Monday, March 19, 2007

Finding Balance

There'll be an awful lot of talk about global warming in the runup to the next election. There'll be green and greener yet, even green with envy. We'll hear all about emissions caps, carbon taxes, carbon trading and carbon footprints. It's bound to be All-Carbon, All The Time. Therein lies the problem.

It's in the nature of the beast for politicians to latch on to whatever issue has the public's attention. Sometimes the pols engineer the issue (remember Saddam's WMDs?) and sometimes the issue is something extrinsic. Either way, whichever direction the public is looking at election time, that's where the politicians will be jostling for space.

Harpo's environmental conversion is a particularly telling example. This bozo has flip-flopped on one core principle after another since he assumed office. Liberal initiatives that he scrapped, he now shamelessly restores, claiming them as his own. However, one issue stands alone - the global warming question.

Our Furious Leader didn't embrace the global warming issue because he believed in it. He jumped onto this bandwagon because he realized it would cost him at the voting booth if he didn't. And, like his masterfully dissembling American Idol, he knew that seeming to take charge of the problem was actually his best way to defend his real concern, Big Oil and Big Coal. But I digress.

The real problem with the way the global warming issue is being approached - by all parties - is a lack of balance. It is a genuine and growing threat to us and especially to the generations to follow us and it requires measures that are as big as the problem, but... and here's the real but... it can't be allowed to distract us from the many other problems that also need to be confronted and not just at home but abroad as well.

This is an opportunity being thoroughly exploited and abused by the greenhouse gas deniers. Seizing upon a half-truth, they point out that climate change won't be cataclysmic and may even have some side benefits.

You may not have heard this before, but that is a thoroughly and disgracefully racist argument.

It's true that global warming probably will be less destructive, at least initially, in the northern hemisphere where the vast majority of the greenhouse gases are created. However, it is already having a devastating effect that will only worsen in vulnerable regions of the southern hemisphere, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. But they're blacks and the one thing the West has shown over the past two decades is that black people don't matter. They and their plight certainly don't matter to the greenhouse gas deniers because that would completely destroy their arguments that the problem is overblown.

So long as we take a "them and us" approach to global warming and associated problems, we'll never solve this. If we allow their homelands to become unable to support their populations, we'll force them to migrate. They're not responsible for the global warming that besets them, we are. When they have to migrate simply to survive it'll be because we made that necessary, we ruined their homeland.

They'll begin by migrating into neighbouring territories that are also distressed and least able to accommodate climate refugees. That will lead to a new sort of war, one that's already happening but we rarely hear mentioned in our media, wars of sustenance. Eventually this migration will affect more distant countries in normally temperate climes. This has already begun to plague Europe and it's a problem that's going to worsen rapidly and it's going to spread.

In wars of subsistence, it's the 'haves' versus the 'have-nots' and they quickly come to see and treat each other as genuine enemies. When the haves begin to worry about their own supplies of food and water, the have-nots loom large as mortal threats to be resisted and, if necessary, destroyed.

Leaving this unresolved reduces our options and flexibility and that, in turn, increases the dependence on military force as a default response. If we are to preserve our options, we'll have to begin by treating the welfare of the have-nots as critical to our own.

We should probably hope that the migrants never get beyond tribal status. Were they to organize into regional or even sub-continental movements, they might be able to add a political and even military dimension to the challenges they'll pose to us.

There is no problem or group of problems for which there are no answers. Indeed there are several answers to resolve each and everyone of these problems. If we choose not to pursue the best solutions, a less happy solution will become our reality. That's a little truth we all need to acknowledge. That's why we must begin treating the current situation as an opportunity not a burdensome scourge to be deflected or avoided. Only if we see it as an opportunity, a chance to take the best options still open to us, will we be able to avoid having to accept a poorer solution when today's best options are foreclosed.

The existing environmental challenges all result from neglect built on indifference and greed. This has generated a degree of finger pointing that only blinds us to the enormity of the challenges we face.

We rather arrogantly say we'll not act unless the emerging Third World economies, particularly India and China do the same. Without their equal sacrifice, our best efforts are relatively meaningless. Good point. They take a different approach. We Westerners have had the benefit of growing our industrial economies by polluting the world for many decades so we ought to clean up our emissions first before expecting others to do the same. That's a pretty good point too. Two arguments of varying moral and logical suasion but each sufficiently valid to create a stalemate of inaction. Unless both sides move past this nonsense, our respective indignation will be our collective undoing. Just how stupid can we really be?

So we need an abrupt attitude change on global warming. We need to approach it as a global problem in which we all share all the problems and share in the answers. We need to see the current situation as an opportunity and understand that we'll pay dearly for it if we don't.

We also need to understand that global warming can't be addressed in isolation of the many other challenges facing our civilization today. We must reach consensus on a global response to the many other threats that confront us today such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, depletion of non-renewable resources, desertification, the spread of viruses, diseases and pests, the over-exploitation of ground water resources, our steadily disappearing stock of arable land and forests, exhaustion of our fisheries, species extinction, overpopulation, the list goes on.

Focusing on one or even a few of these to the exclusion of others will leave us off-balance. A narrow approach will also be ineffective. Taking a broader, inclusive approach offers the best chance of keeping these issues manageable while they're being sorted out. We will also find that the same solutions we apply to one problem will be similarly beneficial to others.

We need to find balance and to see these challenges as more than election issues. The way forward will entail a realignment of our economic, political and social models and philosophies, the way we see the world and interact with it. Xenophobic nationalism is a malignancy to the future health of this planet.

The best solutions to our array of problems are already long gone, closed off. In many respects we simply weren't aware of these gradually mounting threats so we couldn't even consider remedies. However even though some of our options are gone, many remain, but the best of them will be the first foreclosed. The longer we wait, the worse the solution will be.

It's sort of like the movies where the hot air balloon suddenly lifts off with a ground handler still clinging to one of the ropes. The handler panics and refuses to let go until he's gone past the point where he can survive the fall and yet the fall, now fatal, is inevitable. We still have time to let go of the rope but we're climbing higher all the time. Let's do it while we can still have a survivable landing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So well written!!!!!! Weenie