By Hana Keegan
Monday, February 29th, 2016 will be a leap day. We have leap days every four years so that our calendars do not gradually fall out of sync with the seasons. Leap days mark a point at which we, members of Western society, must bend the rules that shape how we see the world to reflect the reality of the natural world.
On a red-curtained stage of a Parisian assembly hall, Naomi Klein explains to an audience of four hundred people how the concept of the leap day underpins the The Leap Manifesto. The manifesto is a list of fifteen demands that collectively call for “a Canada based on caring for each other and the planet, moving swiftly to a post-carbon future, upholding Indigenous rights, and pursuing economic justice for all (1).” The founders of The Leap Manifesto and their allies have flown to Paris during the international climate change negotiations to share the process through which they successfully launched it.
Initiated in the spring of 2015, the manifesto has been signed by people, popular Canadian figures and organisations. Including celebrities such as Ellen Page and Leonard Cohen, a cross section of organisations working with youth, workers’s right, indigenous peoples, art, clean energy, women and food have signed it. This is diversity is vital. On the brightly lit stage, Klein passionately emphasises that, in the past, social and environmental movements have been put into silos. That we have failed to make the connections between, for example, institutional racism, unemployment and access to food. With the diversity of its demands signatories, The Leap Manifesto highlights that climate change should not be prioritised as a stand alone crisis. Instead, The irrevocability of changing weather patterns is giving us the much needed opportunity to re-examine our social, political and economic structures and demand better. The fact that such a variety of groups and people have become manifesto signatories shows that their is a public appetite for radical changes to how our society is structured. The document’s intersectionality is a call for people who identify with different environmental or social issues to see the systematic connections between them, and then to unite their energies and demands.
The Leap Manifesto presentation is an event happening far away from the climate negotiations. It is fascinating to see how the climate justice movement has moved from the highly restrained rooms of UN conference centres to embrace the flexibility of the rooms of public buildings. As I attend more and more events away from the blue and green zones of the official climate change conference, I recognise more and more faces. This year, the UN gave very few badges to civil society so that they could observe the political negotiations. It is inspiring to realise that while politicians negotiate behind closed doors, people or “civil society” are gathering and sharing their own solutions with one another. For Naomi Klein and the This Changes Everything team, one solution is bringing a group of social and environmental organisations together to determine a list of demands that will unite them. It is through the process of determining and publicising these demands that the real magic happens. The Leap Manifesto is founded on the belief that as with leap days, humans can and must alter their systems of thought and societal structures to respect one another and the natural world around them. In short, our weather is changing. The time has comes for us to take leaps.
To communicate the manifesto to the Canadian public, four artists were commissioned to create posters. Here are their beautiful artworks:
Here are the fifteen demands of The Leap Manifesto:
1. The leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land, starting by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
2. The latest research shows we could get 100% of our electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now.
3. No new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.
4. The time for energy democracy has come: wherever possible, communities should collectively control new clean energy systems. Indigenous Peoples and others on the frontlines of polluting industrial activity should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects.
5. We want a universal program to build and retrofit energy efficient housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities will benefit first.
6. We want high-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit to unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.
7. We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean energy economy.
8. We need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
9. We must develop a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, absorb shocks in the global supply – and produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.
10. We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.
11. We demand immigration status and full protection for all workers. Canadians can begin to rebalance the scales of climate justice by welcoming refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.
12. We must expand those sectors that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. A national childcare program is long past due.
13. Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid and often performed by women, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income.
14. We declare that “austerity” is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth. The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. An end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending.
15. We must work swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.