On talking about priorities: Oil spills and teachers strikes

On the same day one week ago, teachers in British Columbia began a full strike and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline was approved by the Canadian government. With such telling coincidences, it is hard not to juxtapose the two broad social conflicts in which BC has become a flashpoint: that over the quality of public education and that over the expansion of fossil fuel development.

This juxtaposition is made across the board. Writing in support of additional education spending financed by higher taxes, SFU economist Krishna Pendakur closes with this point:

B.C. must be one of very few places in the world where “invest in our future” means “invest in liquefied natural gas” and not “invest in the education of our children.”

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What’s the risk? Climate activism aiming at supply and demand

One way to think about climate activism is to see if it focuses on the supply of or demand for fossil fuels – pipelines or cars, hydrocarbons or carbon emissions. This distinction is not a new one, is doubtless very simplistic and has often been used to chastise activists. Here, I hope it will draw out some potentially useful thoughts that centre on the aims of activism and the idea of risk.

In an article published yesterday in The Nation, Chris Hayes makes an interesting analogy between the struggle for climate justice and abolitionism: despite numerous differences, both assume the destruction of potential future income streams – abolition by freeing slaves, climate justice by leaving fossil fuels in the ground. The weak link that climate activism can exploit is the capital-intensiveness of fossil fuel extraction. This is a re-framing of the supply side of the story. (more…)

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