“There is a time coming, in our lives, when the tap of natural gas into our homes and into our city is going to be turned off. It’s not tomorrow — we have time to make adjustments.”

As follow-up to his interview with Vancouver City Councillor Christine Boyle (Episode 19) — mover of a unanimously-approved motion to declare a climate emergency — Gord wanted to speak to one of the ‘generals’ working on a solution to coming disaster. Someone with the knowledge, experience, and character to not just define the nature of the challenge we face in the coming decades, but to take on the mantle of leadership.

Whether Seth Klein is one of those generals is not yet clear, but he certainly seems to be writing the battle book.

The now-former BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives —he actually founded the progressive think tank’s west coast chapter in 1996 — Klein has identified some compelling parallels between the effort made by the Canadian government and industry between 1939 and 1945 to mobilize behind the war effort, and what may be required to keep this ship we call Western civilization afloat today.

With little doubt that drastic measures are needed, Klein believes the responses of countries like Canada during the Second World War are not just instructive, but likely instructive and maybe even necessary in this time of existential crisis.

What were those responses? There were many. They were mandated, legislated. And no person, no institution, was immune.

This conversation isn’t just a sneak preview of his upcoming book — it’s a conversation about a similar challenge we faced 80 years ago, how we faced it, and whether we can do it again today.

Seth Klein on Mobilizing for the Climate Emergency, and the Lessons of WWII
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Comments

  1. This vision “turn off the gas tap” MIGHT be OK for a warm weather region like Lower Mainland or S-Vancouver Island … but NOT for the erst of Canada, incl BC where it is QUITE COLD for MANY MONTHS .. or cooler part of the US, China, Russia, N-Europe etc ..

    Gas makes a lot of sense as the sun is low in the winter (ie bad for solar panels), it snows and rains (bad for wind and solar panels) and gas is energetically far more efficient than other heating forms.

    BC will be a major beneficiary of the gas and LNG boom for he next few decades !

    Socialism has embraced the environment to further its goals after countries that embraced it (mainly Russia bit also China, N-Korea, Cuba, Venezuela ..) it proved its concept wrong. Who doesn’t like the environment? Everyone does, of course. Now CO2 is conveniently labelled “pollution” so we can tax it. Such garbage. So lets indoctrinate our kids with the green mantra that oil and gas is bad, that capitalism is evil and that only socialist massively expensive energy schemes supported by high CO2 taxes and big government are the wave of the future. There is no climate emergency.

    As new technologies evolve, say cheaper battery options, and gas & oil get more and more expensive, betetr options will evolve. Air pollution from diesel or coal is a REAL issue in some Asian countries. But heating with gas is NOT !

    1. Gas is *not* more efficient. The maximum efficiency of burning gas cannot exceed 100% and the laws of physics say it must always be less than that. However, heat pumps can be up to 400% efficient based on today’s technology. They will likely get even better. Meanwhile we can build buildings that require 90% less heating in the first place.

      Beyer would have had us remain in the caves. Would have shunned fire, agriculture and the industrial revolution. Pay no attention to these kinds of people.

      Heating with any fossil fuel is a big problem for our climate but I wouldn’t expect a monkey hanging in trees thumbing his nose at scientific consensus to understand that.

    2. “So lets indoctrinate our kids with the green mantra that oil and gas is bad, that capitalism is evil and that only socialist massively expensive energy schemes supported by high CO2 taxes and big government are the wave of the future. There is a climate emergency.”

      Only have to change one word of your comment to make it exactly right. Congratulations – so close to wisdom.

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/09/extinction-rebellion-activists-arrested-over-scottish-oil-protest

      1. Let us also take immediate action on the emissions that we can actually eliminate.

        For example, City Council needs to re-consider the proposed demolition of the Viaducts as well as other planned demolitions in light of it’s ‘declared climate emergency’. This is perhaps the easiest of ways to reduce carbon emissions, by protecting that in which we have already heavily invested our tax dollars and for which the environmental price has already been paid.

        Rebuilding infrastructure for the sole purpose of improving appearances is not an appropriate activity during a climate emergency. It is also not necessary when seismic upgrades remain the lowest impact environmental option. We should not become beguiled by the ‘beautifiers’ busily seeking profits by destroying our natural world.

        1. That would be a significant step backwards. Let’s just get on with it. And the upcoming removal of the Granville loops at the north end of the bridge, as well.

          Replacing low utility viaducts with a much more useful street grid at ground level is not simply a beautification project.

          Seismic upgrades to the viaducts would involve tearing them down and replacing them. That has more negative environmental impact than the planned street network.

          1. At the very least given Councils proclamation, we need a full carbon accounting report for this hair brained demolition idea, so that citizens can decide for themselves. Yes, I am sure you would love to ‘get on with it’. Lot’s of terrible things are done by those who would just love ‘to get on with it’. That’s why we have a climate crisis. Stop spreading false stories about seismic design, you are not a structural engineer.

          2. No, I am not a structural engineer. But I can read a structural engineer’s report on the existing viaducts. I see an estimate that $50-$65 million would keep them standing during a moderate earthquake, but they likely wouldn’t be usable afterwards. And if they collapse, they could take out the Skytrain. To upgrade them to current design standards requires that they be fully rebuilt. Reference the loose soils they are built on.

            Summery here. See page 11. https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2015-Staff-Report-Removal-of-the-Georgia-and-Dunsmuir-Viaducts.pdf

          3. The sad truth is found here in an Administrative Report:

            https://vancouver.ca/docs/eastern-core/core-strategy-council-report.pdf

            July 2011
            Structural Review
            The structural review of the viaducts indicated that the majority of the structure is in
            reasonably good condition. The section that crosses Main Street requires some minor retrofits
            in the short term and there are some other maintenance and repairs that are required. It is
            estimated that the viaducts would have a remaining services life of 40+ years with
            approximately $5 million in maintenance costs and $5 million in seismic upgrades over this
            timeframe.

            CONCLUSION
            Staff recommend that Council ………………. allow detailed conceptual planning for the removal or partial removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts to proceed.

            I believe that it was on the basis of this scanty report that the previous Council proceeded by a one vote margin with the Mayor abstaining. (I stand to be corrected on this point). The current Council has unanimously proclaimed a Climate Emergency. This means that civic projects from now on need to assessed in terms of a carbon emissions budget. This is the most important parameter to measure not $$!

          4. Jolson, you are quoting the 2011 report. Because it didn’t go into details, and had so much uncertainty, staff ordered a more comprehensive report. That was delivered in 2015, and is referenced in the link I provided.

            You don’t need to just rely on the staff report I linked. The full seismic report, from 2015, is available on line. Don’t rely on old info when more fulsome analyis is available.

  2. We should try and understand that humans are constrained by the biological reality in which they evolved as organic beings. A stable natural environment is essential for all life on this planet and before the age of machinery humans lived in balance more or less with this natural condition.

    Today we have a ‘climate emergency’ by which we generally mean that humans have altered the gaseous composition of the global atmosphere to such an extent that extreme weather events are now frequent and often devastating for humans themselves.

    Why then do we continue on this self inflicted injurious pathway? The argument I have put forth in the past in order to answer that question is that we are no longer ‘natural humans’ but rather we have become ‘cyborgs’ – part human and part machine, making us totally dependent on the machinery of our supporting infrastructure for our daily food, clothing and shelter. It is hard to opt out of this all inclusive reality.

    It is also hard for any one individual to believe that they are responsible for these environmental impacts. How could such an insignificant thing as a single human effect the entire atmosphere of the planet? Well, when one person becomes 10 billion people building a massive machine between themselves and the natural environment we can easily see wherein the problem lies.

    Nature does have an anecdote for this situation and it is called extinction of the offending party: the human. Must it come to that? Does humanity have the capacity to alter the course of these events? So far we have no answer. Generalissimo I suspect is not the answer. Political ideologies have so far not produced an answer either.

  3. The Viaducts were doomed to eventually be removed even before they were open to traffic. In 1971, the Mayor was anticipating a celebratory ribbon cutting with lots of media present but an angry crowd with placards was already gathered on the viaduct to confront him expressing their opposition to the viaducts or freeways. He and his entourage had to scramble to somehow celebrate their opening. But the media documented an event that was rather different than the Mayor had envisioned. A year later we had a different Mayor.

    When I was in the West End as a community planner and a resident raised issues with me about the mini-parks that block car traffic or the emergence of bike lanes, I said that prioritizing the car over walkers, transit and cyclists (and the quiet and safe enjoyment of our neighbourhoods)…was increasingly unlikely since 1971 with the opening of the viaducts and the resistance to freeways – that was, I think, the page turner for future transportation planning .

    In 1973 the new Mayor and Council approved phase one of traffic diverters and mini-parks on Gilford and Chilco west of Denman and they were installed in 1974. Phase Two for blocks east of Denman as well as a similar plan for Grandview-Woodland followed and they were built as well.

    Since then, we have seen three City Councils on both sides of the political spectrum approve transportation plans that identified the automobile having a lower priority for transportation investments compared to walkers, cyclists, transit riders and goods movement.

    Most likely, the viaducts will come down. The rationale for their fate is wired deeply into Vancouver’s technical, social and political culture.

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