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Vancouver names Oct. 24 Climate Action Day

“Why is green so white?” asked architect David H. T. Wong at Vancouver’s City Hall today. He was there to mark Oct. 24 as “Climate Action Day” around the world, with 3,800 events expected to take place in 160 countries.

Leaders of B.C.’s largest ethnic communities were on hand to speak out in favour of climate action.

Wong, a sustainability advocate in his practice, made an appeal to leaders in the Chinese community to stand up and “have some backbone” in the fight against global warming.

The goal of mobilizing on October 24 is to urge world leaders to take action on climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference that will take place from December 7-18 in Copenhagen.

Speakers at City Hall connected the dots between climate change and extreme weather events, like the ongoing series of typhoons in the Philippines, where another storm is expected to hit this evening, as well as to war and displacement, as in the case of Darfur.

“It is not fair that people in Africa and Darfur have to suffer and die, and their cultures are disappearing, because our world leadership has refused to take action to reverse this trend,” said Dr. Clement Apaak, vice-chair of the United African Communities of BC.

So, back to Wong’s question. Why is green so white?

City councilor George Chow took a stab at it, explaining that while most immigrants to Canada are focused on economic betterment, provincial and federal governments in B.C. have sent a message that green measures will hurt working people.

The provincial and federal governments “have always made it that having a greener agenda for our economy is going to cost us, it’s going to affect your jobs, you’re going to be living poor, and all that. And I think that’s wrong,” said Chow.

“The whole green agenda is about sharing of limited resources on this planet,” he said. “The green issue is going to affect us all.”

Vancouver Kingsway MLA Mable Elmore, a Filipina-Canadian, made the link between carbon emissions and the pine beetle epidemic in B.C.’s forests, as well as the province’s dwindling salmon population.

“Local government and provincial government need to send a strong message to the federal government to get back on track to address the urgent issue of climate change,” said Elmore.

“The Liberal government has slashed the budget for environmental protection, they’ve cut the climate action secretariat, and they’re trying to lift the ban on coastal oil drilling,” she said. Elmore noted that once implemented, the HST would eliminate existing provincial sales tax exemptions on energy efficient products.

Though Indigenous people across Canada are among those most affected by climate change, no First Nations representative was present at today’s press conference.

Organizers from Oxfam Canada and the Climate Action Network extended an invitation to Vancouverites to participate in the Bridge to a Cool Planet event taking place this Saturday. Activities include a march across the Cambie Street bridge, live bands, salsa and bhangra dancing as well as an eco-fair at Science World.

Dawn Paley is a Vancouver based journalist and editor with The Dominion.

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