Friday, December 9, 2011

Words with Minister Kent

The temptation for cynicism is lurking everywhere. I feel its desire to embrace me. I hear its sneer. It taunts my faith. It seems particularly attracted to politics.

But as the People of God, we are aligned to a different force. We are empowered by faith in the Spirit of God able to speak into the deep recesses of the human heart. This faith is able to hold back cynicism.

I claimed its power as Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada and I met with Hon Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister. I was glad for its resource. It provides a framework to view conversations differently.

The Minister continued to articulate Canada’s view that the Kyoto Protocol needed to be replaced by a new legally binding agreement for all major emitters. He explained Canada’s commitment to regulating the oil sand industry and the shared prosperity the industry provides: funding international aid, clean energy projects, social safety networks and advancing health care.

We asked if he were to speak to our youth and young adults how he might explain Canada’s position from a moral, biblical or social justice point of view. We asserted that if Canada were to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol our integrity would be jeopardized.

It was clear in our discussion that Minister Kent is trying to balance the two values of guarding Canada’s economy and the undeniable necessity to provide real impact in reducing Canada’s emission levels. This is not an easy task. I felt sorry for him. It was clear that the Minister understood the seriousness of climate change.

I kept hearing the pleading voices of the small island states. Their sense of doom has been impossible to ignore.

But it is in these pleas that I found myself understanding Minister Kent’s dilemma. I recognised how important tourism has been for these small islands. Part of their development has been the result of our affluent consumption. Our flights and cruises have directly contributed to their economy and their ruin. Kent’s dilemma is our dilemma too.

I am grateful that Minister Kent welcomed more dialogue. Maybe the call for dialogue is a cry of a heart wanting to find a stronger way forward. Perhaps it is a profound recognition that as we face this common dilemma together we will both find deliverance.

Cynicism promises relief for those fatigued by apparently unproductive dialogue. But it is a false relief. It leaves the yearning for change unfulfilled. Faith pulls us out from despair and offers a hope that is based on the activity of God – an action not limited by the dialogue. Faith invites us to pray for the deliverance of both the powerful and the powerless. This is our calling. This is our mandate. May we be faithful.


  1. surely there is a difference between cynicism and discernment (?)

  2. Elizabeth May says, "I like Peter Kent as a person. He is extremely kind in many ways," (and she may, and he may be); and Mardi Tindal says, "minister Kent convinced me yesterday that he understands the science," (the best that can be said is that there is a possibility that he himself thinks he does); and you say, "It was clear that the Minister understood the seriousness of climate change," (ditto).

    It may not be polite or forbearing or even civilized of me to side with Justin Trudeau on Peter Kent, but I do. You know what he said and I won't repeat it here for fear of being prevented.

    The science I read, including the latest from Jim Hansen, tells me that CO2e emissions must level off by 2015 to avoid 2+ degrees of warming.

    While you congratulate yourself for not sneering? I'm sorry Willard, but it doesn't wash. Please feel free to sneer at me - let some steam off.

    Be well.

  3. I agree that more needs to be done and that we do not have time to waste. My question is; how can we create quicker momentum? It seems to me that governments will require a strong, popular, grass roots, mass movement in order to generate the massive changes that are needed. How can such a movement be developed?

    1. Willard,

      There is an excellent chapter in a recent book by (an eminent Canadian scientist) Peter Sale 'Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face' - Chapter 5: The Problem of Shifting Baselines, that does as good a job as I have seen on explaining why there is no mass movement in k-k-Canada; and there was another book a year or so ago 'Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change' by Clive Hamilton.

      I will meet you on the steps of wherever it is that they are holding the Gateway hearings and we can stage a hunger strike, that might get something started - and if you think I'm bluffing then please, by all means, call my bluff - but do it by email because I do not pass this way very often. DavidLeeWilson [at]

      be well, David Wilson.