Blog | October 23, 2012

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - On sunny days in Germany, about half the country�s power comes from solar panels.In China, about 250 million people get their hot water heated by solar panels on roofs.Those examples of large scale renewable energy show there�s no lack of technology but �a lack of political will� to move away from a fossil-fuel based economy, says Bill McKibben, a longtime American environmental activist fighting climate change and the proposed Keystone pipeline to the U.S. Gulf coast.Meanwhile, this summer, the U.S. had its first experience of temperatures too warm to grow food in the Midwest, a sign of what�s to come as the world warms up, he said.McKibben, author of 15 books including the End of Nature, has been fighting climate change for 25 years, but the battle goes back much longer. In 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof and Ronald Reagan took them down, he noted.But meanwhile, big oil has become the richest industry on the planet and has �oversized� political influence.�We are re-writing environment laws to make it harder to challenge bad practices by oil companies,� said McKibben, referring the Harper government�s legislation that gutted the federal Fisheries Act and exempted all but a few dozen lakes in Canada from environmental protection.McKibben noted he spent his boyhood years in Toronto and went to the same schools as Stephen Harper.McKibben said he sees signs of push back in Canada � the protests in British Columbia this week called �Defend Our Coast� against the oil tankers that will come with the Northern Gateway pipeline as well as a rally to support First Nations opposed to Shell Oil�s Jack Pine expansion in Fort McMurray.The transition to a low carbon economy can only start when countries put a reasonable price on carbon, forcing producers and consumers to pay for the pollution for fossil fuels. At that point, renewable energy will look much more attractive.While reducing carbon emissions is expensive, �it�s a bigger economic calamity if we don�t,� he added.McKibben, who will speak at the University of Alberta faculty St. Jean Wednesday night, will later head to Ottawa for Powershift, a grassroots meeting of young people to learn advocacy skills and push for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.Kathryn Lennon, working Public Interest Alberta and an organizer of Powershift, says the Ottawa meeting will help people imagine �creative alternatives� and get beyond the economy versus the environment battle.

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal
[email protected]This article was published in the Edmonton Journal on October 23, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.