Canadian celebrities target election with Artists for Real Climate Action

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TORONTO — For actress Cynthia Dale, the climate crisis has her concerned for her son and future generations of her family.

She worries she may have a grandchild who will never know certain species she’s seen in her lifetime, or the salmon run.

For actor R.H. Thomson, it’s an issue he’s been passionate about since 1971, when he wore a gas mask while walking to class at the National Theatre School of Canada as a symbol to drivers “that what was coming out of the pipes wasn’t very good.”

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The two are among more than 40 celebrities volunteering their time and services to the newly formed Artists for Real Climate Action (ARCA), a grassroots, non-partisan campaign aimed at pushing politicians to make climate change the No. 1 issue of the fall election in Canada.

Through a series of online public service announcements, events and the website www.thisisnotadrill.ca, the group is also encouraging Canadians to let their candidates know that if they don’t have a real plan for climate action, they don’t have their vote.

“Every year there are species going extinct, and I think: How will I be able to look my grandchild in the face? How can I look at my son and say, ‘I didn’t do anything,’ or ‘Oops, I was busy’ or ‘I didn’t know what I could do,'” Dale, who appears in one of the PSAs, said in a recent phone interview.

“I just think it’s your responsibility to figure out what you can do and to sound the alarms. And it’s not being alarmist. I don’t feel like any of us are being alarmist. I think we are actually just reading the writing on the wall.”

This election is critical for the planet, said Thomson, who also appears in one of the video spots.

“It’s really our last chance,” he said.

“It can’t be just one more tick box on the set of election issues. It is THE issue, because if we miss this one, we condemn future generations to quite an unhappy place.”

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In the past year, leading scientists with the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have issued dire reports warning that drastic measures are needed in the next decade in order to curb catastrophic consequences by 2040.

Sensing an urgent need to take action, actress Liisa Repo-Martell started ARCA in late March when she put out a post on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to make some climate change art before the election.

“I got this crazy response, and two weeks later there were 40 people in my living room, and it’s just exploded from there,” Repo-Martell said.

“I think people feel really anxious and fearful about the climate future and they are so enthusiastic and excited to find a harness for that energy.”

Repo-Martell said ARCA has been an ad-hoc, guerilla-type campaign unfolding on the fly and isn’t targeted at any politician or party.

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“We have people from every political stripe in our group,” she said.

An Indiegogo campaign has been created to pay for promotional costs on social media, but all equipment and production services have been donated.

Artists are participating for free and arranging their own travel and accommodations for the shoots, which have been filmed in everything from homes to backyards and Ontario’s Muskoka region.

The growing collection of artists also includes comedians Mary Walsh and Shaun Majumder; environmentalist David Suzuki; filmmaker Atom Egoyan; Barenaked Ladies bassist Jim Creegan; and actors Eric McCormack, Jean Yoon, Sheila McCarthy, Paul Gross, and Eric Peterson.

Repo-Martell said Suzuki, along with singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and former politician/diplomat Stephen Lewis, also plan to play one of the ARCA videos on their cross-country climate-change election rally tour.

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“We are hoping to inspire Canadians to make as much noise as possible in this election period,” said Repo-Martell.

“To write their MPs, to talk to their candidates at the door, to put signs in their windows that say ‘I vote for the planet,’ to get the message out there to the politicians who are listening that there is an absolute demand for real serious climate action now.”

At the same time, ARCA also wants “to be hopeful and encouraging” for those feeling apocalypse fatigue, she added.

“This is just a matter of snapping out of it and getting down to work as opposed to a lot of doom and gloom,” Repo-Martell said.

“What we need is broad, systemic change, and that needs to be led by our governments and our laws and regulations…. We can’t consume our way or not consume our way out of this problem. We can’t recycle our way out of this problem. What we are asking is for, as per the IPCC recommendations, is rapid, unprecedented bold changes in the way we power our economy and we can’t do that individually.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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