“The Robot Will See You Now” – Ethics of AI in medicine @ UofT


Technology will replace 80% of what doctors doVinod Khosla

Following the climate panel event on April 5th was a panel on another hot topic: The Robot Will See You Now: The Revolution of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, held in the University of Toronto engineering building.

I forgot to write down the names of the five panelists, but they included a bio-ethicist, an AI researcher, the CEO of a medical AI company and two physicians.

Among the insights they provided were:

– Public consciousness of ‘AI’ (for those who know anything, it’s usually what was gleaned from the movie Terminator or from a viral robot video) is often disconnected from what it looks like in practice (typically boring data-processing and pattern-recognition)

– There are a number of areas in medicine where repeated human error (miscommunication between patient & doctor, misdiagnosis, getting swayed by pharmaceutical advertisement, etc.) is causing thousands of people to die every year (40,000 per year in the U.S. due to misdiagnosis alone). This creates a strong ethical case to bring in more advanced technology, such as AI, to save lives

– Currently, the main barrier to more use of AI in medicine is institutional: in the U.S. the FDA has not approved any of the more avant-garde systems that significantly change current practices

– So what are the main risks with using AI in medicine? There are a number of them, but right now, most relate to liability (who takes the blame if it fails?) and data (who has access? what is it used for?)

An interesting example of this was in Iceland, where a team of researchers got permission from a sizeable percentage of the population to map their genetic code, and then went on to calculate everyone else’s (who hadn’t given permission, and who pressed charges). The Supreme Court of Iceland eventually ordered the team to destroy all their data. A U.S. team researching rare genetic conditions also had to destroy the DNA data they’d painstakingly collected from thousands of patients, because even mapping part of someone’s DNA can lead to their full sequence (and that of their relatives) to be easily (and illegally) traced and used in unauthorised applications

– The biggest uses of AI so far have been in seemingly mundane applications, such as:

-Converting free text from medical reports (which can often contain a dozen different ways of describing the same illness) into structured data that can be easily searched. For those who had to deal with this problem, AI has been a lifesaver

-High volume processing (of medical samples in labs, or filtering cancer reports)

-Speech & image recognition in telemedicine

– The last speaker, a primary care physician, brought in some interesting tidbits from the front lines. First, that technology has helped reduce to massive amounts of memorisation previously required of doctors. Second, that the electronic medical record, while essential, also regiments the doctor/patient relationship into a more formal and contractual one. Third, that technology has also become a nuisance in terms of patients ‘self-diagnosing’ on Google and expecting to know better than the doctor. Finally he had a word of caution about the limits of AI in diagnosis: for it to work, there has to be a single ‘right’ answer, which isn’t always the case in the real world. At the end of the day, the physician will always be responsible for the accuracy and application of the diagnosis.

– On a closing note, one thing that all the panelists agreed on was that despite its current challenges, medical AI is a booming industry likely to play a prominent role moving forward


I left the talk feeling both better informed and bit dissatisfied. A bit like climate change, this is a slow-moving, incremental, tidal wave of change.


“International Law & Climate Change: Post-Paris Challenges” @ Monk School of Global Affairs

On April 5th I attended my first Toronto event: International Law and Climate Change: Post-Paris Challenges at the Monk School of Global Affairs (University of Toronto St George campus) which was a 90 minute talk and Q&A with four expert panelists:

Jutta Brunnée
Professor of Law, Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Laura Zizzo
CEO, Founder, and climate change lawyer, Zizzo Strategy
Matthew Hoffmann
Professor, Political Science, Co-Director, Environmental Governance Lab, University of Toronto
Meinhard Doelle
Professor of Law, Director, Marine and Environmental Law Institute, Associate Dean, Research, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University


Despite the wonkish title and at times dry content, the panel provided a number of important insights that led me to a better understanding of the intricacies of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The ones that struck me the most were:

–  The agreement is binding in interesting ways: it allows countries to set their own emissions targets, but requires them to monitor & report on them regularly, and to continue reducing their target over time.

This means that in theory, yes, under the agreement a country can set a high target and pollute all it wants, but they have to clearly report it to the rest of the world. If they choose this path, it would not only impact their international reputation, it could also hurt their economy and exports if their trading partners decide to use those emissions numbers to set up anti-polluter tariffs. As the panelists put it, the agreement “builds the framework to put pressure on polluters, without actually forcing limits”, or in others words “the Paris Climate Agreement is the global equivalent of Weight Watchers”

– For the first (?) time in international law, a treaty directly recognises and impacts the behaviour of private and sub-national actors (companies, provinces, cities). At the last few COP conferences and especially in Paris, these actors played a major role (that fact that our provincial Premiers showed up was no accident).

An international treaty among nations typically cannot regulate non-state actors, and so the goal of the Paris treaty was to set the global expectations and provide support, to “orchestrate not regulate” local action. This is particularly important because the current national targets (NDCs) are too high and would result in more than 2°C temperature increase without sub-state action

– The panelists seemed to agree that on the whole the agreement is ambitious, especially in terms of its comprehensiveness (all nations and sources of emissions are included) and its innovate design (combining flexibility & pressure, and setting up a long-term process of international cooperation). Whether or not countries and sub-state actors step up to the plate is another matter.

– Apart from the treaty, there was also agreement on the major positive change of tone & focus around the climate debate. Laura Zizzo shared a story about how top asset managers are now putting pressure on Fortune 500 companies to provide detailed reports on the impacts of climate change to their assets (think stranded carbon or vulnerable coastal infrastructure) and provide plans on how they intend to adapt. This, along with the huge drop in cost of many clean technologies is (finally) shifting global investment patterns.

All in all, I came out of the talk with more understanding and respect for what the Paris agreement is trying to accomplish. And perhaps a bit more hope for the future.


How to Feed the World – Raj Patel @ UBC

On Thursday I attended a lecture in a packed auditorium at the University of British Columbia given by Raj Patel, a British American food activist, economist and author best known for Stuffed & Starved and The value of nothing.


The first thing one notices about Patel is the rapid pace at which he speaks, the British accent and the wicked sense of humour.

He began his talk by talking a look at the history of Madeira island – “the island of trees” as it was known by the Portuguese in the early 1400s. Madeira’s forest was initially harvested for its lumber, but it became especially interesting when they decided to grow sugarcane – the world’s first cash crop – which made Madeira into one of the ealiest examples of modern capitalism.

Madeira map

On one small island, it combined abundant natural resources (in this case the sun & soil for the sugarcane and the large amounts of firewood needed for the distillation process) with the cheap labour of the nearby Canary Islanders, the European market demand for sugar (a luxury good back then) and an international supply chain provided by Portuguese ships and merchants.

Within 50 years there were no more trees left on the island, and they turned to producing Madeira wine (for which it is now famous).

For Patel, a key component was also that it was one of the first modern instances where the land wasn’t owned and used locally by farmers to feed their local community, but was foreign owned and grown entirely as a commodity for export.


He then went on to discuss Thomas Gainsborough’s painting of Mr & Mrs Andrews, which to him epitomised the British attitude towards agriculture in the 18th century – replete with fences (single ownership of land), cash crops and a land-owning aristocracy that reaped all the benefits. Around that time in England was also the first appearance of ‘the English malady’ (obesity) as people first reacted to the increased availability of cheap food.

The premise of his talk came into focus when he discussed Thomas Robert Malthus, who (in)famously suggested that human population growth (which is geometric) initially lags food production increases (which are incremental) but then rapidly surpasses it, at which point a bunch of people starve and a new equilibrium is found.


His original hypothesis – that humans are mere beasts and our population is only controlled by the availability of food – was roundly (and justly) criticised, but he made a second hypothesis which is worth analysing and goes something like this:

“We might be able to master ourselves, but the system we’re in corrupts us”

It’s a Rousseau-ist argument (in fact, Malthus met Rousseau and was an admirer) in the sense of assuming man could be pure but for the corrupting influence of modern society. And it fits into Patel’s view of our food system as having a profoundly distorting effect on our consumption – e.g. the wealthy are bombarded with ads to increase their consumption and become obese while the poor & landless are displaced and left to starve, and a few Western corporations reap large profits while thousands of Indian farmers commit suicide.

And speaking of India, Patel points out that the ‘Green Revolution’ was named as such because it wasn’t ‘red’ (communist) or ‘white’ (Iranian Shah) – the idea was to produce enough cheap food so that the peasants wouldn’t get hungry, riot and give up on capitalism.

While I disagree with his socialist worldview, his critique of the current system does bring up some good points.

Before ending his talk he discussed two more issues. The first was KPMG’s 2011 analysis of negative environmental externalities across 11 sectors. While there are many sectors where a large percentage of profits are made at the expense of the environment (suggesting that these costs should be included), food production was the only sector where the externalities were more costly than the profits made.

KPMG’s 2011 analysis of negative environmental externalities across 11 sectors

That means that the only reason producers can sell the food at current prices and not go bankrupt is because they’re not required to pay for the mess they make.

Which means that to balance the system and ‘stop the bleeding’ environmentally, we would need to get ready for major increases in food prices. Cue the food riots…

Patel finished his presentation with some video clips of farming in Malawi and a discussion of the importance of balancing gender roles as a way to ensure better food production (currently the women do all the work, are maxed out, and there is 40%+ child malnutrition – more & better crops will only help if the men help harvest them). An interesting topic but it was unclear where he was trying to go with it.

Final thoughts:

All in all, I must admit I left a little disappointed. Not because I didn’t learn anything – there were ample new insights gained, and it did change the way I understood our food production model – but because I was hoping for more than a critique of the system.

In the question period, one of the audience members asked Patel if he were given control of the world, what policies would he enact?

He seemed a bit flustered by the question, before answering that he’d focus on strong anti-trust laws to break corporate domination, on debt cancellation for developing countries, and on climate reparation payments from the industrialised nations to poorer ones.

Whether or not these policies would help rebalance the system and rebuild trust among nations, they seemed (to me at least) to be an unconvincing and incomplete vision for the future.

Nonetheless, Raj Patel does provide some interesting insights and is undoubtedly one of the pre-eminent experts in his domain. Throughout the talk and in the other questions he answered (which included discussions on biotechnology, GM crops, agroecology, food marketing, and urban agriculture) it was obvious why UBC had invited him to speak.

“To save everything, click here” by Evgeny Morozov – Part 2

Previously I’d shared my first impressions of Evgeny Morozov’s book To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. Having now finished reading it, here are my thoughts:


“This flight from thinking and the urge to replace human involvement with [supposedly objective] truths produced by algorithms is the underlying driving force of solutionism”

Evgeny Morozov


Morozov convincingly describes technological solutionism (a.k.a. ‘geeks can solve everything’) as a utopian ideology convinced of its own righteousness, and one that is blind to the history of previous failed movements (such as Scientism in the 1800s) that also viewed science and rational thought as a clean & unbiased answer to all of society’s problems.

That scientific governance can only work if everyone first agrees what the ‘ideal’ society should look like simply doesn’t cross their minds. They look for problems that their tool – internet technologies – can solve, and don’t bother asking whether another method such as social, legal, or economic reform would be more appropriate.

The book provides insights into the many areas where the consequences of internet technologies aren’t being discussed, such as:

Most internet technologies are built around the consumer mindset:  everything must be tailored to provide instant gratification and never challenge the user or make them feel any unpleasant emotions. Some books, articles and other content can now even being automatically created with algorithms and tailored to suit people’s tastes. Not only does this overstimulate our senses, it also acts as a ‘positive feedback loop’ and tends to make us even less patient when dealing our civic responsibilities where sacrifices, delays and ugly compromises are regularly required. And it gives politicians one more incentive to tell us what we want to hear

For algorithms to work, everything must be quantified. And so there is a cult of measurement where engineers at Google and Apple try to ‘measure’ how good a song is, or what the literary value of a novel is, by using tools like how many stars its online users give it. That some things are subjective and should be left unquantified just doesn’t fit

‘Big data’ is essentially just ‘big correlation’. When the internet companies predict a page’s click rate, or where a crime will most likely be committed next, it is a calculation based off correlations found in past data. This can be helpful, but it also has major limitations – as we saw with the failure of financial algorithms in the 2008 crisis

The Internet is assumed to be a ‘revolution’ and a ‘total break from the past’, when in fact more often than not it’s simply a tool that allows us to do things that we were already doing, just more efficiently. Take for example crowdsourcing, a method which the British government used – in the 1700s – to call for ideas on how to improve ship navigation

There is far too much faith placed in the algorithm. No matter how well it works technically, every design is biased with the assumptions of the designer (i.e. what is important in an internet search? what is not? what should be flagged as a possible terrorist communication? what shouldn’t?). Governments and companies almost always keep these algorithms secret so that they can’t be rigged, but that means they also have no accountability. Independent audits are needed to judge not just the technical performance, but also the legality and ethics of its decision philosophy

“The Internet” is seen as monolithic unchallengeable force, not a collection of technologies that can be reviewed and evaluated on their own merits. At the same time there is a “we can’t do anything about it because it’s the way of the future” defeatism. We’re told we just have to live with it because can’t possibly make any changes to it. Never mind that plenty of other technologies such as cars, power plants and cell phones have been modified and regulated (seat belts, emissions limits, contract limits) and are still going strong

The principle of scientific precaution is simply not being applied in the tech sector. Facebook, Google, Twitter and the like engage in large-scale social experimentation (often unconsciously) without any serious study of potential consequences for individuals or for society. Take for example emotional-recognition software, where algorithms are used to decipher if a person is lying or not in a video (such as a politician!). This sounds great, right? Now what if it becomes widespread and your friends systematically use it on you and everyone they know. What kind of a society would that foster? An honest one? Or a paranoid and distrustful one? What if the nation is in a major crisis and needs its leaders to give it hope even when there isn’t much? Would knowing your politician is bending the truth be helpful, or a poison pill? These are the kinds of major societal impacts relatively simple technologies can have, and yet new ones are being invented and implemented at breakneck speed without much forethought. It speaks to a dangerously irresponsible attitude of ‘you can design it – therefore you should’. The tech sector is in denial about the major socio-political role it has de facto given itself.


The book does have its flaws. In his criticisms of Silicon Valley it often feels like Morozov is grasping at straws, trying too hard to play devil’s advocate and find that one thing that’s wrong with every innovation. He also does not give Silicon Valley the full credit they deserve for the many wonderful tools they have created (such as the webpage containing this post). He went out looking for problems with the tech sector and that’s what he found.

The biggest issue for me is that he focused mainly on the individual impacts of each technology, and not their effect as a whole (in fact the premise of the book is that ‘The Internet” as such does not exist, its only a collection of internet technologies). This is accurate in many ways but misses the bigger picture of where technological society is headed (e.g. in terms of pace, complexity and endgame) and whether we want to go there at all.

Nonetheless, the author is very well read and the book is riddled with references to a wide range of sources – everything from Der Spiegel (and an interesting discussion of the German Pirate Party) to Nietzsche (“a mechanical world would be an essentially meaningless world”) to José Ortega y Gasset (“to be an engineer… is not enough to be an engineer”) to Walter Lippman, and of course a whole array of current Silicon Valley thinkers, most of whom he ruthlessly critiques.


My own take on the situation is that I don’t think Google and Facebook truly understand what they’re doing. They are undeniably the masters of the technology, but not of its consequences. In this sense they are as much victims and spectators of the unfolding changes as anyone else.

Similar to previous advances in the oil & plastics industries – at the time seen as unquestionably brilliant ideas to improve the world – it is quite possible that we will only realise, years later, the full weight of Silicon Valley’s impact.

Either way, this is a very important book and I highly recommend reading it.



I respectfully disagree with Mr. Mercer and Mr. Nenshi

As someone who has respect for both TV show host Rick Mercer and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, I hadn’t expected to write a post disagreeing with them. Nonetheless, as the national pipeline debate has seen renewed interest, both have come out supporting Energy East (which would pump 1,000,000 barrels of oil from Alberta to the East Coast), and by doing so I believe they are missing a key point in the debate.

In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on January 21st, Nenshi criticised Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre recent stance against Energy East, saying :

“If you’re really worried about transporting bitumen, it’s easier to control a spill like that. It’s much easier to manage a pipeline spill than to manage a problem with oil by rail. He knows all of that, I’m sure he knows all of that.”


“[Energy East] is also about energy security for Canada”


“Clearly this is the right thing not just for Canada, but I got to say, Mayor Coderre, it’s the right thing for Montreal.”

For his part, Rick Mercer produced one of his trademark rants, attacking Coderre’s navel-gazing ‘what’s in it for Montreal?’ framing of the debate:

“Last year alone Quebec received 9.5 billion dollars [in equalisation payments, much of it from Alberta oil revenue]”

“It is time for provinces to start asking what’s in it for Canada, not just what’s in it for me.”

“We all need this thing”

Both bring up good points, and certainly Denis Coderre’s framing of the debate and subsequent twitter spat with Premier Brad Wall was small-minded and worthy of critique. Also, given Alberta’s substantial generosity to other provinces over all these years, and that its economy is now feeling genuine pain, it is natural to expect the rest of Canada to return the favour and cooperate.

Nonetheless, both Nenshi and Mercer are making a key assumption: that a large-scale (and long-term) investment in fossil fuel infrastructure in 2016 is in both Canada’s and Alberta’s interest.

The one clear signal to come out of the Paris climate talks was that everyone agrees fossil fuels are on their way out. Even Stephen Harper grudgingly admitted as much.

Yes, 35,000 jobs have been lost in Alberta and I strongly believe that as fellow Canadians we have a duty to help out. Yes, national energy security is an important goal. And yes, fossil fuels won’t be phased out tomorrow. But we do have existing pipelines and rail which can last us during the transition. New pipelines are only needed if we intend to significantly increase production and emissions – which is fundamentally incompatible with serious climate action.

So my biggest disagreement with Nenshi and Mercer is simply this: why double-down on an industry we know must be phased out? If we truly want to help Alberta and serve our long-term national interest, why not ask the other provinces to help fund the shift away from an oil economy instead of delaying the inevitable? We could instead focus the national debate on electrifying our transportation industry, reducing our consumption and creating green jobs so that there is no longer any need for pipelines.

As for our hard working oil industry – which has provided good jobs and fuelled our lifestyle for so many years – is it fair to now turn a cold shoulder? Is it fair to ask those who have built their careers in it and paid taxes and been good citizens, to now just walk away from their life’s work? Here’s an answer: the grandkids don’t care.

“To save everything, click here” by Evgeny Morozov – Part 1

This is the first in a series posts on topics relating to technology and human progress.

PART 1 – First impressions

In his book To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, Evgeny Morozov (also author of The Net Delusion) takes on what he calls the tyranny of ‘technological solutionism’. Essentially it’s when smart, well-meaning people – mostly from Silicon Valley – try to apply technological solutions to every problem they come across.

The issue is that very often these problems are far more complex than they appear, and the technological solutions often only deal with one small part of it. For example: education. If education was simply a question of transferring abstract information from one person to the next, then online tools and courses such as Wikipedia and Coursera could ‘solve’ all of our needs. As many students and educators have pointed out: they don’t.

So far, what strikes me about Morozov’s book is that:

-It clearly describes and critiques the dogma of ‘science can solve all our problems’, especially in the context of big data. Having never been to Silicon Valley, and not being ‘in’ on the tech world, it made me realise this is far more prevalent than I thought

-The kinds of people who fall prey to this line of thinking tend to be people who ask ‘how?’ and not ‘why?’ (i.e. the stereotypical engineer or business person). Being an engineer myself and having great respect for the essential role we otherwise play (try asking an activist or musician to build you a cell-phone or coordinate global food supply), my instinct is simply to want to connect Silicon Valley with a large number of literary, philosophical and generally ‘old & wise’ people to help provide better context and guidance to the technical solutions being proposed. Although perhaps this would make me guilty of solutionism.


According to Morozov, rejecting solutionism does not mean rejecting technology. Instead, it means taking the time to fully understand and embrace the complexities of the the world that surrounds us, and, where necessary, having the humility and restraint to leave things as they are.

Which reminds me of a quote* I am very fond of:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom, always, to discern between the two”


More to come…


*I believe it’s an old Christian prayer but unfortunately don’t know the original source – if you do, please share in the comments section below

Op-Ed: The 21st Century is calling

During the 2015 federal election campaign, I was invited by the Georgia Straight newspaper newspaper to write an op-ed. This was the result:


Note: this was written and published on September 2nd, 2015 – one day before the photo of Alan Kurdi’s 3 year-old washed up body appeared in the news. At the time I was unaware the Syrian refugee crisis would play a big role in the election.


Wyatt Tessari: The 21st century is calling

  • Wyatt Tessari is the Green Party candidate for Burnaby South.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this election so far has been the disconnect between what we’re seeing on the ground and the political discussion in Canada.

We’ve heard about Duffy, we’ve heard about housing, we’ve heard lots about the economy, and we’ve even heard mention of pipelines.

One would think the world was essentially the same as before, that somehow 97% of climate scientists were wrong, that the forests weren’t burning, the oceans weren’t acidifying, that droughts across BC, Alberta, Washington and California were an act of God and not decades of poor climate policy. Or that the hundreds of thousands of African and Western Asian refugees risking their lives to get to Europe were but a summer passing and not the beginning of a multidecade global trend which will eventually involve us too .

Which isn’t to say that the economy isn’t a very big deal, that healthcare, education and infrastructure aren’t essential to the proper functioning of our society. But as priorities they simply don’t stack up against the threats currently facing global civilisation. One can mess up the economy, as the NDP did in BC in the 90’s, and eventually recover. If the oceans die and the salmon go extinct (bringing down whole ecosystems and billion dollar industries with them), not even Gordon Campbell could clean up the mess.

As a former conservative, the Green Party wasn’t an intuitive choice for me. That is, until I started looking for a Party that took the 21st century seriously.

Whether we wait for climate disaster to happen or act early to prevent it, we’re going to have to phase out the fossil fuel industry and make significant changes to our lifestyles. The responsible thing to do is to act now.

That means a moratorium on new oil, gas or coal developments. That means major investment in renewable energy, public transit, and efficient buildings. Most of all, it means preparing our infrastructure, public services and armed forces for the great challenges ahead: food and water insecurity, rising sea levels, failing ecosystems, extreme weather events, and global instability.

We can turn this crisis into Canada’s finest hour and play a leading role on the world stage. But that means thinking and voting like it’s the 21st century.

Wyatt Tessari is the Green Party candidate for Burnaby South.

Canadian Heroes

On April 11th, 2015, Canada’s premiers gathered in Quebec City to discuss a climate change strategy. Rallies supporting strong climate action were organised across the country, and as a climate activist I was invited by the organisers to speak at the Vancouver rally, held in front of the CBC’s headquarters.

This became my signature speech during the 2015 federal election campaign:

Full transcript as follows:

Friends, fellow citizens. Despite my feelings about the urgency of climate action,

I stand here today not in righteousness, but in earnestness.

I believe in a Canada that does not get stuck in the status quo and give up, but that rolls up its sleeves and takes ownership of its future. And I believe that this great challenge of climate change gives every Canadian an opportunity to be a hero.

Look at you guys.

It’s a Saturday afternoon. You could have stayed home or taken the day off. After years of disappointments and setbacks in the fight for climate justice you could have thrown your arms in the air and said “it’s too complicated, we’re all doomed, there’s no point”. But instead you came here. Because you cared. You’re already my heroes.

Et à ceux à Québec aujourd’hui qui ont mené l’effort et organisé la plus grande manifestation. Vous aussi vous êtes mes héros.

But as we stand here and pressure society to change its ways, I ask only that we do so with respect and kindness, and with the humility to accept that even those who strongly disagree with us can be doing so in good faith.

I ask the very same thing of those who align themselves with Canada’s fossil fuel industry. Our fight against the oilsands expansion is not out of disrespect for the role they play in our current well-being, but out of a profound respect for the danger they pose to our future well-being.

More than anyone else, this country needs your courage and your heart. Not merely to comply with the phase out of fossil fuels – you’re bigger than that – Canada needs you to lead the transition to a renewable energy economy.

As your cousins, as your our fellow citizens: we don’t want to hate you, we don’t want to fight you – we will if we have to and we are here today because we have no choice – but we’d much rather you be our heroes… wouldn’t you? If we did not ask you to change, we would not begin to deserve your friendship.

No, let us reserve our strongest words for our beloved Premiers and political leaders: as always you are the real targets, simply because by seeking these offices you have accepted the responsibility of leadership.

If you use your power to maintain us on this path towards a destabilised and deteriorated world, then you give us no choice. We will fight you in the courts, we will fight you at the polls, and we will fight you in the streets. We have nowhere to go and nothing to lose. We don’t have another century we can live in.

And do not forget that this is a battle you cannot win. Because with every barrel of oil dug out of the ground, with every ton of carbon released into the air, and with every degree increase in temperatures, the political playing field tilts in our favour. We will eventually win. But while the political playing field tilts in our favour, history tilts against us all.

Some would say that you only care about power and prestige. I disagree. I believe deep down in your hearts you joined politics because, like so many of us here today, you were yearning for the opportunity to make a difference.

So we face this great task of building a new economy, one that honours the Earth we have inherited and ensures the welfare of humanity, let us not forget the words of Bobby Kennedy, a hero in his own right, who spoke of civil rights but whose words remain true today:

“We must do this not because it is economically advantageous, although it is, not because the laws of God command it, although they do, not because people in other lands wish it so…. we must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do”

And to those who might be watching a recording of us years from now, those who will know what climate change really means and who may be tempted to feel anger towards the mistakes of our generation, I ask only this: judge us not for our difficulties mastering an issue with such widespread causes and distant consequences. As human beings this does not come naturally to us. Judge us instead on whether we show the courage and heart to never give up trying.

My friends: regardless of who you are – a Premier heading to Quebec city, an oil entrepreneur tempted by a new industry, or a fellow citizen concerned about your future: now is your chance to be a Canadian hero.

Thank you. I believe in this country. Je crois en vous. And I look forward to our journey together.

Wyatt Tessari, April 11 2015, Vancouver BC