Thursday, January 25, 2007

Looking Into the Crystal Ball

Imagine it's 1957 and you're suddenly presented with clear proof of where the world would be in half a century.

Let's say, for example, that we all realized that the Cold War would consume massive wealth and resources to end in the fall of communism. Would both sides agree that they could use their treasure more wisely for the actual benefit of their people?

What if our environmental decline was mapped out fifty years in advance? Would we have started looking for better, safer alternatives in time to avoid at least the worst of the problems that face us today?

The truth is that a lot of what is coming down the pike can be accurately predicted but it is our human condition not to respond until we must, perhaps not even until it's too late.

What strategies is Canada now mapping out to leave us ideally positioned for the world of 2057? You and I both know the answer. We're doing nothing or next to nothing.

If the world in 2050 is going to be markedly different than the world we've known for centuries, shouldn't we at least be discussing what lies ahead and our options for coping with it?

A couple of things we'll probably have to deal with are securing and distributing our freshwater resources. Some areas, particularly southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, may fall into protracted drought while B.C. receives heavy rainfall. Wouldn't it make sense to see if and how that surplus water could be used in places that may need it most?

We also need to consider growth. The areas expected to be hardest hit by global warming are the regions that are already the hottest on the planet. It won't take much change to render a lot of the earth's surface uninhabitable. That will leave the occupants two choices - migrate to more temperate areas or die. What do you think they'll choose? The Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence have already studied this and they came to the same conclusion.

It would be wonderful if we could just make room for all the newcomers but we can't. We may, however, be compelled to accept a lot more than we want or are prepared to assimilate.

We have enough experience with immigration to be able to identify the opportunities and problems this will present. Surely the time to work on these questions is now, not when we are beset by migrants.

Should we give priority to Americans? How do we retain control of our own country? How do we safeguard our resources for our needs and benefit?

This whole exercise is very time-consuming. We need time to formulate the questions we need to address. We need time to come up with reliable scenarios that are essential for planning. We need time to debate and discuss our options and make choices. We need time to put our choices, our policies into effect before we wind up playing catch-up.

What we have at the moment is a government that claims it is minty green, almost overnight, and will do everything except anything that might impact on the economy. That timid approach consigns us to window dressing solutions. It does not welcome questions and debates and making choices. It actually seeks to forestall those things.

We may have a chance right now to take steps that will pay huge benefits in the future. One thing that is apparent, the longer we loiter with our heads in the sand claiming to be green, the fewer options we'll have when we're forced to make decisions.

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