KAIROS campaign takes on big oil

By 
  • March 28, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - Until at least 2010 Canada’s ecumenical social justice agency is going to be thinking, talking, organizing and campaigning on one over-riding issue. From here on out it’s all about fossil fuels for KAIROS.

“This has become the ethical and moral issue of our time,” said KAIROS’ staffer Dale Hildebrand who co-ordinates global partnership programs that deliver funds and expertise to non-governmental organizations in poor countries.

The broad umbrella for the new direction at KAIROS is a policy the organization calls “Re-energize the Future.” The broad strokes and first campaign initiatives are summed up at KAIROS’s newest web site, www.re-energize.org.

A year and a half of thinking about oil, gas, coal, tar sands and all the related issues has brought KAIROS to the conclusion fossil fuels stand behind far more issues than just climate change and the environment.

“You can draw a line from fossil fuels through all the work we do at KAIROS,” said Hildebrand.

In Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and other poor countries conflict over oil is fueling civil conflicts and international wars. To the extent carbon emissions are creating climate change, fossil fuels are adding to refugee populations on the run from natural disasters. Large scale exploitation of oil requires big, globalized corporations to marshall the financing, engineering skill and political influence necessary to drill for oil and export it around the world. That puts fossil fuels at the heart of global capitalism.

“Petroleum permeates everything these days,” said Hildebrand.

But how do you take on everything? Sara Stratton, who designs and pushes KAIROS’s public campaigns, said the agency hopes to start with the conscience of individual Christians.

“We want individuals to look at their carbon footprint,” she said.

If people see the share of the Earth’s resources they consume they may be moved to find ways to fit their lifestyles into a more modest frame, starting with the traditional Christian ideal of the sabbath, she said. People can calculate their carbon footprint at www.re-energize.org, and they can also learn about ways they can reduce their carbon consumption.

Once people do that, they’ll be ready for KAIROS’s “Carbon Sabbath Initiative.”

“It’s not just about ceasing, but also about pausing, reflecting, thinking,” said Stratton.

People might be shocked to discover that their tax dollars are going to subsidize Canada’s very profitable oil and gas industry, said KAIROS Corporate Social Responsibility co-ordinator Ian Thomson. In April KAIROS will release an economic study which details the extent of Canadian subsidies to big oil.

“The last people in the world who need a handout right now is the oil and gas industry,” Thomson said.

A debate about what a post-fossil fuel economy might look like has to begin with a realistic look at whether our oil-dependent economy is really working for people now, said Thomson.

KAIROS is funded by Canada’s Catholic bishops, Catholic religious orders and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, along with the national churches of the Presbyterians, Anglicans, Christian Reformed, Mennonites, Quakers, Lutherans and United Church. Its history reaches back to a variety of inter-church coalitions established in the 1970s. Those coalitions were brought together to form KAIROS in 1999.

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