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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Cooperate or perish

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Nov 17, 2022

This year’s Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP27) was hosted by Egypt, where more than 100 world leaders discussed our most pressing environmental challenge. There were also powerful fossil-fuel lobbyists who tried to gaslight everyone into thinking their industry is not responsible for destroying the planet. 

However, UN Secretary-General António Guterres was firm about the urgency of taking immediate action to reduce global greenhouse emissions: “A third of Pakistan flooded. Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years. The Philippines hammered. The whole of Cuba in blackout…. We are on the highway to climate hell.” 

According to Climate Action Tracker, we’re still racing to disaster, with projections of average temperatures rising 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2050, well above the 1.5⁰C target. 

Developing countries are the most impacted by the climate crisis and many of their leaders used the forum as an opportunity to seek international support. The stakes are high. And the scientific community is almost unanimous about the fact that we’re running out of time to take meaningful action. 

For a youth like myself, I find it absurd to see a bunch of middle-aged politicians discussing climate like it’s just another agenda item in another humdrum world forum. The general attitude of politicians here in the West is dismissive of our fears about climate change. 

Last month, Quebec Premier François Legault even said, “Young people should worry about education instead of the environment.” But we can’t attend school if the world is on fire. 

It is also odd for us to keep studying or working full-time to save money for our future without knowing if any of our goals will be relevant in 10 years. 

We’re constantly told to work hard for what we want and that taking time to enjoy life means we are slackers. But will I be able to enjoy a decent quality of life in a few years? It’s hard to figure this out when our leaders prioritize profits over science. 

This year, leaders of so-called developed countries were expected to discuss the concept of climate reparations to address other countries’ requests for funds to manage the damage caused by extreme weather events. 

I hoped to see leadership from Canada on this issue, especially given the big chunk of budget that was quickly diverted towards humanitarian aid in Ukraine. 

It’s hard not to worry when the effects of climate change are tangible and observable in our region of Eeyou Istchee. Fall was abnormally warm, and we seem to lose the transition seasons that are necessary for wildlife to prepare for harshest months. 

I have a healthy distrust for authority, especially for the small minority of world leaders who can either steer us away or towards disaster. As Secretary-General Guterres put it, “Humanity has a choice: co-operate or perish.”

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.