On Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m., prominent Canadian activists Stephen Lewis and David Suzuki will speak at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) as part of their Climate First tour. This national tour’s Winnipeg event is presented in conjunction with the Axworthy Distinguished Lecture Series.
Lewis, a long-time politician, diplomat and humanitarian who has been an activist for numerous causes such as HIV/AIDS in Africa, explains the importance of this speaking tour.
“I don’t feel that anything I’ve ever been involved in is as important and as crucial as the battle against climate change,” he says.
“The difference is that this is a struggle for the survival of the planet,” Lewis says. “We’re in a tremendously difficult moment.” He says that the upcoming federal election is the most important in his lifetime.
“Canada is falling behind, and we hope to energize large numbers of young people to get involved in the campaign and to go out and vote.”
Suzuki, a well-known scientist and environmental activist, says “you can’t argue, as our (federal) government has, that in order to afford to reduce our emissions, you have to expand the tar sands and build pipeline in order to get revenue.”
Even though the scientific evidence surrounding climate change has been conclusive for many years, Suzuki says governments have been unwilling to act since “the targets were and are still beyond politics and political vision.
“Politicians tend to think from one election to the next. So, they’re very reluctant to embark on a 15-year program that is going to take a lot of money upfront in order to make a big saving at the end.”
Lewis notes, however, the non-partisan nature of the Climate First tour.
“We’ve simply said to the audience: we simply want you to vote for climate champions, for candidates who have put climate at the top of the agenda,” he says.
Both Suzuki and Lewis have a positive message and agree that young people are crucial in the fight against climate change.
“We’re hoping to galvanize young people,” Suzuki says. “The fact that these big demonstrations are youth-driven gives me a great deal of hope,” referring to the worldwide climate strikes and marches.
“The hope lies with the young people,” Lewis echoes.
He points out that the U of W and Lloyd Axworthy, former president and vice-chancellor of the university after whom the lecture series is named, had a long history of being at the forefront of humanitarian activism.
“There’s something particularly appropriate for one of the great social justice issues of the age – climate change – being pursued in a forum where other great social issues have been pursued and, in fact, achieved,” Lewis says.
Suzuki and Lewis will be joined by Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq lawyer, professor and activist.
For more information about this event, visit netcommunity.uwinnipeg.ca/foundation/axworthy-lecture.