Why would anyone hate Catherine McKenna?
Maclean's magazine recently published an article analyzing the spate of hatred directed at the federal minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna. Since the adoption of a national carbon tax strategy by the federal Liberal government, Catherine has endured a tirade of angry tweets, hateful letters, and verbal assaults. She is now under the protection of a security detail following incidents in which her children were present. If you haven’t read the article I would highly encourage you to do so (even if you aren’t Canadian). Shannon Proudfoot, author of the piece, thoughtfully examines the cultural divide that is rending society in North America and speaks with several experts who provide insight into the vitriol that manifests in threats and abuse.
We are a divided society in many respects, and pressure from youth and concerned citizens to act on the present climate crisis has further segregated populations along geographic and socio-economic lines. National leaders have at best been ineffective at addressing the cultural turmoil and at worst have incited it. Comment sections for online publications are battle zones for people entrenched in their positions, hurling insults and accusations across the digital chasm. Occasionally those simmering tensions spill over into vandalism and violence, creating a charged atmosphere that further inflames fear amongst the masses.
Which brings us to the crux of the issue: fear. Shannon unveils fear as the root emotion behind those whose livelihoods and way of life are threatened by any possible action towards addressing the climate emergency. Conversely, fear is also the primary motivating factor among the youth whose very futures are endangered by the years of denial and inaction on the part of industries and governments. Considering that the two positions are diametrically opposed it is natural that those individuals representing each camp have developed blistering resentment of their ideological adversaries.
With all that said, we need not continue down our current path of societal degradation; there are other options. In his article, Geoff Dembicki writing for The Tyee examines a movement born in the heart of the Canadian petroleum kingdom of Alberta in which proponents from a range of businesses, non-profit groups, and research firms are advocating for a shift to an environmentally and financially sustainable economy. The same advanced skillsets that have enabled the fossil fuel industry to flourish for many years in Alberta are directly applicable to renewable energy and environmental reclamation industries. With the right investment from the federal and provincial governments, many of the workers affected by the recent downturn in the petroleum industry could immediately be put to work in ways that don’t directly conflict with the principles of conservation.
The separation of oil and state will require bold leadership on the part of political leaders, a quality that has been largely lacking in recent years. Few industries in the world have the financial means to influence national policies in the way that the petroleum industry does. However, the opportunity to create new, lasting jobs in fields that would create social harmony rather than corrosive animosity would likely propel a government to extraordinary popularity among the citizens it governs. The decision then stands between building a future for the people or setting a path for destruction on behalf of the cancerous industries who currently hold sway. The time to act grows short though as the climate crisis manifests in the rapidly progressing number of wildfires, droughts, and natural disasters impacting citizens around the globe, all while the cultural fissure grows ever wider.