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Why Greenjobs Have the Power to Save the Planet

by December 23, 2016
filed under More FLURT

Mike Hudema is a climate campaigner for Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 40 countries. Mike’s role is in Alberta, Canada, focusing on tarsands and greenjobs. In his free time, he loves the outdoors and brunch. FLURT’s Editor-in-Chief Amanda Van Slyke spoke with Mike over email to talk about the future of the oilsands, how this will impact the rest of the world and how the increase of greenjobs can save both the economy and the environment.

A: How long have you been working for Greenpeace and what made you get started?
M: I started working with Greenpeace when we started the tarsands campaign in 2007. I came to Greenpeace because I was born and raised here in Alberta. I could see back then the damage the tarsands were already doing to the province and those were just the beginning stages. I felt in some ways that I needed to defend my home, so I left my job in San Francisco and came back to Alberta to do just that.

A: What is the unpublicized outlook on our climate and do you think people are taking climate change seriously enough?
M: We are in the midst of a global climate crisis and are perilously close to going past the point of no return. We’re already seeing the effects from larger and more ferocious wildfires, to more frequent floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events. The climate crisis is well upon us, and the question is: Will we act to confront it in time? Right now our governments aren’t doing enough. The science of climate change demands we rapidly shift away from fossil fuels, and we need our governments to finally get that message.

A: With the wildfires in Fort McMurray in 2016 and the 500+ million deficit, what is your knowledge of the state of Alberta’s tarsands? How does this affect the rest of Canada and the world?
M: Right now with the low price of oil, most projects in the tarsands that aren’t already under construction are on hold. If the price of oil goes back up we may see another rush to extract. Even with the low prices we’re seeing the industry push hard to get new pipelines built despite the wishes of local communities or the rights of First Nations along the route. The reality is that Canada can’t meet the climate targets it made in Paris if it allows new pipelines to be built or if the tarsands add another 30 million tonnes a year of carbon to the atmosphere. It’s time our governments dumped the pipeline pushing and sped the solar pushing, the wind energy pushing, the geothermal pushing and the pushing for energy systems that work for our communities and with our environment rather then against them.

A: Organizations like Iron and Earth in Alberta are giving oilsands workers jobs in the renewable sector in a time when their future in the industry looks bleak. Is this the shift we need to push Alberta and the rest of the world towards greenjobs?
M: Organizations like Iron and Earth are essential. We need more workers engaged in the conversation so we can support them and their families in the transition to renewables and ensure the jobs created are good jobs you can raise a family on. Alberta has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector – we just need the leadership and policies to make it happen.

A: How can people looking for work in Alberta and beyond get more information about training in the renewable energy sector?
M: Iron and Earth is a great place to start. They are actively trying to place workers in renewable energy jobs and ensuring that proper skill trainings are in place to help them do it. NAIT offers training courses in renewable energy, and solar companies like Grid Works energy offer 5-day trainings to give an electrician all the tools they need to make the solar jump. The fact is many workers already have the skills they need to work in a renewable industry, they just need support to make it happen.

A: What are some everyday ways people around the globe can work to improve the state of our climate?
M: There are lots of things that people can do to reduce their carbon footprint – from reducing the energy they use, to localizing their food supply, to ditching the car and grabbing the bike. But to make the type of change we need in the short time-line we have, we can’t wait for individuals to make it happen – we need government leadership. The best thing you can do to improve the state of our climate is to pressure your government to do just that. Whether that’s writing a letter, setting up a meeting and/or joining a protest, we need more of us pushing to turn this ship around and embrace the tremendous potential a move to renewable energy can bring.

A: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
M: Right now we’re running a campaign called Solar4All. Solar4All wants to see the government not only speed the move to solar but to prioritize community, First Nation and Metis ownership of those projects in the process. One of the most exciting things about solar is that it has the potential not only to power our communities and create tens of thousands of jobs, but done right it has the ability to change the energy dynamics in this province as well. We can move from an energy system ruled by a few energy companies to one where individuals, communities, First Nations and Metis settlements are the real power holders and producers. You can learn more about the campaign here.

Published in the Winter 2017 issue. Read the rest of the issue for FREE here.

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