newspaper article, dated June 4, 2021 titled “Peterborough’s climate lens needs cleaning” puts it this way: “the climate crisis is orders of magnitude more serious than what COVID-19 has wrought upon us” and further along in the same article says “Despite strong commitments to do things differently, much of what’s happening at City Hall reinforces the perception that we can pretty much carry on with business as usual.”
My recently released book titled NOW IS THE TIME! Building Community Resilience in Response to COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis provides the background, strategic roadmap and multiple program initiatives that can be embraced to guide the Peterborough Community CMA and other similar sized communities here in Canada and around the world to embrace progressive action on the Climate Crisis. The recommended progressive actions embrace the Economy, Energy, Environment, and social and economic Equity taken as a system to not only reduce GHG emissions but to reduce the per capita consumption of all forms of energy necessary and required for communities to create more resilient, vibrant and secure lifestyles while living in the Climate Crisis Long Emergency.
My book challenges the City and County of Peterborough lack of municipal leadership on the Climate Crisis without naming individuals. Drew Monkman’s same article, as quoted above, names those Peterborough City Councilors who have acted most consistently as “advocates for the environment and for operating within a climate lens”. Drew also goes on to muse why “Mayor Dianne Therrien doesn’t show stronger climate leadership… despite her personal commitment to reducing emissions.”
I support and admire Drew on his questioning of our local climate emergency leadership with my additional remarks below rooted in my executive business career anchored in strategic business development in finance and brand marketing.
Firstly: There is a vast chasm between personal commitment on anything and successful business or political leadership! Most people, including most would-be political leaders, including those with great personal integrity, fail to traverse this extremely wide and deep divide.
Secondly: A Climate Change Emergency Declaration is not a Vision a Goal or a Plan or even a commitment to do anything! Action in successful businesses starts with an understandable and realistically obtainable Vision or Goal with measurable criteria such as the Municipal Vision provided in my Book in Chapter 5 – THINK RESILIENCE. By the way, I am waiting for a promised phone call from the City of Peterborough Mayor on this specific topic, from long before I ever thought of publishing a book.
Thirdly: A Climate Change Lens is insufficient to change political leadership behaviour during the Climate Crisis Long Emergency. It is undefined and anyone including City politicians and City staff are capable of driving the proverbial fossil fuel Mack truck through it as is happening in real time in Peterborough. This analogy is no different than global corporations, the world central banks and even the United Nations greenwashing of Sustainable Development giving cover to continued economic growth which is the very root cause of the Climate Crisis Long Emergency that we are now in.
A few recent local examples of the fossil fuel Mack truck syndrome are the approval of new buildings and subdivisions with natural gas heating systems and most recently the approval of a fossil fuel driven system for the new urban Charlotte Street park..
Fourthly and perhaps most significantly: What have we learned from dealing with COVID-19? If we really believe that the Climate Crisis Emergency that the City of Peterborough now faces… “is orders of magnitude more serious than what COVID-19 has wrought on us”, as Drew Monkman attests above, what actions should we take and how would we set up the leadership?
I certainly support Drew’s assertion as is evidenced by my book, NOW IS THE TIME! subtitled Building Community Resilience in Response to COVID -19 and the Climate Crisis.
To use US and Canadian COVID speak, we are not out of the woods yet, but we have turned the corner and, if we can get vaccinations up to 75 to 85% by the fall of 2021, we may achieve herd immunity and avoid a fourth wave, giving us all some protection from new variants. How did we get to this point where our lives can return to some semblance of normalcy? However, the Climate Crisis Long Emergency lingers on and has arguably taken more lives in 2020 than
COVID -19 has.
This blog is already too long so I will cut it to two major points, namely Command Structure and Operating System. Successful COVID-19 mitigation dictated a clear and competent Command Structure and Operating System.
Federally, in Canada we have PM Trudeau in command through Premiere Ford of Ontario and Mayor Therrien in Peterborough. The Operating System for the Pandemic is our national Universal Health Care System with unforgiveable breakdowns in the for -profit -sector old age homes,
but otherwise strong local leadership from the local Peterborough Health Unit.
Compare this to what we are doing to address the Climate Crisis Long Emergency. We have no Command Structure at the Federal Provincial levels .. much of everything is political theatre.
Some provinces are serious others not so much. Ontario not so much! Even though a former Ontario liberal government started the distributive renewable energy program that is front and centre now with 5G and the Internet of Things( IoT), the City of Peterborough punted when it came to investing the PDI sale funds of nearly $60 Million into a local distributive renewable energy fund designed to provide much greater energy security for its own citizens. There simply is no local command structure in place to support much greater energy security for its own citizens.
Can you imagine fighting a war, or dealing with a major flood, or climate induced forest fire without a command structure. If the Climate Crisis is truly an Emergency as I believe it is and a very long one at that, then we need a Command Structure built from the bottom up equal to the task. The effects of the climate crisis show up locally first, and so the command structure has to be built from the bottom up.
At the local level in Peterborough, we have no Command Structure supporting anything ..with a council pursuing business as usual waiting for what ? I’m curious and waiting for that promised phone call from the City Infrastructure Manager to provide the Transition Town input to the fair and equitable structure for the distribution of funds from the very small Climate Change Action Plan Reserve Fund set up in the 2020 budget.
And as for an operating system, none exists at all three levels of government in Canada.
We in the global transition towns movement offer permaculture as the operating system to build more resilient communities from the bottom up pulling ourselves up by our own community boot straps. The system leads directly to planting more trees… through building human scale communities to economic localization infrastructure to lower carbon emission with much greater security of life essentials to the economics of happiness.