Last month, more than 11,000 scientists from around the world declared that our earth is facing a climate emergency. This news isn’t exactly new — alarming climate change trends have been noted by world scientists for over 40 years. Yet greenhouse gas emissions are still rapidly rising, with increasingly damaging effects on the earth’s climate. An immense effort, according to the declaration, is needed to conserve our biosphere and to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis.
Yet our leaders don’t lead. They seem to be sitting on their hands, continuing to award subsidies to fossil fuel companies, planning for the expansion of pipelines, allowing clearcutting of our forests and the fouling and poisoning of our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans.
What can be done? A group called Extinction Rebellion has an interesting idea — that government create and be led by the decisions of a participatory Citizens’ Assembly. That is, a body formed by ordinary citizens to deliberate on issues of national importance.
A Citizens’ Assembly at the municipal level could go far in helping to implement the Green New Deal, a transformative set of reforms in Canada seeking to tackle the twin crises of climate change and economic inequality.
We, the citizens, cannot afford to sit on our hands. As 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg has said, “You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come. Act as you would in a crisis. Act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”