In the course of Western civilization we have a rich history of blundering into emergencies unprepared, a history that teaches us the consequences of neglect are often horrendous. In most of these unfortunate situations we arrive at the moment of truth only to find that our best options are already foreclosed through opportunities squandered or what once appeared to be hard decisions left untaken. We act if we must, when we must, if we still can.
It is the stock in trade of many popular historians to ask "what if?" What if Britain and France had moved against Hitler when he moved against the Rhineland or declared anschluss with Austria? What if American authorities had properly prepared New Orleans for a Katrina-scale hurricane?
Sometimes we have gotten it right, made the right decisions. Sometimes we've just been very lucky and worst case scenarios haven't occurred.
Right now we're at one of those moments when we have to start making the right decisions or just hope we'll be very, very lucky in the very near future. Did I mention "very near future"? Over the last two days I've written about a Canadian Defence Department report warning that energy insecurity and resource (freshwater) shortages magnified by the impacts of climate change could put the world on the road to war by 2025. There's nothing particularly new in the report's findings, just that it's the Canadian military warning the Canadian government of what's coming. By every indication, the Harper government has opted for the hope that we'll be very, very lucky when 2025 rolls around.
But what about Moustache Jack and Bob Rae? Surely they're going to raise proper Hell over this, aren't they? Are they? Ever since Harper (and Layton) pistol whipped Stephane Dion for his Green Shift initiative, nobody has wanted to consider much less make the hard decisions. As far as these characters are concerned, Canada and the Canadian people are on their own on this one.
We need a truly progressive response to this gathering threat. Indeed, climate change goes to the very heart of progressivism - fundamentals such as social justice, environmentalism, pluralism and human rights. Liberals and New Democrats take it as an article of faith that their parties fully embrace these core attributes despite all the evidence that they do not or at least won't when that doesn't seem politically astute.
If the climate scientists are right and if the military analysts are right and if probable scenarios become certainty there can be only two responses and only one of them has any chance of being remotely progressive. The trouble is that the progressive option is the most fragile, the choice likeliest to be closed off first. If the progressive option slips through our fingers we'll be left with Stephen Harper's option and is that really what you want for your children and grandchildren?
The Canadian military's report has a stark warning for us all. It proclaims that the future depends on policy decisions that must be taken by government today. Today. Now.
With Stephen Harper settling in to a comfy majority this will be very much an uphill battle. It would be so much better if we didn't have to overcome the indifference of Jack Layton and Bob Rae along the way. Write to them. Tell them to get off their asses. Let them know that, on this one, everybody has to take sides.