What Does a Green and Equitable Recovery from the Pandemic Look Like?

This spring, Third Age Barrie Life-Long Learning Association invited six leading lights in the fields of climate crisis solutions, anti-Black racism, sustainable infrastructure, political power and social justice to address this question. From April 27-June 1 the series “Crisis=Danger+ Opportunity” challenged the TAB audience to assess not only the dangers we have experienced during the pandemic but also to consider whether the pandemic created opportunities to address climate crisis, racism and social inequality.

Each of our speakers saw not only danger but opportunity as we recover from the current world-wide health crisis. David Miller provided inspiring examples of how the great cities of the world are “fixing the climate crisis” through the international organization C40. Julia Levin from Environmental Defence  pointed to the beneficial policies enacted by the Government of Canada (for example the carbon tax) and gave a critique of where current policies fall far short of what is needed (for example the estimated $18 billion in various supports still being provided to the fossil fuel industry). Neetika Sathe who heads up the Green Energy and Technology Centre at power company Alectra spoke about creating a smart, sustainable infrastructure to support a greener economy, and engaged our audience in several pop quizzes along the way.

Professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi from Ryerson University challenged us to look at anti-Black racism in Canada and put the Black Lives Matter movement into the context of the climate emergency. He was followed by Dr Michael Johns, a favourite among TAB audiences, who focused on the shifts in sovereignty from states to regional and municipal governments, and to international entities such as corporations, multi-lateral institutions and non-profits.

Senator Frances Lankin, a long-time advocate for social justice, closed off the series with “The Post-Pandemic Revolution.”  She identified how the pandemic has disproportionately hurt marginalized Canadians such as Indigenous people, people living in poverty, and women. On the other hand, it presents us with an opportunity to create a more equitable Canada by using what we’ve learned during the pandemic.

For the past year and a half, we have all been dealing with several interlocking crises. True to the Chinese symbol for Crisis we can either remain traumatized by the danger, or use this unique time to grasp new opportunities to create a greener, more equitable Canada. As Senator Lankin said, returning to pre-pandemic “normal” is not an option.

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