Wednesday, December 31, 2014

No, It's the Environment, Stupid.

David Suzuki once observed that we cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy environment.  It shouldn't require a PhD to grasp that yet it's astonishing how so many well-educated people, including our political leadership, simply don't get it.

In his year-end column, Gwynne Dyer concludes that climate change isn't a major problem.  It's the problem, the threat that supercedes all the rest.  It's the Alpha and Omega, the Big Enchilada, the Sword of Damocles.

...imagine that we are a panel of high-priced medicos reviewing the health status of our most important client, the human race.
The first thing to note is that the client is still piling on weight at an alarming rate—up from two billion units to seven billion in the past 75 years—but continues to thrive, for the most part. And most of the ailments that it worries about are mere hypochondria.

Take, for example, the widespread concern (at least in the media and among what Bob Fisk calls the “think-tank mountebanks”) that the emergence of the so-called Islamic State in the no-man’s land between Iraq and Syria will lead to catastrophe. There will allegedly be a surge in terrorist attacks around the world, a Sunni-Shia religious war spanning the entire Middle East, or even a global religious war between Muslims and everybody else.
...The whole “Islamic State” panic is a tempest in a fairly small teacup. The casualties are small, and the entire region matters little economically or strategically except to its own inhabitants. Even in the unlikely event that a Sunni-Shia religious war should engulf the whole of the Middle East, it would have no more effect on the rest of the planet than the European wars of religion four centuries ago had on the Middle East. That is to say, hardly any.

So in terms of the global system’s health, the rise of radical Islamism is not a life-threatening disease. It’s a local infection that will probably have to run its course. If it really gets bad, some quarantine measures may be needed, but this is not Ebola.
The other great shock of 2014 was a war in Europe. The Ukrainian revolution of last February was a messy and complicated business, but it need not have ended in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and in a Russian-backed separatist war in Ukraine’s two easternmost provinces. 
...Western European governments are so divided and introspective that they could not come up with a credible plan to boil an egg, and they care very little about the parts of Eastern Europe beyond the European Union’s borders. The only section of the American population that sees President Obama’s administration as capable of hatching a plot is the extreme right, and they think he’s a foreign-born Communist plotting the overthrow of the United States.
...So far the patient’s health is looking pretty good. There is the usual clutter of minor ailments—a mini-civil war here (Libya, South Sudan), civil-rights protesters under attack there (Hong Kong, Missouri)—and there is a significant possibility that next year will bring another recession. That’s as inevitable as catching a cold once in a while. But there has been nothing really out of the ordinary this year, nothing that sets off alarm bells.

The only big worry the doctors have is the same one that has bothered them for the past 25 years: the patient simply won’t stop smoking. Their increasingly grave warnings are met with empty promises to cut back or quit entirely, but not right now, just some time far in the future. Maybe.
...Climate change is the spectre at every feast, the unstoppable rot that undermines every positive development. The failure at Copenhagen in 2009 bleeds indistinguishably into the fudge at Durban in 2011 and on into the feeble compromise in Lima in 2014, which sets us up for the bigger disappointment of Paris in 2015. And even if by some miracle we get a useful agreement in Paris next year, nothing will actually be done until 2020.

The patient thinks there’s still plenty of time to quit. There isn’t.
2015 is poised to be our "make it or break it" year and, unfortunately, "break it" has a solid lead.  Even if we somehow do achieve a meaningful, effective climate change deal in Paris, one that actually leads to the rapid decarbonization of our economies and our societies, it will only be a first step on our path to find ways that will allow 9-billion humans to live in some rough balance with our environment and what remains of our non-human lifeforms.  
We're in it now, in it up to our necks, and "the economy" isn't going to get us out of this one.  


the salamander said...

.. exceptional analogies Mound.. & timely article..
More and more I've described fracking as such a bizarre Pandoras Box enriching foreign entities that Canada subsidizes to pollute land, water and air & atmosphere

In a nutshell
- we divert & transport fresh water from streams, wells, lakes & rivers.. plus condensate pipelines
- we prick the earth's mantle with millions of drill holes & release toxins & GHGs to the winds & atmosphere
- then inject the water now laced with unidentified toxins back into the earth & hydrology at varying depths
- use endless pipelines crossing environment & habitat to move extracted oil & gas towards China

Of all people I don't need to inform you regarding any of this.. nor the stage including Chinese supertankers currently under construction to carry 'our' resources away from 'tidewater' as that pompous ass millionaire Joe Oliver likes to call the BC coastline, its inhabitants, ecosystems & cultures.

What truly infuriates me is the sheer ignorance, malignancy and duplicity of captured sellout political jackals & their esteemed energy partners in the Great Swindle & impending environmental atrocities.

These rapture ridden political extremists will eliminate any number of keychain species and/or their habitat via omnibus legislation, whipped votes and as an added insult, stand to clap in thunderous applause in Question Period as glib liars frauds and complete fools game and groom our Parliament.

I don't give a damn if any of them are fired, go to jail or are caught with sex workers.. I care that real Canadians figure out how to turf them and trash any legacy or pensions these pricks, male of female are dreaming on.

Owen Gray said...

Dyer has been warning for decades now that climate change is the world's biggest problem, Mound.

Still, no one seems to be listening.

The Mound of Sound said...

HNY Sal, Owen. I'm as guilty as anyone of heaping blame on the politicos when a good deal of the fault needs to be spread around.

Polls have found that Canadians' concerns about climate change fade quickly when they're asked if they would accept a monetary sacrifice to support some sort of meaningful action. That, of course, is enough to anchor political inaction.

Yet I wonder if the public vacillation is largely the result of government failing to have the essential "dialogue" with the people. Without establishing an information-based foundation it's hard to imagine how we can build a popular consensus. Disseminating the information required for the dialogue needed to reach consensus is an "all of government" task, a truly Herculean chore. The Conservative government, however, wilfully stands mute. No information, no dialogue, no consensus.

One thing we know is that the window of opportunity for action is closing fairly rapidly. That creates an added urgency in consensus building. Trudeau says he'll act but I'm skeptical as to whether he grasps the urgency of the situation.

Unknown said...

Me I'm old enough not to see Earth who I love dearly turn into another Mars...

I'll be dust in the wind. I pray even though I ain't religious that we can turn this around before I become dust. This Planet Earth is "The Garden of Eden" and the most beautiful planet in the Universe? Why would you want to destroy it for paper goods? [stocks bonds money] Nut cases all of them. How would you enjoy it if you welcomed me into your beautiful home and I destroyed it? No I don't think so...

Harper and his con clowns have to go.

Steve said...

I argue that climate change is just a symptom of the chum deal world that is run by voodoo economics.