Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A green party

She did it! After 31 years of running on a mainly environmental platform, Elizabeth May was elected to the Canadian House of Commons last night. The Green Party partied in Saanich-Gulf Islands, and I would have loved to celebrate with other environmentally-aware people at her post-election celebration. I'd really like to predict that this is the start of a movement toward sensible environmental legislation, but unfortunately, the least environmentally-concerned of our political parties won a majority last night, and they're so busy trying to perpetuate our broken economic system that they just don't understand the importance of protecting our environment, or bother to try to see ways that Canada could be a world leader in alternate energy technologies and green employment possibilites that could build our economy and help save our planet.

I've been cheering for Elizabeth for a while now because she understands that the bottom line in politics should be developing policies that protect our environment. If strategic voting hadn't been so important in our riding (to keep our environmental lawyer opposition party member in parliament) I would have voted Green, as encouragement to them to keep on trying to get their message through. The Greens are a national party, moreso than the Bloc Quebecois, who run only in Quebec, and yet Elizabeth was barred from the televised national leaders' debate. In the end, although she was elected, support for the Greens slipped from 7% to 3%, likely because of strategic voters like me. Sorry, Liz!

It's not easy being green these days. On the one hand, the idea of green has been co-opted by a lot of businesses and organizations whose interest is not "saving the planet," but making more money through green-washing their products and services. If they pretend to be green enough, they win over people who aren't exactly green themselves, but would like to be "seen" as green. So everywhere we look, there are green products and green possibilities for almost anything, most of which only add to the waste and overuse of our environment's resources. On the other hand, those who want to bring the environment to the forefront of politics include a wide range of people, from sensible, practical deep thinkers and doers like Elizabeth May, to tree-hugging hippy types, to over-the-top activists who give the entire green movement a bad rap, and, unfortunately, fewer votes.

Today, although I'm glad that my environmental lawyer candidate was re-elected, I'm feeling saddened, disappointed, and somewhat disillusioned at the thought of another four years with our least environmentally concerned party running our country. But it's too late to do anything about the election now. Or is it?

Perhaps there are things that can be done to support Elizabeth in her work. Perhaps there are ways to make friends and neighbours aware of environmental issues going through parliament so that they can support environmentally conscious decisions. I could always renew my Sierra Club membership, as it seems to be a pretty level-headed environmental organization most of the time. And even though election signs are coming down, I could get a Green sign for my lawn to remind neighbours of the importance of thinking green all the time.

Mahatma Ghandi said we need to "be the change" we want to see. Since my new government isn't the right change yet, I guess it's up to me.

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