Sunday, June 28, 2015

If Today's Youth Care About Their Future, They Would Do Well to Keep Their Distance From Us.

We're used to drought out here.  Every summer the Rain Festival takes a break for two to three months and the place dries out.  It's great for the tourist operators as visitors flock to the place to enjoy the vast beaches and ocean breezes, warm and sunny days and delightfully cool and comfortable evenings.

Not this year.

The drought arrived, months earlier than usual, and its brought what, for us, is a grinding heatwave that shows no sign of breaking anytime soon.  That's very worrisome indeed.  We didn't really have a winter this year so next to no snowpack on the local mountains.  That translates into a disastrous salmon spawning season and increased likelihood of major forest fires this summer.  It's not the same drought and heatwave conditions that are hammering the prairies but, hey, this is supposed to be the rainforest.

This brings to mind a couple of items I've recently read about the need for Canada's youth to embrace our political process, to make their voices heard, and lay claim to their fair share of political influence.  To me, that sounds like calling for our young people to capitulate, throw in with us and sit quietly in the corner while we mete out what will remain of their future.

The pre-Millennial generations have done a masterful job on today's young.  Our parents bequeathed us a much better world than they had known.  We never had to experience the turmoil they endured during the first half of the 20th century. No, we got the second half, the really good half.  We got the half our parents built and forged and handed us on a silver platter.  We got the half of ease and comfort and plenty that eclipsed anything in the entire history of mankind.

Compare what we got to what we are bequeathing to these poor buggers over the balance of this century.  For we not only took everything we got from our parents and grandparents but we helped ourselves to everything we could steal from the future.  In the process we're raping and pillaging the environment.  It's barely taken us thirty years to reduce the planet's stock of wildlife by half.

Bill Moyers did a series on posterity that is gathering dust in some tape vault somewhere.  I do so wish that could be aired again.  It traced the role of posterity in building the great society through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and the abrupt extinction of posterity in the postwar era.  Leaders, believe it or not, used to plan for the future, a better future for the generations to follow them.  What a fucking crazy idea, eh?

When was the last time anybody did that?  When was the last time some pol declared this is what we'll need to go into a better future?  I suppose you could argue it was Trudeau introducing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the instrument intended to secure liberal democracy for Canada.  He just squeaked that in with almost no time left.

Look at Harper today.  He and his absolutely despise that Charter because - well because it's doing its job, it's reining them in, limiting their powers against the individual.  Take a second, think about this.  Bad as Harper unquestionably is, what would the damage he's caused the country be like if he wasn't repeatedly rebuffed by the Charter? Absent the Charter, how much further would he have been encouraged to go? How much more of his darkness would have bubbled to the surface? The Harper so many of us loathe is the moderate one, the Harper who has been wrestled to the ground by the Charter and our Supreme Court. Keep that in your mind.

Do you think Harper gives a good goddamn about posterity, about future generations?  He dreamt of Canada becoming an energy superpower and it remains his abiding obsession.  He envisioned Canada as an American "Mini-Me."  No more peacekeeping for us, we bomb shit now.  Yeah, that's what we do - muscular (in a ripped, oiled up and bronzed, bikini-brief sort of way).  We're no longer in the business of making friends. Got all the friends we need, that book is closed. There are, however, still plenty of vacancies for new enemies.  Bring'em on.

To today's young people, we're the gift that just keeps on giving.  Long after we're gone we'll be giving them more and more cause to hate us.  Here's just one example. Today we're already getting the brunt of early onset climate change - more hot, more cold; more dry, more wet, that sort of thing. Sea level rise is accelerating, our oceans are steadily acidifying.  Our once pristine waterways are becoming polluted and clogged with blue-green algae.

The thing is, we've got all this and we're only just at 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  You won't see it when you look up into that big blue sky today but up there is a carbon bomb  just waiting for our young people.  The atmospheric CO2 already there has locked in for them 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.  Even if we all threw our car keys in the sewer today that's already up there just waiting to wreak havoc on our kids. In their lifetimes and that of the next three generations, minimum, that's their lot and it, for them, is inescapable while yet they draw breath.

Okay, maybe we really didn't know better in time to prevent that 1.5C result. Maybe we didn't know but we damn well know now. We know our grandkids are going to take it in the neck.  So what are we doing about it? Well, we're going to raise carbon taxes.  Isn't that nice? What a thoughtful gesture, an open hand generously, selflessly extended to the future.  Sure.

Carbon taxes are great, don't get me wrong. They encourage consumers to cut down on their use of fossil fuels which is obviously a good thing.  Carbon taxes might have been an answer back in the 60s.  Just not today.  Every tonne of CO2 we release into the atmosphere today is going right atop that pile that now stands at 1.5C and rising.    Every tonne we add to the 1.5C is going to make our grandkids' lives just that little bit more hellish, more challenging, more dangerous.

Carbon taxes are sort of like taking a knife to a gunfight.  We need to commit to decarbonizing our society, our economy and we should be doing that, not for us but for the grandkids.  Here's the thing. We need to do it now because there's a lead time to this of at least twenty years, probably more like thirty and that's time we may not even have any longer.  We're already at 1.5C (partially deferred) so we have to get this happening, now.  This carbon tax initiative may actually doom us to failure because it makes us think we're dealing with this existential problem when we're really just kicking it down a very short, dead end road.

Carbon taxes are the ideal solution for people who believe they won't be around to experience that 1.5C world anyway.  It's a dandy solution for us, just not so good for the kids. It's really like asking the band on the Titanic to play something livelier, more jovial.  Carbon taxes, without more, are just a dangerous smokescreen.  They're all today's young people need to know to grasp that we're still just having them on and that's not about to stop especially not if they toss in with us.

It's delusional to believe that the "political process" offers solutions to the problems that confront our youth.  It's actually a major source of their problems and it takes people like us, the generation of comfort and ease, to conjure up bullshit that rank.

If they're to have a hope they need to circumvent and overcome our atrophied, unresponsive and oh so neoliberal political process or we really have to reverse direction - thrust reversers, now, full.  Fortunately - for us - we've got them right where we want them - disaffected, distracted, uncoordinated and, frankly, very weakened, at least for now.  I think it's quite possible that the day may come when that changes, when young people come together, unite and get political. But if and when that day comes I don't think they'll be uniting to participate in our political process.  No, they'll have something quite different in mind - collecting their due.

In keeping with this theme, I'd like to share a photo a friend sent along taken at the recent Pride parade in Dublin.


Askingtherightquestions said...

Mound, thanks for cogently presenting this case! Long term planning went out the door in the 80's with the rise of the permanent campaign, the great communicator and the spin doctors. Every political move became fixated on the next polling cycle with no thought for medium and long term effects. It has built into a vicious, short-sighted and ultimately destructive cycle of POOR governance. Combined with declining moral and ethical values based on a winner takes all philosophy of politics, this will only change if Canadians agree to come together and demand it.

As I get older, I realize more and more that we get the government we deserve. Concepts of conflict of interest, governance for the greatest good and reasoned policy making can win the day if a leader and party CHOOSES to communicate with Canadians in a meaningful way. Is it not fitting that Harper and the CPC have spent more money on advertising while in office, yet the product has been poor, unmotivating and devisive.

LeDaro said...

Mound, all Harper wants is hold on to power no matter what it takes. It seems he does not care what his actions and policies will do to the coming generations. Short shortsightedness is a common trait of human nature but when it is the dominating trait of a politician in power then the results are going to be disastrous indeed.

Lorne said...

A very interesting post Mound, but if the young are to become motivated to make change, I really don't see how that is possible, short of revolution, outside of the political process. At the risk of reductionist thinking, it seems to me the overriding thirst among most politicians is for power. That is one reason we have seen almost no action on climate change- it is not palatable to the voters, and hence threatens the politicos with a loss of that power. If the young see things differently, they have to make their power and their demands felt at election time and refuse to accept the anondynes offered by those who hold office.

You are absolutely right that our generation has failed succeeding ones badly. In my mind, the hope for change is only to be found in the young, if they are willing to take up the challenge. And I grant you it is a difficult, almost impossible, one that is compounded by the job insecurity that our generation has foisted upon them.

The Mound of Sound said...

Imagine this, Lorne. What would a political party - Liberal, NDP, Conservative, take your pick - look like today if it did choose to at least partially redress what we've done to the next three generations. What would happen to the political party that said, "yes, we must ensure a viable future for generations of Canadians as yet unborn"?

We know some of what that would entail. For starters it would require rapidly decarbonizing our society and economy which would mean shutting down production of all but the very lowest carbon fossil fuels. It would mean implementing alternatives to market fundamentalism, the perpetual growth paradigm. It would demand rejecting the tenets of neoliberalism that lie behind our rising inequality - of wealth, of income, and of opportunity.

Do you believe, for even a minute, that any NDP, Liberal or Conservative party that did that wouldn't suffer a collapse of its membership? That's how great this intergenerational divide has grown. It's irreconcilable.

No major party would do these things because it would be political seppuku.

It comes down to a question of whether or not you accept -

- that anthropogenic global warming is real
- that the warnings of science that we're on a path to 4C of 'man made' warming are true (note, that doesn't even incorporate 'natural feedback mechanisms' - i.e. runaway global warming)
- that mankind is exhausting the planet's resources at a rate half again greater than their replenishment rate, causing us to deplete our natural reserves at a constantly accelerating pace
- that we have driven the loss of half of our wildlife in just 30-years
- that just one species, ours, has for the first time in the 5-billion year history of our planet created a new geological epoch, the anthropocene, and, given the rate of ocean acidification and species extinction, has quite probably, over the course of just a couple of centuries, triggered the sixth mass extinction event experienced on our planet

This is part of what science is revealing to us, Lorne. You either accept it or you don't. Belief does not enter into this.

If you accept these things as representing the best scientific information, knowledge available to us today then you face the Dark Mountain paradox of how you support any political party that operates on a different reality. That's more than I can handle and I certainly don't expect to be around in 20-years. Why would we expect young people - who will be around in 20 years, 30 years and 40 years, to buy into this political chicanery? Isn't that akin to asking them to board the Titanic knowing it's going to hit that damned iceberg?

This paradox has led me to coin a term for today's political leadership, plague rats.

Hugh said...

I agree, carbon taxes and credits don't do anything - they're just window dressing.

If we want to reduce GHGs, we will have to go to the sources and shut them down. Such as oil wells, bitumen mining, natural gas wells, coal mines etc. I don't see that happening.

Owen Gray said...

One word, Mound. Excellent.

Hugh said...

BC has had a carbon tax and a carbon credit scheme since 2008.
After dropping after the 2008 banking fraud meltdown, BC GHG emissions are on the rise. See p 62 part 3, Table A10-20: