By Geoff Gilliard
A majority of Canadians are willing to support bold policies to tackle the climate crisis and Seth Klein has the numbers to back it up.
Klein, an adjunct professor in SFU’s Urban Studies Program, commissioned a major national online poll from Abacus Data to inform the book he is writing about mobilizing Canada to take on the climate emergency.
Of particular interest to Klein are the lessons to be drawn from Canada’s most cohesive and concerted response to an existential threat – namely, how the country mobilized in WWII.
“It has long been my view that recalling the speed and scale of our historic wartime mobilization can be a source of inspiration in the face of the climate emergency,” Klein says. “In undertaking this poll, I sought to determine whether or not this framing would resonate among the Canadian public and whether there is an appetite for systems-level solutions."
More half of the 2,000 people polled agreed with the statement that the climate emergency requires that governments adopt a wartime-scale response, making major investments to retool the economy and mobilizing everyone in society to transition off fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“I find the lessons from World War II rather inspiring in terms of the speed and the scale of what happened,” Klein says. “I’ve been collecting incredible stories of what people did at an individual level, and the speed and the scope of what the government did once it realized it had to mobilize.”
Klein offers the example of ship building in the province of British Columbia as a lesson we can draw on. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, B.C.’s ship building industry went dormant other than a couple of shipyards in North Vancouver that were doing repairs. Then Canada declared war. Over the next five years, B.C. shipyards built over 300 ships, 250 of which were Liberty ships, the 10,000-ton merchant marine cargo vessels that kept food and supplies moving around the world.