Environment Haliburton members debated the merits of addressing climate change through our current political systems and civil disobedience March 12.

The organization hosted an EnviroCafé event about Extinction Rebellion, a UK-based environmental advocacy group. The group seeks to generate mass acts of civil disobedience and create a citizens’ assembly to oversee change.

Environment Haliburton director Eric Lilius spoke to approximately 30 people about the group.

“Something’s got to change and it isn’t working,” Lilius said about the political system. “Big impacts on climate change haven’t happened.”

However, councillors in the audience pushed back on the ideas behind Extinction Rebellion. Dysart et al Coun. John Smith said education was the best way forward to create change.

“If we were to get people educated on the crisis that we face, people will demand change. The political system will work for us,” Smith said.

Minden Hills Coun. Bob Carter agreed and said both he and Smith were elected in part because of their environmental positions. He criticized Extinction Rebellion’s intention to try and change the political system. The group links itself to sortition, the use of random selection to populate a legislative assembly.

“The fact is people aren’t bringing environmental issues to the council to try and get things enacted. This group (Environment Haliburton), in my mind, should be presenting to all of the councils in this county at least once a year,” Carter said. “This is a democracy. That’s how you get it done.”

Environment Haliburton secretary Heather Ross replied the group has presented to councils in pursuit of climate change planning, without success.

“We got turned down,” Ross said. “How do we work more effectively with councils? Because we’ve worked hard and I think we’ve done decent work.”

Ann Maher questioned the progress made by educating people.

“Way back in the 60s and early 70s, we were talking the same talk. Nothing changed,” Maher said. “We have to hit them over the head with something else.”

Lilius said although Extinction Rebellion appeals to him, he understands it does not appeal to everyone and it is not synonymous with Environment Haliburton.

Speaking to councillor comments, Lilius said “this is what this is all about, an alternative system. We’ve got proper politicians that are entrenched in the system.”

“It’s a failed system, but we’re locked into it,” he added. “How to get out of it gracefully? I have no idea.”

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