June 19th, 2024

Failure not an option in climate battle

By Letter to the Editor on June 12, 2021.

Still reeling from the ravages of the First World War, the 1929 financial crash, and the Great Depression, the Canadian economy of 1939 was in the ditch: industry on life support, agriculture impoverished, shipbuilding comatose, unemployment at a runaway 17 per cent, national treasury empty, military feeble, political system futile.
Yet by the Second World War’s end in 1945, as described by Seth Klein in his recent important book “A GOOD WAR: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency,” 1,100,000 Canadians had served in the Canadian Armed Forces, 10 per cent of the total national population.
Unemployment had vanished in an urgent need for more workers for factories, fields, shipyards, schools, hospitals and every other sector.
On the home front 900,000 men, women and children had produced over 800,000 military transport vehicles, 50,000 tanks, 40,000 field navy and aircraft guns, two million small arms, and 750 cargo and naval ships.
Klein eloquently describes that mobilization, one of the finest episodes in Canadian history.
We did our part in the vast international effort to overcome the perilous threat to western society from the totalitarian fascist juggernaut sweeping through Europe and Asia.
I can attest to the truth of Klein’s account. I lived through it. My entire community, my schoolmates, and every member of my family contributed.
My brother in the navy and cousin in the air force were among the 44,000 Canadians who made the supreme sacrifice.
In 1971 parliamentarian Tommy Douglas recalled “In 1939 we took a million men and women and put them in uniform. We fed and clothed and armed them.”
“The rest of the people of Canada went to work. We manufactured things that had never been manufactured before.”
“We gave our farmers and fishermen guaranteed prices and they produced more food than we had ever produced in peace time.”
” We built the third largest merchant navy in the world and manned it. And did it all without borrowing a single dollar from outside Canada. We did our part to win the war.”
In 1945 Canada did not subside into its sorry prewar state. Canadians had united in common cause to remake their national economy, retool industry, and transform the workforce. They paid off their wartime Victory Bond debts to one another, then refinanced through Canada Savings Bonds in order to develop massive new national infrastructure – railways, highways, seaports, communications.
Canada emerged from a marginal outpost into an industrial powerhouse on the international scene.
Now Klein is among those urging a similar national mobilization to do our part in countering an existential threat to the survival of our species. This time there is no human military enemy to defeat. Instead we face the daunting task of rapid re-engineering from malignant once only fossil fuels to benign continuing sources of energy.
There are two very high barriers to overcome. One is the enormously successful half century long disinformation campaign waged by the powerful fossil fuel industries. The other is our own negligent apathy.
In November 2019 11,000 scientists from 153 nations broadcast dire warning of the current existential threat.
The industrial nations of Europe and Asia are already far ahead of us in the emergency re-engineering so that organized human society can continue to survive.
Failure is not an option.
Owen Holmes

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