| May 15, 2014

On May 10 a small group of local residents concerned about the issue of climate change gathered outside the United Church in Sharbot Lake to make their concerns known. Their efforts coincided with those of 10,000 other Canadians who staged a number of similar protests across the country to oppose current federal government objectives and plans, most notably the building of oil pipelines, with the hopes that the government will instead chose cleaner energy alternatives.

The protest titled Defend Our Climate was organized by Leadnow.ca, an organization dedicated to campaigning about a number of issues with the aim to “defend our democracy and hold governments accountable to the values of a majority of Canadians.” The non-partisan organization has over 300,000 members across the country. By holding gatherings and through on-line surveys the organization has set its sights on strengthening Canada’s democracy by “doing our part to stop runaway climate change, and building a fair economy that reverses the trend of growing inequality.”

The Sharbot Lake event was organized by Phil Somers of Sydenham, who is also seeking the Federal Liberal nomination for the 2015 election. Somers is a member of Leadnow. He found out about the event on line and was approached to hold an event in Sharbot Lake. Somers said he has always been concerned about climate change and global warming and that he is a huge supporter of green energy alternatives. “Even though I don't think that we can totally get rid of pipelines since the alternative of transporting oil by train or truck is a much more dangerous alternative, I still would like to see oil industry revenues be used for green energy projects. Ultimately I'd like to see us get rid of fossil fuel dependency and begin using electric cars and buses and other alternate energy sources.”

Somers cited other projects that he would like to see - more solar panels on homes and buildings and more wind energy projects. Somers said that clean energy is the way to go but the amount of electricity currently being produced by green energy in Ontario is extremely low and he would like to see that change.

Sharbot Lake resident, Ken Fisher, said he felt over the last 40 years that things were getting better but has recently woken up to the fact that “disaster is fast approaching”. He explained, “It's important that we show up here today and show the younger people that they should be as concerned as we are. If we were not standing here then we would be on the sidelines watching everything slide into disaster and oblivion”.

Asked to specify what he means Fisher responded, “California is pretty much drying up. They have no water this year and are now going to shut down and burn orchards because there is no water there”. Bringing the issue closer to home Fisher said, “ We have a government here that is ramming through pipelines east and west and overriding the rights of Aboriginal communities and others for the sake of being in the pocket of the oil companies. Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and shifting to renewable energy is our only way out.”

Sharbot Lake resident, Carol Pepper, who has worked with the local farmers' group Hands on Harvest, said she felt that the big issues for her are the trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe, which she said are “sabotaging our well being as Canadians as well as our economy and resources. A political change needs to happen and people have to start caring and getting involved.” Pepper cited her concerns over Bill C-18, which she said threatens the rights of plant breeders who want control over their seeds and what they are allowed to grow. “There are a lot of risks that go along with only being allowed to plant certain seeds and crops, not to mention the problems and health concerns that come along with genetically modified crops, like pesticides, herbicides, and food shortages."

Though the Sharbot Lake event was smaller than others in larger centers, those who attended were no doubt pleased to be able to voice their objections about the Harper government's stand on climate change along with their own personal concerns on a number of current issues. For more information about the campaigns that Leadnow is running visit leadnow.ca.

(Editosrs note - a previous version of this article erroneously said that Phil Somers is the Federal Liberal cndidate for the newly created Lanark-Frontenac riding) 

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