In the face of serious climate change, environmental crises, and a federal election campaign, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that scientists are emerging as the “new political radicals” in Canada, as the film Running on Climate says. Produced and directed by Robert Alstead and co-produced by Joanna Clarke, the documentary introduces us to these scientist-activist leaders in BC, perhaps the only politicians who will remind us of what we learned in science class: if you have a finite system, you cannot have exponential growth.
The insightful film tells the story of Dr. Andrew Weaver, a Nobel-Prize-winning climate scientist at the University of Victoria, who decided to try a different kind of experiment by running for political office. Equipped with a passion to “change things from the inside,” he ran for election for the BC Green Party which, in its 30 year lifespan, had never won a seat. He was driven by the idea that “if the politicians are not dealing with [climate change], what we need is people to get elected who aren’t afraid to raise this issue, to discuss this issue, and who are doing it in a manner that is not thinking about their reelection, but are doing it in the best interests of broader society.”
“How the hell do you make a decision on this if you don’t at least have some sort of scientific background?”
Lynne Quarmby, award-winning professor and Chair of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at SFU, is a leader in the dual profession of scientist and activist. Perhaps best known for her arrest on Burnaby Mountain last year for civil obedience in opposing the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline Expansion Project, she too has stepped up to the political plate to stand up for our planet.
Tired of hearing from MLAs, MPs, and groups like the Vancouver Port Authority and so on who, according to Quarmby, say “it’s not our job to think about climate change,” she took things into her own hands and is now a Green Party of Canada candidate in the new riding of Burnaby North-Seymour.
Igniting civic engagement around environmental and social issues on top of her established career in academia is no easy task, but, she states, “the SFU community has been very supportive.” On the campaign so far, she notes that her “immersion into the political process has been transformative.” Concerning her probability of winning, she notes, “if everyone who tells me that I’m the best candidate votes for me, then I will win by a landslide.”
Weaver’s campaign in the film is set against the backdrop of serious climate injustice in BC, Canada, and the world. The film introduces us to the political battle to tackle climate change, and the scientists who are called to act politically. David Suzuki, who has endorsed Quarmby’s campaign, explains why our scientists are needed in office: “These are people who are going to have to make major decisions about carbon capture and storage, geo-engineering, iron filings in the ocean, and the spread of mountain pine beetles over the rocky mountains. How the hell do you make a decision on this if you don’t at least have some sort of scientific background?”
SFU’s academic leaders have been at the forefront of this battle. Kirsten Zickfeld, a climate scientist and SFU geography professor, also stars in the film, as well as Mark Jaccard, an Environmental Economist at SFU. Jaccard states, “I believe that science is unequivocal, that climate change is a huge ecological and humanitarian crisis of our age.”
At the core of this film is hope and determination. Hope that Canadians will take climate change seriously so that we can start solving the problem, and the determination to get science a seat in parliament.
Running on Climate is available on Vimeo On Demand: vimeo.com/ondemand/