Climate Abuse

Any day now, our prime minister will pronounce on the subject of the Frontier Project, a proposed oil sands mine—the largest of its kind in Canadian history—in northeastern Alberta. As I understand it, the project may be approved, not approved or approved with conditions. Recently, knowledgeable people have been opining that Trudeau may approve the project with conditions attached.

Yesterday, I saw an opinion piece, in the Guardian, the last paragraph of which reads as follows:

There’s obviously something hideous about watching the Trumps and the Putins of the world gleefully shred our future. But it’s disturbing in a different way to watch leaders pretend to care – a kind of gaslighting that can reduce you to numb nihilism. Trudeau, for all his charms, doesn’t get to have it both ways: if you can’t bring yourself to stop a brand-new tar sands mine then you’re not a climate leader.

You can read the piece for yourself here. Go ahead now, the better to understand this response.

The term “climate leader” struck me. Is Trudeau—is Canada—a climate leader or not? Climate leader or climate laggard?

In recent years, the word “climate” has come to be used in any number of two-word combinations wherein climate is the main thing around which the two-word construction is made. Thus, climate change, climate action, climate inaction, climate misinformation, climate emergency and so on. To this list, the Guardian piece by Bill McKibben, quoted above, adds climate crisis, climate leader and climate hypocrisy. Yes, climate hypocrisy!

The substance of the op-ed is that Trudeau is an hypocrite if he signs-off on the project. Yesterday, Greta Thunberg tweeted out the Guardian op-ed to great effect.

According to the CBC’s Aaron Wherry, “Amarjeet Sohi, the former federal minister of natural resources, recently suggested that Teck Frontier’s approval should be linked to a legislated limit on oilsands emissions and a plan from Alberta to help Canada get to net-zero by 2050.” Here’s Wherry’s full analysis. I’m not sure that approval with conditions is a half-loaf I’d want to eat.

Now’s the time for Trudeau to draw a line in the sand or, perhaps, tar. For the sake of the planet and for the sake of our children (and, perhaps, for the sake of Trudeau’s own legacy) the climate abuse must stop. So here’s my contribution to the “climate” list: climate abuse. (That’s in addition to climate laggard.) Climate abuse lies on a spectrum somewhere beyond climate inaction and climate neglect. Climate abuse.

Some time ago, my then-boss, Bishop Susan Johnson, invited our community to think of our planet as our near neighbour. Thus, to love our neighbour is to love not only those who inhabit our world but the world itself. Bishop Johnson challenged us to love our planet, to love our Earth.

To my mind we cannot love this planet while continuing to abuse it. Moreover, we cannot love this “fragile earth, our island home” (BCP, 1979) while contemplating and conjuring the mechanisms for new forms of lesser and greater abuse.

Mr. Trudeau, please be true to yourself and draw the line. Say “no” to the Frontier Project.

André +

André Lavergne writing from a settler-descendant’s home on the traditional lands of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples on the Haldimand Tract (1784). 

2 thoughts on “Climate Abuse”

  1. Great new phrase “climate abuse”. As stated in the CBC article, “For Teck Frontier to be viable, the price of oil will need to be close to $75 per barrel. The current price for West Texas Intermediate is $52.” Here’s hoping that mining that dirty oil will never be financially viable!


  2. I think labels like ‘left’ and ‘right’ are conveniences that maintain the status quo regardless of how one might vote. The questions that need to be asked in a democracy (and the latter shreds of democracy) are, as you so rightly say, does this protect the earth? Does this promote autonomous dissent so that the whole might learn from the parts? Does this distribute wealth all along the pipeline (so to speak.) I have no doubt this day will come. I have no doubt this day will come.


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