Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Their Planet Too

It's curious how we've come to believe, even if we can't bring ourselves to come right out and say it, that we're entitled to do pretty much whatever we like with the earth's common resources from the oceans to the atmosphere. These things, which cannot be owned by any country and must therefore belong to all equally, are nonetheless there to be exploited for our prosperity even if that has to be achieved at great suffering to others.

It's a principle of all civilized societies that a person is presumed to intend the logical consequences of their acts. In other words, if you do something, you're deemed to intend the consequences of what follows and it doesn't matter if those consequences are borne by you or someone else. Without this core principle, laws would be largely impossible to apply and enforce.

There is an out, an exception to this principle. It only applies to consequences that can actually be foreseen when the act occurs. If something happens that no reasonable person could have seen coming, well then we give you a pass.

Now, let's take carbon emissions. The big emitters, and that includes Canada, are likely to bring suffering, displacement, even death in large numbers to the poorest, most vulnerable nations on earth. That is the logical consequence of our failure to slash our carbon emissions. Maybe it wasn't foreseeable ten years ago but it's certainly foreseeable now. It's been thoroughly researched, studied and documented. That foreseeability exception I mentioned isn't available any more.

So, it comes down to this. By shirking our responsibility, as Canadians, to slash our greenhouse gas emissions, we can quite fairly be deemed to intend everything we're inflicting - and, more importantly, about to inflict - on the poorest, most vulnerable nations on earth.

It's no excuse to say that China and the US aren't leading the way. Just because they're firing carbon salvoes at these unfortunates doesn't make it any more acceptable that we're also doing it. Their sins are their sins, our sins are our sins, our crimes against humanity are our crimes and it doesn't make any difference whether China or the US even exist.

Consider this situation. The US has 50-machine guns and China has 50-machine guns and Canada has just 5. Suddenly the Americans and the Chinese open up into a mass of thousands of Sub-Saharan African climate migrants. We begin firing with our few guns, drowned out by the roar of the Chinese and American guns. Then we say, well we only had a few guns so we really didn't make any difference. The Americans and the Chinese were going to wipe them all out anyway. Really? Is that what we are as Canadians?

We fully intend to inflict the consequences of our fossil fuel extravagance on the people of the Third World. We intend that they suffer drought and floods, desertification and famine. We intend to render their homelands uninhabitable and we intend to displace them, to turn them into climate refugees. We intend every single misery that we bring to them. I'm sure we all wish that wasn't necessary but that doesn't change the fact that we intend that they get what's coming their way.

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