Naomi Hunter was voted as leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party in 2020 and she already has some fresh ideas to fight the climate crisis.

Naomi Hunter is concerned that the ruling parties in Saskatchewan do not have solid plans to urgently fight climate change. According to the Manhattan clock, there are 7 years left to fight the climate crisis. (Courtesy: Naomi Hunter)

Recently I had the privilege to interview Naomi Hunter. I asked her questions about the future of the Saskatchewan Green Party and about her personal life. Here is what she had to say to the questions I asked her.

1.Recently you have brought up that the SaskParty and the NDP were not going to focus on the climate crisis this election because it was shown not to be a “vote-achieving issue” so how do you think we can garner more attention to bring more focus on the environment? 

Naomi’s answer: The Greens are grassroots democracy in action. We need to mobilize and make sure every party sees Climate Action as the number one issue moving forward.

We need to work for and with other environmental activists to ensure that our collective voice forces all political parties in our province to realize that this is an issue that will either earn or cost them votes.

The SGP continuing growth rate will also cause other parties to take notice of the climate crisis. Here in Saskatchewan, many Greens were involved in supporting the youth’s Friday’s for Future movement. We need to continue to show up for the kids and the earth.

As leader, I am constantly sending press releases and producing my own social media content. Just by the very fact we as a party are more and more visible, the issues central to our mandate are more widely accepted. This is how it has been working around the globe.

Short answer, hard work and persistent organizing.

2. Why is Saskatchewan a perfect place to confront the climate crisis? What are the environmental issues that are faced?

Naomi’s answer: Saskatchewan currently has the largest per capita emissions in Canada yet we could lead the country in clean energy production.  It’s time for Saskatchewan to lead again, as we did in Tommy Douglas’ day in the creation of socialized medicine for all. In the 21st century we need a Green Future for all, or there will be no future.

Also, I lead the SGP, and have decades of political organizing experience, with very deep roots and strong connections throughout the province. Not to toot my own horn, but if anyone can get the job done here, I can. And that’s what I aim to do.

Saskatchewan is the perfect place to confront the climate crisis. We have an outstanding solar resource, with more hours of sunlight than anywhere else in Canada. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan sees an average of 2267 hours of bright sunshine every year and we have ample space for fields of solar panels.

We also have incredible wind power capacity and ample space for turbines. 

Our multitudes of abandoned oil wells can be converted to geothermal, and employ the same workers who were working in oil and gas on the same equipment and sites.

When we convert to 100% renewables, which I propose we do by 2030, we’ll have plenty of surplus green energy to supply other energy needs across the country.

Environmental Issues in Saskatchewan:

-Uranium mining

-Oil & Gas spills

-Logging, our northern boreal forests are under constant threat. Some areas have been threatened with logging, environmentalists fight back, win, then the same area gets slated to be logged again. Over and over.

-Loss of prairie grasslands, it’s actually considered one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet. The SaskParty is selling off our publicly owned prairie at a horrifying rate.

-Peat mining is being proposed near La Ronge, SK in our north. Muskeg is considered 5 times as effective at storing carbon as tropical rainforests, once drained for peat mining, it will take thousands of years to renew.

-Large scale industrial farming leads to leaching of herbicides and pesticides into our waterways, causing algae growth and destroying water quality.

-The SaskParty is proposing an expansion of the Diefenbaker Dam project. Saskatchewan is already a drought-prone province. This will further endanger our southern water security.

– Air quality. As forest fires become larger and more frequent we too suffer the consequences. Although fire in the boreal forest is part of natural cycles, climate change has exacerbated the risk.

3. People have recently paid more attention to Nuclear energy, and SMRs in Saskatchewan which can help Canada cut its emissions, but is it really clean and safe?

Naomi’s answer: There are no operating SMR’s (Small Modular Reactors) in Canada. These are thus-far, an imaginary item that does not yet exist. They will take a decade (that we don’t have!) to go through testing and implementation. SMR’s are also costing out at 2-5times the cost of solar or wind. Governments willfully dismantling existing solar programs (like the SaskParty did ) this past year in Saskatchewan, for an unproven theoretical product with a radioactive and deadly waste product that will contaminate our planet for thousands of years, makes no sense.

No, nuclear is not safe! From mining to transportation to refining to energy and weapons production to waste, and contamination from depleted uranium and larger nuclear weapons. None of this is safe. And it all points back to Saskatchewan. We are the source, now the nuke industry and it’s government cronies want us to generate even more waste by increasing demand on this radioactive resource. And, to top it off, Saskatchewan is targeted for long term storage. There are not even words or symbols that can mark these 100k year repositories with to warn future civilizations. That is how absurd this is. So No to Nuclear. 100%.

In fact, we have lead the anti-nuke movement for decades here in Saskatchewan, and remain steadfastly opposed to nuclear power. End of discussion. Period.

4. The Manhattan Climate Clock tells us we have seven years to address the climate crisis. So, what other ways or initiatives can the government implement (across Canada and Saskatchewan) to confront the climate crisis?

Naomi’s answer: Saskatchewan needs to speed up the timeline for going carbon neutral. The Manhattan Climate Clock gives us 7 years. The ruling SaskParty doesn’t have set targets to deal with this. The opposition NDP have targets set for 15 years from now. It’s like they are both deliberately not even trying to deal with this deadline. 

Our province needs to look at this problem from all sides and put the health of our planet and people first on the priority list. Our government has prioritized the economy for so long that it has brought us to this crisis. It’s time to prioritize life.

It’s really quite simple – we must change our priorities to change the direction we are heading.

Follow up question: Do you think that the packaging changes in the federal procurement, and the ban on plastics is a step in the right direction? Or will it be too hard to implement that practically?

The Federal packaging ban is absolutely a step in the right direction. There are zero waste stores already. We can do this and we must. It’s not really so hard to implement. People have to have reusable bags. Just carry some bags with you. If stores stop supplying the plastic ones, people will figure it out.

5. During a global pandemic, it can be easy to forget that we face another big monster, which is climate change. How and why do we remind people about the significance of the climate crisis?

Naomi’s answer: It has been predicted by scientists for a long time that as the climate crisis worsens, pandemics will be the result. Covid-19 is rightly seen — and should be identified — as a symptom of the climate crisis. Our current pandemic dominates the news, but I think that as greens we can make those connections for people during and between the other crises.

We can also use social media effectively and create our own media that way. I am very active on social media and it’s certainly become a great way for me to get the word out.

A special thank you to Naomi Hunter for being so accesible and responsive.

Yousef Al Khodari

Yousef Al Khodari is a first-year student at Ryerson University where he studies Journalism with a minor in biology. He is passionate about sustainable development, climate change, and human rights for journalists across the world. Thanks to his science and journalism background, he is interested in diplomacy, education for development, global public health, access to justice, and wildlife conservation. He is looking forward to helping people learn more about environmental issues and the Green parties that exist all around the world.

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