A call for energy democracy, vision for a better future, and how it is done in Germany

Yesterday saw the publishing of The Leap Manifesto, initiated and implemented by a group of five top-tier Canadian environmental activists, actors and musicians, each one of which barely needs an additional introduction – Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, Leonard Cohen, Donald Sutherland and Ellen Page – and it calls for an immediate shift of Canada’s internal policy towards a more green, sustainable, and democratic future.

According to the Manifesto, Canada’s current direction is way out of line.

“We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the opportunities of this transition are designed to eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher-wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

Canada is not this place today – but it can be.

The time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer suffice.

So we need to leap.”

(The Leap Manifesto, https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/)

solar-power
Image: PublicDomainPictures.net

The Leap Manifesto calls for respecting the rights of indigenous people of Canada, switching to 100% renewable energy by 2050, active involvement of communities in energy democracy, a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system, a great big “NO” to fossil fuel, and moving towards “a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns”. All these ideas and calls for supporting democratic rights and principles are boiled down here to the essential “15 Demands” – a fifteen-points list which a signatory gets to read before the signing.

Undoubtedly, the Manifesto might (and most probably, will) receive extra public attention especially now, in the light of upcoming 42nd Canadian General Election which will be held on October 19, when many Canadians voice their concerns and dissatisfaction with the way such topics as the environment and scientific freedom have been governed by the current ruling party, The Conservative Party of Canada. It is, certainly, one of the goals of this campaign.

The Leap Manifesto has been signed by a very impressive number of well-known Canadians, incuding such star activists, as Pamela Anderson, film director Philippe Falardeau, singer Alanis Morissette, actress Rachel McAdams, musician Win Butler of the band Arcade Fire, traditional singer and the leader of Haida nation Guujaaw, and many others. Everyone who is not so famous is also sincerely invited to back the Manifesto by signing up on their petition page here.

This call for urgent action is especially interesting not only because of the federal elections, or because it seems to be ventilating the ideas and concerns that seem to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue in Canada these days. The Leap Manifesto gains additional importance on the threshold of the Paris Climate Change Summit in December, 2015 – the biggest event of the year which will hopefully be of interest not only to environmentalists and policy-makers, but to general public around the world.

And the latter is exactly one of the questions raised by The Leap Manifesto – communities should show more interest in environmental issues, especially renewable sources of energy, because in the end, it should be our common interest to live in an environmentally sustainable world. “The time for energy democracy has come: wherever possible, communities should collectively control new clean energy systems”, proclaims the Manifesto and I wonder what could be the arguments of anybody who would want to question that.

Also yesterday, I happened to attend a seminar on “Global energy transformation in Germany” presented by Andreas Kraemer, a founder and director of Ecologic Institute in Berlin, founding chairman of Ecologic Institute US in Washington, DC, researcher and participant in numerous institutes around the globe. The main topic of his lecture was the successful implementation of renewable energy systems (mainly solar and wind) in Germany. Some of the attendees were especially curious as to what were the sources of funds for this successful transformation, and comparing Germany with Canada, pointed out that if it is deemed unprofitable, it cannot be sponsored by rich businessmen – something that happened with wind energy in the land of the Maple Leaf.

wind-turbines-1437085225kl7
Image: PublicDomainPictures.net

With a slight sardonic smile, Andreas Kraemer explained that in Germany, renewable energy projects have been sponsored by members of communities themselves. They understand that it is their common interest to live in a healthy, sustainable setting, and so they are willing to pay for and participate in the project and have their share in it – both economically and ecologically-speaking.

Of course, there is a fair amount of criticism towards wind farms from environmentalists themselves, who rightfully claim that wind turbines cause death to many birds who often die in a collision with propelling blades of the turbines. When asked about this, Kraemer stated that one of the proposed solutions is to erect wind turbines as far away as possible from the known places of endangered birds’ habitat. This is only partially successful, and birds continue to fall prey to wind turbines, so the problem is still waiting for a proper solution. But then again, we are more likely to find a solution when more people are actively and genuinely involved. One thing is true, however – the question of renewable energy has to become an issue of national importance and have people straightforwardly wish to transform their future into a more green and sustainable one in order to make it really happen, and it is true regardless of what country we are speaking about.

Perhaps this can serve as a good example of an active community involvement that Naomi Klein and David Suzuki are willing to see in Canada. Doing something for the common good, and caring for others, at the end of the day means caring for yourself. The Leap Manifesto’s website reads

“Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another”.

Though I’m not Canadian, I signed the Manifesto. It somehow felt right doing something for the common good in the country where I currently live.

The Leap Manifesto: https://leapmanifesto.org/en/

Ecologic Institute in Berlin, Germany: http://www.ecologic.eu/

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