The Canadian oil and gas and cattle industries are under fire at schools across Canada. Climate activist Steve Lee is taking aim at fossil fuel and meat consumption as part of his crusade to turn students into fellow activists.
Lee’s crusade, known as the 3% Project, is funded in part by green groups like Environmental Defence and Equiterre, which are part of the ongoing campaign to landlock Alberta oil backed by major U.S. foundations.
Lee, 25, is a United Nations policy advocate and the founder of the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship and the 3% Project. His website notes that “Steve is personally trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader” and that he studied physiology and biology at the University of Toronto.
His goal is to hold assemblies at 600 Canadian schools by 2020, launch 110 local projects to reduce carbon emissions, and cultivate 20 youth advocates, the next Greta Thunbergs of this children’s crusade, one presumes. Lee has already spoken at dozens of student assemblies at high schools in Edmonton, Calgary and across Canada.
As part of his message, Lee has criticized fracking for oil and gas, pushed for less meat eating, questioned pipelines on Indigenous lands, and called for an end to investment in oil companies from sovereign wealth and pension funds.
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He wants one million young people, three per cent of the Canadian population, to sign his 3% commitment pledge: “I am more certain that climate change is happening right now, that it is mainly caused by human activities, and that we’re the final generation who can solve it.”
Of course, there’s no issue with anyone pushing for lower carbon emissions. I also like the direction of this pledge.
But we should take great issue with some of Lee’s rhetoric, with his critique of our major industries, and with some of his ill-advised and trendy remedies.
I tried for a week to get an interview with Lee, but no luck. If he shows up at your Edmonton school, here’s my list of questions, ones that young critical thinkers might well ask of him:
- Do you want to landlock the oilsands? Are you aware that if we can’t export Canadian oil this will have no impact on climate change, as world demand will be met by the United States, as well as by various dictatorships with atrocious human and women’s rights?
- Are you aware that fossil-fuel use is the main driver that has pulled billions of people out of poverty and into prosperity?
- You warn of a “possible apocalypse” and have said that “we burn greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so much that it’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs blowing up into the atmosphere every single day… That’s an insane amount of energy.” Apocalypse? Hiroshima? Why use such fearsome and unrelated imagery to describe fossil fuel use?
- The main equity issue of our time is pulling billions more people out of poverty into prosperity. To do that, we’ll need far more reliable energy sources. How do we get that? Do you support only solar and wind, or also nuclear and low-carbon fossil fuels like natural gas?
- You push hard for investment in solar and wind, but are you aware that jurisdictions that have done so, Germany and California, ran up $680 billion in spending on fashionable but unreliable renewables with unimpressive carbon reduction?
- You have claimed that climate change will lead to increasing extreme weather events, which will wipe out families, cultures, and livelihoods and kill people. But data from the International Disaster Database shows that the individual risk of dying from climate-related disasters has declined by 98.9% in the past 70 years. How does that square with your message?
- Danish professor Bjorn Lomborg argues that our capacity to handle extreme heat and cold has greatly increased due to our wealth and technology and this explains the rapid drop in climate-related deaths, even as world population has increased four-fold. Why isn’t Lomborg’s fact-based argument part of your presentation?
- Do you practise what you preach? With your constant air travel, what is your carbon footprint?
In the end, some might well ask: Why should Lee be granted any access to impressionable young minds on our public schools?
To that, I’d simply ask: Isn’t it best that young people be exposed to many viewpoints on numerous topics?
Of course, if Lee is given this platform at schools, there’s a moral and educational imperative to give equal access to resource and industry groups to present their case.
The most productive response here is to counter bad ideas and information with good ideas and better information.