Category Archives: Activism

Climate Strike: Demanding Action Now!

Today, youth, hopefully accompanied by people of all ages, will take the street across Canada and the world to demand concrete and immediate action on climate change. The necessity of this strike comes from the timid response, to say the least, of world leaders to the climate change crisis, one of the biggest environmental and socio-economic problems our species has ever faced. As states maintain the status quo of unrestrained economic growth powered by fossil fuels, young people, who will have to live with the potentially disastrous effect of climate change, have little choice but to take the street in the hope of saving our future. The situation is aptly summarised by 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg during her speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on Monday: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

Today, I gladly join the climate strike in Toronto to fight for a better future. The consequences of climate change are already being felt (acutely in some regions of the World, like the Arctic) and are predicted by the scientific community to reach catastrophic proportions if the raise in global temperature is not limited to 2oC, preferably 1.5oC. In my main field of research, marine environmental law, climate change is already causing havoc. Marine biodiversity—already under considerable stress from overexploitation, marine pollution and loss of habitats—will be particularly impacted by the effects of climate change. Warming waters can significantly disturb marine ecosystems by affecting spawning, distribution, and abundance of species. The recent and gruesome image of thousands dead chum salmon in Alaska is but one example. The absorption by the oceans of large quantity of CO2, the main culprit behind climate change, is resulting in ocean acidification. This acidification spells disaster for many species relying on calcium carbonate structures (e.g. shells) for survival as such structures will weaken and eventually dissolve. There is also evidence that acidification may decrease species’ reproductive capacity, slow their growth and increase their susceptibility to disease. These are but examples, as there is more.

While the Paris Agreement and its parent convention, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, provide for a global framework to mitigate climate change, its effectiveness depends on states’ ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. So far, the targets are lacklustre, and the action to meet them are even more disappointing. In the marine context, the situation is worse as the current international legal framework is simply not adapted to respond to climate change. It is already struggling at reaching its current environmental objectives without factoring in climate change. It is thus crucial that states approach climate change in an integrated manner; i.e. equitably tackle all the consequences of climate changes, socio-economic and environmental, in addition to dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A start would be to address the root of the problem, which is to say humanity’s callous use of natural resources and other living beings pushed by western and now dominant ideas of nature. This difficult but important restructuring of most societies’ way of thinking is not only necessary to ensure our survival, but it also provides an opportunity to renew for the better our relationship with the rest of the natural world, including marine life.

This global climate strike is a momentous opportunity and we must seize it. It is time to make our voice heard. It is time to demand change. We will not sit idly by as world leaders ignore the most pressing issue of our time. We must use this opportunity to initiate the changes that are needed to ensure the integrity of our planet, to take matters in our own hand for a more just and sustainable future. In the words Greta Thunberg: “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Calling Out Fascism: Reflections on Trump and Pathways to Resistance

*Originally published on 10 February 2017, re-published due to technical issues

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America was a shock to many. After all, it is difficult to imagine someone less qualified for the job who would also be able to achieve the feat of winning a presidential election (thanks in part to the archaic presidential election system, i.e. the electoral college). He has no experience in politics and the actions of his team over the past two weeks suggest that he also has very little clue on how the administration he is leading actually works. This could be characterised as incompetence, and in part it is, at least in terms of how to effectively implement his policies.[1] Nevertheless, one should be careful to claim that all of the chaos and failure coming out of the White House is due to incompetence. I say this because in so doing I fear one would continue perpetuating the same mistake a considerable amount of people did over the last year, that is to not take Mr. Trump seriously, both as a candidate/President, and as a threat. And a threat he is. The chaos he creates is probably more representative of his personality, megalomaniac/narcissist, and ideology, a form of nouveau fascism, than solely of his incompetence. The recent Muslim ban is a great example. I think it is important to take Trump seriously, especially if we wish to craft effective paths of resistance.

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The Need for Solidarity: Black Lives Matter and Pride

For those who are unaware, the Toronto Pride Parade was on 3 July this year. Usually the parade is pretty uneventful for the erudite. It can be a fun and colourful event (and has some significance when it’s your first), but it’s pretty repetitive (especially the one in Toronto). Same floats, same corporations pretending to care, same organisations, etc. This year, however, something pretty significant happened during pride. No, I’m not talking about Prime Minister Trudeau’s participation in the parade (I couldn’t care less about that in all honesty). Nor I am talking about the 34 years too late apology by the police for the Toronto bathhouse raids in the 80s (what about reparation?). I’m talking about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest during the parade. The group, composed largely of black queer people – supported by other people of colour and indigenous people (POCIP) – stopped the parade for 25 min to make demands to Pride Toronto. The demands were mostly more inclusion of POCIP in pride. One, however, shocked a great many people: the removal of the police as participants in pride events. The executive director of pride accepted the demands, only to backtrack in part the next day. We will see how things progress, but I doubt BLM will simply give up (thankfully).

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Syrian Refugee Crisis: How to Help

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past months, you are already aware of the devastating effects of the civil war in Syria on its population. Syrians are fleeing en masse their country, seeking refuge where they can. Bordering states are flooded with refugees, while waves of refugees attempt to reach Europe hoping for stability and security. The Syrian refugee crisis has produced many tragedies; [1] the most well-known here is probably the story of a family who tried to reach Canada but died in the process.[2] Canada’s response to the crisis has been dismal and shameful,[3] especially considering our past responses to similar crisis (the Vietnamese one for example). The new Liberal government is under a lot of pressure to change the situation. Trudeau has already promised to welcome 25 000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year,[4] which gives me hope that the government attitudes towards the crisis will improve.

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Grève Étudiante Prise Deux : Police et Injonction

J’ai l’impression que la grève étudiante de 2012 qui a évoluée en mouvement populaire généralisé ne s’est terminée qu’hier. Cette impression me vient peut-être du fait qu’aucune solution  permanente n’a été mise de l’avant pour régler les problèmes sous-tendant cette crise. Bien que la grève étudiante présentement en cours n’a pas la même envergure que celle de 2012, elle représente en partie le malaise de la société face aux compressions budgétaires de l’État au nom de l’austérité et du sacro-saint déficit zéro. Les étudiants en grève ne le sont pas parce que le gouvernement à décider d’augmenter les frais de scolarité ou de couper dans le programme de prêts et bourses, mais bien pour protester les politiques néo-libérales du gouvernement Couillard. Cette grève est aussi accompagnée de manifestations populaires et syndicales sur divers sujets reliés au mécontentement de la population face aux politiques gouvernementales telles que les coupes dans les programmes sociaux et le projet d’oléoduc d’Énergie Est.

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Personal Political Contradictions: Utopianism

If I had to choose one word to describe my political belief it would be utopianism. Let me explain. Utopianism as acquired a bad name over the years, mainly because it is denigrated for promoting the “impossible”. It is often use in contrast with realism (ideas based on so called empirical reality, often represented by “objective” facts). Indeed in international relations theories realists gained prominence by comparing their ideas to the failure of what they called utopians. Some realists still identify liberal theorists as utopians. Realism is predominant in the political discourse of all the major political parties. Today it is “utopian” to desire a better world if it is not realizable in the immediate future and within our “means”. I however reject this negative connotation of utopianism. In fact I would go as far as saying that utopia is as realistic as any other political proposition; what is offered to us, citizens, today by the political elite is simply unsustainable, unjust, and frankly unrealistic considering the state of our world. I prefer to envisage a world where humans and nature are not desecrated on a daily basis with the tacit acquiescence of the majority (at least on a national basis). I prefer to use this “utopia” as my starting point and work to achieve it from there. After all most people consider utopia as impossible solely because they refuse to consider the idea in the first place as it is too far remove from our contemporary “reality” (as much as our reality must be far removed from ancient civilizations).

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