Mobilizing for War
Mobilizing for War
Max Fawcett: Welcome – to Maxed Out – I’m Max Fawcett – lead columnist for Canada’s National Observer.
If you read my columns you know I have strong opinions about Canada politics, climate policy and just about anything else in Canada. My job, as I see it, is to point out errors, lies, and disinformation --- to help people understand what’s actually going on in their world, and see through the spin -- to the substance. Or, as George Orwell once said, “I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
That’s what this podcast is about. But like so many people, I’m frustrated by the lack of good manners and respect for differing opinions — especially on social media. I’m frustrated by the relentless partisanship and refusal to discuss things in good faith. In other words -- I’m maxed out. You probably are too.
That’s why, in this podcast, I’m going to be inviting people to talk with me about my columns and ideas. Even people who want to contradict me. This isn’t about picking fights, although I’m definitely guilty of that from time to time. Instead, it’s about helping all of us get outside of our silos, re-learn the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable -- and maybe finding some new common ground we didn’t know was there.
I hope you’ll join me twice a month – every other Tuesday – for a challenging conversation about issues you care about.
Max: Today, in our debut episode, Seth Klein joins me to talk about lessons from the second world war --- and how we might apply them to the fight against the climate emergency. Seth laid out that comparison between the fight against the fight against climate change and the fight against the Nazi’s in his 2020 book - A Good War – Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency. And I’ll be honest, it didn’t convince me at that time.
Back in 2021 I wrote a column that took issue with various aspects of it and I made the case that it was incrementalism that would win the climate fight. I’m still of that view, by and large, but I wanted to put some of those critiques and questions to Seth. And I appreciate his willingness to field them. That’s especially true since he didn’t know until about five minutes ago that he was going to be the first guest on this podcast.
So I applaud and appreciate his gameness and bravery and Seth Klein, welcome to Maxed Out.
Seth Klein: Hi, Max. I'm very honoured to be your debut guest.
Max: So I want to give everyone a bit of a bio. For those who don't know you, Seth is the team lead and director of strategy with the Climate Emergency Unit. Prior to that, he served for 22 years as the founding director of the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which is Canada's foremost social justice think tank. He is a freelance policy consultant, a speaker, a writer, a researcher. He's a columnist with the National Observer, where let's.
Seth: Not forget that.
Max: Let's not forget the most important part. An adjunct professor with SFU is Urban Studies Program. And for the purposes of this interview, I wanted to talk to Seth. He is the author of a book called A Good War Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency. This is a book that caught my attention when it was published.
Max: I found the argument really interesting. You know, I think definitely is something I disagreed with. I wrote a snotty post on my substack back when I had a substack.
Seth: Vaguely remember that mostly I got good reviews, but I remember you took issue with the metaphor, which is fine, of course.
Max: Well, we'll get into that in a little bit. And you know, caveat emptor, I think everyone's a little snotty on social media than they are in real life. And I think that probably applies double for me. But I appreciate you coming on here. We'll get into the book and the argument because I think it's really interesting conversation right now, just given where the climate debate, the climate policy sort of conversation is at.
Max: But I want to just quickly touch on a good war of a different kind that you were, I think, a close observer of in B.C., which was the leadership race for John Horgan's job, which I think everyone thought was going to go to David Eby, including David Eby, and instead was contested in a very spirited fashion by, I think, someone you've worked with quite a bit. Anjali Appadurai And obviously there was a bit of a bit of a fiasco from that.
News clips: Anjali Appadurai, David Eby.
Max: Can you just let us know, give us your sense from, from your perspective, what that was like and maybe what that means for the climate movement in British Columbia?
Seth: The NDP leadership race was really stressful for me. It's not just that I know both of these people, they are both my friends. Dave Eby has been a close friend for over 20 years and Anjali is also a good friend. I work with her now. She is a member of our team at the Climate Emergency Unit and took a leave in order to do well to do this quite courageous thing I think. And I feel very fondly in and I admire them both.
Max: You know, I'm curious if you think this gives a read into where the public is at, on the notion of a climate emergency and the notion of the need to really bring that into our politics, because it seems to me and again, from Alberta, obviously I have a bit of a jaundiced view of things, but it seems to me that that the degree of support that she got and the number of members she was able to sign up surprised a lot of people.
Seth: Surprised everyone it definitely surprised Dave Eby’s campaign. It surprised the party. It actually surprised me and Anjali’s campaign, I would say I mean, one of my fears before she decided to do this, because there was lots of chatter about should there be an outside candidate to carry the mantel of being a climate champion. And my fear privately is really that that someone would do this, honestly, would do this, and it would expose the weakness of the climate movement. That didn't happen. Quite the opposite.
Seth: By the way I would say it isn't just about the climate emergency. I think it's about a host of emergencies. I think whether it's the crisis in health care, the poison drug crisis, the housing crisis, the climate emergency crisis. We're kind of living at this in this time where it feels like our governments aren't meeting these crises at scale. And once she announced something quite extraordinary and organic occurred, you know, people keep pressing. I think thousands of people just signed up because the idea of somebody articulating that disconnect between what we're facing and what our politics seems prepared to do just led to a whole bunch of people saying, sign me up. And I regret the way she was disqualified. I obviously disagree. I disagree with the reasons the grounds on which she was disqualified. But also, I regret that we're not going to get the debate. I think the debate would have been healthy and that we needed it.
Max: Yeah. I mean, that's a really interesting point. Where does the climate movement, where does the BC NDP, where do they go now that that that debate has kind of been short circuited? You know, is it going to manifest itself in people moving to a different political party? Is there anything that Dave Abby can do to kind of almost play host to that conversation over the next little while to heal this this fracture or this rift that that sort of broke out in the party? Because it seems to me that in a weird way, as BC and Alberta go on climate things, so a lot of the country goes in sort of mirror image in a mirror image sense. So, what do you think is next in terms of that conversation and how it unfolds?
Seth: The short answer is I don't know. A bunch of it will depend on where DVB goes Now. On this. On this file. I do think that Anjali campaign moved Dave Eby. First of all, let me let me preface this by saying, as I said before, there's lots that I admire about Dave. And Dave is somebody who he hasn't been afraid to take on big, thorny problems and to invite the ire of powerful interests. And he's done that on housing and he's done that on some tax stuff, and he's done that with the police and with the trial lawyers when it came to reforming ICBC. But he hasn't done it on climate and he wasn't before all of this indicating a particular interest or openness to doing it on climate. But in the wake of all of this, he's now saying some things about climate that he wasn't saying before-- can't continue to have new fossil fuel infrastructure, to that point, that was welcome. So, I hope, you know, I hope he takes some of Angela's ideas. She had a very audacious and I think inspiring climate platform.
Seth: And. But whether or not, you know, these thousands of people who signed up, whether or not they stay or feel welcome, that will depend on him.
Max: I'm curious where you feel like the public is at now versus when you were writing your book on their openness to, to framing the issue in the sense of it being an emergency, a crisis, and needing the same sort of spirit of mobilization that you, you rightly point out that we managed to summon for ourselves during the Second World War. Are people more open to that kind of urgency than they were when you were first putting it together?
Seth: I think so. I think the terrain keeps shifting already. At the time that I was writing and I wrote the whole book in 2019, I was doing some polling work with Abacus for the for the book. And I think finding results that were already different from what would have been true, including in your province, by the way, two or three years earlier, that I think in the public psyche, the idea of the climate crisis or climate emergency being somewhere else sometime in the future to here to now, that was already occurring and that's only continued in the two years since. The irony of the timing of all of this is that I wrote the whole book before the pandemic, and then it was released into the pandemic and. You know, I thought that we needed this historic reminder of what it means to treat emergencies like real emergencies. And I had to excavate this 80-year-old story. And yet, at least in that first year of the pandemic, suddenly we all had this experience in real time of, oh, this this is what it looks and sounds and feels like when a government actually treats an emergency like an emergency. And that's changed, I think, the public zeitgeist as well.
Max: It has. It's interesting. I'm sort of two minds about this issue because, you know, on the one hand, I would say that the initial response to the pandemic gave me a lot of hope. You know, we really did pull together. We kind of there was a sense of social solidarity. I mean, I'm sure you remember the people banging their pots and pans. That was that was very heartening. And then as we've sort of grown more distant from, I think, the real initial thread of the pandemic, it feels like we're losing that buy-in aided and abetted by obviously bad faith actors and all sorts of other things that we're seeing at the public inquiry about the Emergencies Act right now. You know, I'm not sure I feel as optimistic as it sounds like you are about our ability to pull together in the name of a sort of common cause.
And I just want to read you something from my substack post and then ask you to respond to it, because I think it interacts with what happened during the pandemic. So I said, and this is in response to the just the metaphor of the response to climate change being like the Second World War.
Max: I said back then we were a glorified colony that had declared its independence from Great Britain in word, but not in deed, and one that felt an obvious affinity to the island that was so clearly under threat. And back then there was a sophisticated network of government propaganda that carefully managed our attitudes towards Nazi Germany and fed our fear of its growing influence. Today, the propagandists are working on the other side of the issue, and they've spent so long ceding the fields of tax policy and climate science that it may be impossible to even come close to the kind of consensus that underwrote the war effort, much less replicating it when we can't even agree on the enemy. How on earth are we ever going to unite against it, much less in the numbers needed to create the kind of enduring political coalition in a democracy that could implement such aggressive changes. So, I'm curious what you think of that critique of the metaphor that we simply lack, number one, the sense of solidarity around this issue. But number two, we are facing a threat, especially on the informational side that is in a lot of ways way more sophisticated than the Nazis ever were.
Seth: Well, there's a lot there, Max. So, first of all, none of these metaphors are perfect. But where I would push back is this. Lots of people look back at that, the beginning of World War Two period, and they think we had so much more social solidarity than we had so much more social cohesion. There was, you know, the government declared war and everyone was ready to rally and everyone was united. None of that is true.
Seth: First of all, we were not a socially cohesive society. In fact, in terms of economic inequality, when you look at inequality as measured by the share of income going to the top 1%, and you look at that going back the last 100 years, the maximum year of inequality is 1938, the year before the war. So, we didn't enter the war with all this social cohesion. The social solidarity was forged in the doing. But right up until the 11th hour, I mean, we had thousands of Nazis sympathizers marching in the streets in Canada. So it took leadership to get the public united behind this and the creation of the social solidarity that did come to exist in the Second World War wasn't just an accident. It took work.
And, in fact, one, I want to make this point in relation to something you wrote recently about profit, about profits, and what the response should be to corporate profits and inflation and that kind of thing, because it actually relates to all of this. Back to your earlier example about the pandemic. So, at the beginning of the pandemic, people talked about how we are all in this together. But then it turns out we weren't all in this together, that some people were taking a big hit and other people were making out like bandits.
And we saw this extraordinary profiteering over the last two years, both to wealthy individuals and to corporations. The same is true in World War One. I would argue that in World War One, part of why we had the conscription crisis is that at the same time as people were being urged to enlist other people, there was rampant and grotesque profiteering that undermined social solidarity, that undermined recruitment. And so, at the beginning of the Second World War, the Mackenzie King government was acutely aware of this and quite resolved to not repeat that. And so, what did they do? They brought in the first major income transfers of the modern era. Unemployment insurance comes into the war, the family allowance comes in the war. They also significantly increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations. They brought in an excess profits tax. So, the kind of profiteering that we have seen in this pandemic and in World War One was illegal in the Second World War. That's how you communicate that real social solidarity that we are indeed in this together. That's how you mobilize the whole of a society. So, I actually think there are really important and useful lessons in that story if we're going to get serious about climate mobilization today.
Max: So that's the first concern. And the first bone that I had to pick was of substance around the metaphor. And I think you've engaged with that really, really nicely and fairly. The other one I have is, is sort of a little more tactical and it relates to how much people are willing to prioritize climate issues. So, you know, I think and you obviously have a very rich background in terms of polling and working with polling data. I'm sure you've seen that when you ask people do they care about the climate, is it an important issue for them? They say yes, but when you ask them to rank it, especially in the context of an election cycle or a political choice they to make, it rarely makes its way to the top of the ballot. You know, I'm thinking of the 2021 election where it was three weeks into it. They did a big sort of issue spread and I think it was fifth or sixth and it was way below inflation, jobs, the economy. And it feels like it is forever being sort of subservient or subsumed by these sort of broader economic anxieties that we have. So how do we people who care about climate policy, people who want to see the best possible things put forward, how do they do that in the context of a political environment that doesn't seem to want to put them at the top of people's pecking order?
Seth: It's true, as you say, that even when climate ranks very high among people's concerns, their immediate economic anxieties and insecurities always rank ahead.. And so, part of what, you know, the argument I make throughout the book is that we can't ask people to choose. We can't ask people to prioritize this emergency ahead of the other emergency in their life. We have to combine them. And I think you see that reflected in; I would call it Green New
Deal-esque polling. So, you know, in the polling I did with Abacus, you pull people about their support, about a whole bunch of what I would describe as real bold climate action. And it and you get really positive results, including in Alberta. But then if you ask them, well, would your support for that go up or down, that bold climate action if we linked it with increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporation on income support for low-income people, on a good jobs guarantee for fossil fuel workers, the support for the bold climate action doesn't go down. It goes through the goddamn roof once you marry the two together.
Seth: The other, more complicated stuff that comes out of the polling is that while the public is increasingly alarmed about climate, the basic level of climate literacy, if you will, is very poor. And only about half of the public correctly identifies the main source of global warming to be the combusting of fossil fuels. And so when you press people on it and you say, well, are you worried about climate? Yes. Do you think our government should be doing more? Yes. Well, what do you think they should be doing? And they go right to recycling and plastics, because that's what's drummed over our heads for the last few decades. And if you are a government, you know, including a progressive government, like a Notley government or a Horgan government or a Trudeau government, you can make a lot of mischief with that. When the when the literacy is that low, I would say you can kind of tell people that you're doing something and that you're serious about this even when you aren't or are doing contradictory things. Because the very same people who will tell you I'm really worried about climate will also say I'm fine with the expansion of fossil fuels because half of them don't understand how they're connected.
Max: Yeah, I guess I'm curious about your perspective on incrementalism versus want to compare it to anything, just your perspective on incrementalism. I think certainly in the book it comes under a little bit of fire. And I think certainly your critique of the Notley and Horgan government would I assume, be that they are too incrementalist in their approach to this issue. is there is there more value in a kind of incrementalist approach, especially in a place like Alberta or B.C., than maybe you were willing to give credit for in the book?
Seth: I don't think so. I'm trying to be guided here by the numbers. And basically, we have been guided by an incrementalist approach for the last 20 years. And what that has accomplished is a flattening of our greenhouse gas emissions. But we have fundamentally failed to bend the curve.
Seth: And so, when I look at those numbers, you know, the quote I sometimes use from Bill McKibben is to win slowly on climate is to lose. So that's part of my critique, is that the approach simply hasn't been working. But I guess I'm also pulling something else from the wartime story in that is that the main approach we've taken, it's not merely that it's incrementalist, it's that we've been trying to incentivize our way to victory.
Seth: So, we send price signals. We encourage, we offer incentives, we offer rebates, we offer tax cuts. The latest with the fiscal update. It's more this it's all premised around investment tax credits. And let me be clear, those will all have some benefit. But not at the speed and scale required. When you are actually trying to achieve speed and scale like we now need to do with climate, you cannot merely incentivize the private sector to do what needs doing. You have to spend what it takes to win. You have to create brash new institutions and crown corporations to get the job done. You have to move from voluntary to mandatory measures, speak the truth, and commit to leave no one behind. I'm convinced that's when we'll start to see the curve bend. The way the science tells us it has to bend.
Max: There was an interesting report recently from the Alberta Federation of Labor that talked a little bit about creating new institutions and having public ownership in in any investments that government makes in in the energy transition here in Alberta. I thought....
Seth: I reviewed it.
Max: You did? What did you think?
Seth: There was lots there that I liked. And in particular, they are embracing of the role of new Crown Enterprises. I still think they're a little stuck trying to figure out how we reimagine the oil and gas sector without any loss of employment. And I don't think that's realistic. And I do find that it's interesting of all of the provincial Federation of Labor Leaders, it is it is yours in Alberta, Gil McGowan, who speaks more most forthrightly with his own members about what the realities of the climate transition are going to mean.
Max: He does. And I think one of one of the strengths of his approach is that he's willing to say the part that I think even the New Democrats here are not, which is that even under the status quo, there are going to be thousands of jobs lost in the oil and gas industry. That that is a that is those job losses are a function of technology, of the sort of the transition that the industry is going through. It is not attributable to climate policy or federal intrusion or anything else. And if you start from the premise that you're already losing a lot of jobs, especially blue-collar jobs, you know, it's an uncomfortable conversation, but at least to your point, it's more honest.
Seth: I just want to double back to your earlier your earlier question, like part of. What I find frustrating in the current approach the centerpiece climate policy that we have federally and provincially remains carbon pricing. And I'm a supporter of carbon pricing and I think it will have some impact, but it doesn't offer that hopeful counteroffer and there's nothing in, it speaks about cost and sacrifice without opportunity. It doesn't create a political constituency that will go to the barricades for anything. And as you've also recently written about, it can be easily undone by a future conservative government in a way that the kind of deep investments that we need in climate infrastructure can't be undone.
Max: I mean, I think if you gave policymakers, certainly the politicians, a truth serum and you said you can go back and change one thing about climate policy over the last eight years, what would it be? I think they would say we would not put all our eggs in the carbon pricing basket. I think the business community pretended that they would go along with that because that was the thing that was most favorable to them. And then when it was put forward, they withdrew their support.
I think if you if you were to do it over again, you would do what Mark Jacquard from SFU had suggested, which was much more of a regulatory approach. It's what the Americans just did under the Biden administration, because regulations aren't visible. They don't show up in your gas bill. They aren't they aren't politically vulnerable to attack the way obviously the carbon tax is. And, you know, you don't get a sense that anyone who's defending the carbon tax at a political level has any joy in it.
Seth: Well, but also, like if you compare it to the Biden approach, the Biden approach is going to create whole constituencies of workers and communities invested in these new alternatives, including in a whole bunch of red states. We're not getting that.
Max: No. And, you know, like you say, the problem with the carbon tax is that it there's not a straight line between the carbon tax and their life being better. And you look at the United States and just the United States Department of Energy's loans office where Jigar Shah has, I think, $300 billion that he can spend on projects across the country that are it means it's going to it's going to transform entire industries.
Seth: And well not only that, not only that, my point about the war metaphor that I was trying to make earlier is emergencies need to look and sound and feel like emergencies. And they should invite us as a society to join in some grand undertaking together. There is nothing about carbon pricing that does that. And when I've engaged with federal political leaders on this question. But my question remains, where is the grand invitation to society at large to roll up its sleeves and meet this moment with you? Because I'm not hearing it.
Max: Yeah. I mean, I think that's a fair criticism. A lot of I think a lot of the politics is driven by an unwillingness to go any further than they think the public is, has already been willing to go. Like they there's not a lot of certainly politicians in government who want to stick their necks out far enough to push the needle in the direction that I think you suggest it needs to be pushed because the polling isn't there. The you know, the data, their experience doesn't support this sort of approach in large part because they weren't around for the Second World War. They didn't they never experienced anything like this. So, they have no frame of reference for it.
Seth: Well, exactly. And you know, every politician I interviewed for my book and I interviewed quite a lot of them, and I was only interested in interviewing politicians who claimed to get the emergency. And yet every one of them said some variation of what you just said. You know, you've got to meet the public where they're at and they're not there yet. So, the main reason I, I commissioned the poll with Abacus was to test if that was true. And I think I found that it wasn't true that in fact, they were not giving the public enough credit in terms of their not eagerness, but at least their willingness to do much to be much bolder on this front than we've seen. But back to my war metaphor, the thing in the end that we admire about these political leaders we read about in our history books and so on, is that they didn't meet the public where they were at. They took the public where they needed to go. That, in the end is a that core quality of leadership that we look for in moments of emergency is to both be forthright with the public about the severity of the threat, even when it's hard to say and yet still impart hope and rally us that we can confront it. And that's been missing so far.
Max: Yeah, I think I sort of appalled at how much I am agreeing with you here. But I think you're right that one of the sort of failures of climate policy and climate politics has been we've only really framed it as it won't cost you much or, you know, the rebates will offset the cost. So you'll be you'll come out even and no one gets excited about even no one gets excited about, well, I won't be hurt that badly. They need something that says, yeah, I'm going to have to make a few sacrifices, but boy, look at what we're going to accomplish together.
Seth: So, in the war, population 11 million Canadians, over a million of them enlist, 64% of them under the age of 21. They couldn't even vote yet. They left their farms; they deferred their university studies. They delayed their careers because they understood the emergency to be in the here and now. I am convinced that there are tens of thousands of young people out there today who are just waiting for that invitation to meet this moment and would defer their futures to do so in just the same way. And yet we haven't made the invitation to them.
Seth: But the other the other piece of this to bring it back to our earlier conversation is how important social solidarity is to that mobilization and conversely, how toxic inequality is to that mobilization. And this comes back to what we're seeing in this inflationary period when corporate profits are at an historic high, when the share of GDP today going to corporate profits is now exceeding 20%, never before. You know, that's more than double what it was in the last inflationary period of the seventies.
Seth: It is very hard to mobilize a society to act together in that context, which is why, again, not only has the grand invitation not been made, it's why bringing in something like an X, like a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies or the retailers or whoever is profiteering in the present is in fact so important to galvanising the public and the mobilization that has to happen. It's how we re-signal. We are, in fact, in this together. I guess the other key takeaway here is both in the war and in the present, is that we're if we're hoping to voluntarily achieve this through the goodwill of folks like that, we're probably fried. And the good news is, with the windfall profits tax, we have a perfectly good policy for accomplishing this, staring us in the face.
Max: I mean, I think it's interesting, you know, the federal government just put in a very modest tax, I think 2% on stock buybacks that that takes effect in 2024. And there was a piece in the Calgary Herald about how outraged everyone in the business community was and how this was stupid and it was going to dry up investment and just the usual arguments you see about any policy that tries to put any sort of damper on this sort of behavior. But I guess I am sympathetic to the elected officials who are a bit gun shy here just because the disproportionality in in the response on one side versus the response on the other, I think has kind of trained them in a certain way to react to bold policy with fear rather than with a sense of courage.
Seth: Well, that kind of reaction, even to a modest thing like the tax on the buybacks or share buybacks isn't itself new. To invoke another reference from the time of my book. Fdr said of reactions like that. Sometimes you just have to welcome their hate.
Max: Well, I think I would hope that the federal government is doing that. You know, I think that's definitely the right approach. I'm wondering if you have any advice for Rachel Notley and the NDP as they as they look ahead to an election hopefully in May of next year. But theoretically, it could be a year after that if Danielle Smith decides to break the Election Laws Act or the Fixed election Date Act, You know, they're polling ahead. They're polling ahead in Calgary. They need you know, everyone, including me, has come to the conclusion that they have to win in Calgary to win the election. Calgary identifies itself as an oil and gas town still. I that definition is evolving. I think there's certainly fewer people who sort of stridently define it as an oil and gas town, but it really is still colors a lot of the politics here. What advice would you give her in terms of winning the next election and talking about this stuff in a way that that motivates the right number of people?
Seth: It's a tough position to be in. But first of all, I would say what I see in the polling is that the political terrain of 2022 or 2023 is different from 2015. That and I think for those of us outside Alberta, we too often paint Alberta with a broad brush and let the UCP define its political culture. I don't see that at the polling. I see a much more nuanced society with a lot of people who are increasingly anxious about climate, and I wish I would say to Rachel Notley the same as I'm saying to any political leader, including Davey B or John Horgan in my own province, trust people that they can hear the truth. Honor them with the truth. But it needs to be in a in a credible way that recognizes that nobody is saying we have to turn off the taps tomorrow on the oil and gas sector. But I am certainly saying that it does need to be wound down. It's in its last couple of decades and it will be in a period of decline.
Seth: And that is the truth. But if we are prepared to get serious about meeting this moment, spending what it takes to win, creating new crown entities and public corporations to get the job done, there is every reason to believe that we can have as many jobs. They will never create the same salaries and income as oil and gas. That won't ever happen again. There's a reason why those corporations were the most profitable in human history, and renewables will never function the same way. Because once you make an investment, you know, nature continues to provide sun and wind without a monthly fee. And so as Social Democrats, I think you say, It's okay. You don't need to make as much money because certain things that have occupied your concerns about affordability. You know, your kid's post-secondary education, your kid's childcare, your parents old age home. We're going to do more of those things together. We're going to pay for more of those things together. And so, we can still have a good life here that provides plenty of stability and hope for your kids, but that ensures that we're on a path where your kids and grandkids aren't going to live in a hellscape. That'd be my advice.
Max: And I think it's fantastic advice. I think that is what is often missing in the conversation about climate and policy here in Alberta, is that it is it is always framed as cost and it is always framed in sort of oppositional terms of here are the winners and here are the losers. You know, I remember when I was with the Climate Change office and, you know, we would talk to folks who had worked in the oil and gas industry and had transitioned away from it. And almost invariably they were happier. They always made less money always. But it didn't matter to them because that's.
Seth: A really interesting point.
Max: They were with their family more. They weren't working in these remote camps. They weren't isolated. You know, the camp culture can be pretty unpleasant. sometimes They got to work in their own communities and they got to work in an industry where they weren't being criticized for causing a tremendous problem. So, you know, there's a narrative there. There's an optimistic and hopeful message that doesn't need to just be, well, we're going to do oil and gas, but we're going to do it better.
Seth: I love that. I love that. And actually, let me let me offer this of the various war metaphors, one of the ones that I found the most hope in was the metaphor of what we did for returning soldiers as an example of just transition for fossil fuel workers. The job of transition, the task, particularly in provinces like yours, is huge. But to put it into some perspective, across Canada, there's about 300,000 people who are directly employed in the fossil fuel industry. They're highly concentrated in your province. That's a lot of people that we need to make a compelling offer to. But as I said earlier, in the war, from a population less than a third, what we are today, over a million of them enlisted, over a million of them were directly employed in military production. They all had to be recruited and trained up and six years later they all had to be reintegrated into a peacetime economy. We did that with the creation of these audacious programs of income support and housing support and post-secondary training programs that basically doubled the size of the post-secondary sector in Canada and changed the lives of thousands of people. The task today is actually not as great. And if we could have done that, then we can do it again.
Max: I think that's a wonderful spot to leave it off on. Thank you again for being my inaugural guest on this podcast. It's not an easy task. I think you nailed it with well, you nailed it. And I feel like I should have been a little more disagreeable. I'll have to work on that next time. But I know you've moved me, I think, a lot closer to your position than I thought I'd get. So, hats off to you. and thank you. for the work that you do.
Seth: Thanks for this opportunity, Max.
Max: Maxed Out is produced by Canada’s National Observer. Our Managing Producer for
Podcasts is Sandra Bartlett. Associate producer Zahra Khozemi.
Karyn Pugliese is our editor in chief and our publisher is Linda Solomon Wood.
I’m Max Fawcett. See you in two weeks.
Should we treat the climate emergency like a war? Seth Klein thinks so. In his book A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency he lays out a comparison between the Second World War and the Climate Crisis. He argues that we can't win the war unless we work together like we did in the war against the Nazis. Max Fawcett challenges that idea.
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