Friday, October 19, 2018

What Side Are You On?

It's come to this. I didn't want this anymore than anyone else. Perhaps I saw it coming a little more clearly, a little sooner than some others but that's about it. That distinction is meaningless now.

What was once something that had to be read between the lines has been boiled down to a direct warning now. We know what the problem, the threat is. We know what we have to do if we're to avert that problem. We know the consequences that will, not may but will, befall us if we don't heed this warning.

How much more blunt do you need? We either rapidly decarbonize our economies and our societies or your kids and especially your grandchildren are going to take it in the neck.  They're smack in the middle of the crosswalk, you're in the car, are you going to take your foot off the gas and hit the brake or are you just going to see what happens?

Let's complicate that horrible scenario. You're not at the wheel. You don't have your foot on the gas. The person you elected is at the wheel. That person has their foot on the gas, pedal to the metal, and that person you elected doesn't know your grandchildren from Adam. That person you elected brushes you off, saying, "oh, they'll think of something; they'll  get out of the way." What are you going to say, "you know best"?

Right now Justin Trudeau is at the wheel. His gas pedal is the TransMountain pipeline and he's just itching to floor it.

Trudeau's environment minister, Cathy McKenna, recently awoke from her slumber to state the obvious. She said ours is the first generation to experience the impacts of climate change and the last that will be able to do anything about it - before nodding off back to sleep.

So, you've got the dire but typically soft-pedaled warning from the IPCC that we have just 12 years to effect a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions or we'll trigger runaway global warming and you've got an environment minister who points out that ours is the last generation that will be able to do anything about it and you have a government bent on flooding world markets with the highest-carbon ersatz petroleum on the planet, bitumen. The prime minister is failing even to meet his climate-denier predecessor, Stephen Harper's lame emission cuts promises.

I once thought that Trump supporters were Gullibillies - ignorant, bone-headed saps who would gleefully swallow whatever Trump spoonfed them. These are people who are belief based and freely reject fact and knowledge. When it comes to climate change and the urgent threat it poses I think we've got plenty of Gullibillies of our own. The Liberal and Conservative ranks are chock full of them.

We're under threat. Real, urgent threat. We're on the defensive whether we like to admit it or not. Military leaders when thrown onto the defensive normally organize lines of defence. You don't want the bad guy breaking through your front line and driving unopposed straight to the steps of your parliament.

When it comes to climate change, what are our lines of defence? Where's the depth? Our front line should be our governments, federal and provincial. The problem is they haven't deployed to that front. They haven't even mobilized. That front line is not even manned. But what about defence in depth? What about the other lines? What other lines? There aren't any. There are no reserves. Our defence begins and ends with our governments and they are not moving to defend us.

This occurs to me when I ponder George Monbiot's latest column in which he points out the dreary obvious. We cannot rely on our governments to act. We can't trust our governments with the future of our children and grandchildren.  They are not on our side.

We have been brought up to trust these people or at least obey them but now that could be our ruin. They're working for somebody else. They're not working for you, much less your grandkids.

Even if we could organize a sufficient segment of the population to spark some sort of disruption, there's scant time for that. We need our federal government to change course, to recognize and fulfill its duty to the public interest, not special interests.

We need to act now. Fortunately we have an election next year, the one time that our political caste at least pretend to serve the public. This is where they're vulnerable. This is where they need to be hit. It's time to twist their arms and keep increasing the pressure until they squeal.

I am no longer averse to Monbiot's call for disruptive, non-violent disobedience. What forms that would take is unclear but, with an election looming, there should be a broad spectrum of options. It's time to connect with like-minded people willing to take tangible steps to defend our children's future.

There's no longer time to mess about. We all must decide what side we're on.


When speaking with people who have given up, figuring we're doomed anyway so why change, my response has always been that we can't give up the fight. Yes the future our grandchildren will face will be more difficult and dangerous than anything we have dealt with and some of that we can no longer undo but, and this is a big consideration, what we do, individually and collectively, from today onward can make whatever they face far worse. We can flood world markets with bitumen. Future generations will pay the environmental price for that. But what kind of people does that make us?

I was encouraged today to read a brief interview with climate scientist, Michael Mann, on CBC's web site.  His message echoes what I just wrote. It's not too late. We can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change if only we choose to.
There are some things that may be lost, but much else that can be retained, too. Often, we allow the conversation to become binary, as if we either succeed or fail. But what it's really about is degrees of success or degrees of failure. We can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change from playing out, but some bad things will happen — indeed, already are. If you are Puerto Rico, or Bangladesh, or Tuvalu, or Miami Beach or California, you have already witnessed dangerous climate change impacts. It's simply a matter of how bad we're willing to allow it to get.

The main challenge is defeating the juggernaut that is the fossil fuel industry. They have used their tremendous wealth and influence to block all meaningful efforts to limit carbon emissions and accelerate the transition underway from fossil fuels toward renewable energy. The only way that we will defeat them is by turning out to vote and electing politicians who will act in our interest over the special interests.
This is what Schellnhuber meant when he told the delegates to the 2015 Paris climate summit that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could still be achievable but it would require the "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry. Governments have to euthanize the fossil fuel giants. They have to choose - do they support the carbon energy industries or their people? They too have to choose sides and, if they're not on our side, we need to send them packing.


Owen Gray said...

There are times in history when everything is on the line, Mound. This is one of those times. I wish I could say that the threat of our own extinction will be enough to make us act. But. . .

Toby said...

What is encouraging to me is that people around me (family, neighbours, friends) are beginning to talk about global warming. For years I have been pushed off as some sore of conspiracy theorist for talking about it but not now. Maybe two summers in a row with fires all around and smoke blocking out the sun had something to do it. Whatever, they are beginning to understand that something is wrong. If this translates on a large scale our politicians will have to wake up. Like you, I hold no hope for the Liberals and Conservatives or even most of the NDP.

The Mound of Sound said...

I've just signed up for an online course at FutureLearn on change and activism. I want to do whatever I can to influence some meaningful change before the next election. I know that can sound a bit Quixotic but I can't just keep writing about this. We don't have the luxury of that sort of time.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toby, we have to make our opposition felt by Liberals and Conservatives alike. If not, they'll continue to give us a comforting pat on the head and simply ignore us as they invariably do between elections. 12 years. That's just three electoral cycles in Canada. No time to waste. I don't want to wait for the orchestra to strike up "Nearer My God to Thee."

The Mound of Sound said...

Owen, I think some of us are under an obligation not to wait until a consensus emerges. By then it may be too late. Instead of sitting on our hands we have to try to advance change in whatever ways we can, individually and collectively.

the salamander said...

.. well said.. truly we face a horrendous conundrum, Mound..
I keep looking at the current crop of failed leaders, Trudeau, Scheer, Singh.. and zero sign any of them, their caucuses, enablers, parties etc have any intention of meeting your criteria or requirements. The Green Party.. well I just see them as getting little or no traction due to being so maginalized in terms of elected representatives.

Instead we are fed a steady diet of horseshit salad about Jobs Jobs Jobs, Pipelines, the Almighty Economy, petroleum, lumber and military arms manufacture & exports. There are all sorts of smokescreens blown at the citizenry (this nothing new) all sorts of red herrings, distractions and outright fictions and scandal.

I maintain that federal and provincial governance in Canada must undergo drastic reconstruction. a complete teardown and rebuild to meet the today, the near future and the distant future. The battle & horseshit media rages along unchecked in regard to pipelines, resource extraction, pollution, climate change.. As a child I recall when Canadians were asked to stop throwing kleenex out car windows.. and so my generation stopped doing that and emptying car ashtrays out the windows as well, or double bubble wrappers. Same with drinking and driving.. society reacted & changed attitudes.

So what gives now? Canadian taxpayers now subsidize foreign owned polluters.. (oh the Jobs Jobs Jobs) .. kleenex out the window ? ? ? What the f'F F F ? ? Could Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau please walk around the tar sands tailings ponds please ? ? They will NEVER be remediated. The methane will pour out of more and more wellheads... Where is the same government level of love, for alternative energy, or moderation, or domestic, regional industry or agriculture or fisheries ? It aint going to happen without astonishing leadership by exemplars.. who simply sweep away the captured deadwood of existing political parties and start building reality

Deacon Jester said...

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

Can somebody, anybody then explain to me why, if this info re climate change is so dire, so toxic to future generations’ (many of whom we already know, such as our grandchildren that we so love) ability to just survive, are people not only not worried about governments that are luke-warm re remedies to be taken (Trudeau) but are more and more often electing governments who are actually opposed! to doing pretty much anything?? Where is the failing? Who, what is responsible for the likes of Trump, Ford, MO, soon to be Higgs, Kenny, etc.,etc? We can opine all we want about how dire things are but the general political will to do even anything about it seems now to be lessening as even more warnings are sounded.
Those of us who actually give credence to what is being predicted re climate need to better understand what ‘forces’ are sending humanity on a suicide mission and how these ‘forces’ can be effectively countered. Until then, we are doomed. Mac

Deacon Jester said...

Humans are hard wired to detect immediate threats. Have been since home was the African forests. Once AGW is an immediate threat our fight or flight mechanisms will kick in and we will run around in circles killing each other for the last scraps of food and the last drops of water.

Danneau said...

Pretty much the same sentiment from a writer for whom I have great respect:

The Mound of Sound said...

Mac, anthropologist, Jared Diamond, delves into your quandry in his book, "Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail." The title itself is a giveaway. There is ample history of societies that chose a destructive path in exchange for near-term ease and comfort. Present generations can choose to sacrifice future generations and do it knowingly. They may resort to denial mechanisms, i.e. "the gods will save those people" just as we frequently fall back on "they'll think of something by then" but they're still just denial mechanisms. It's magical thinking. We know the way we're headed could well doom our descendants so we'll make up a belief-based notion to erase our guilt.

This is particularly tempting when a slow-moving calamity such as climate change is involved. Many people of my vintage discounted it, saying, "I'll be dead by then."

For the smartest, most capable and educated species in the universe we can get back to primitive-man thinking awfully quick when that suits our needs.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sal, the problem we face is time. There's not nearly enough to overthrow our nihilistic mob and replace them. Revolutions are messy, dragged out affairs usually triggering aftershock or follow-on revolutions (think Menshevik and Bolshevik). Even if there was enough public unrest there's no time to go through that uncertain process.

What we need, at this point, is to reclaim popular control of our political party apparatus. A housecleaning rather than a revolt. We have to get the electorate to turn on them. Perhaps that can be done at the ballot box although that's a very iffy prospect now with just three electoral cycles between us and 2030.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, Deacon, that's a pretty succinct roadmap to dystopia. That's one of the great problems in confronting these crises, their bloody enormity. How do we get our minds around that? It's almost masochistic. You begin to think about it but then comes the instinctive urge to recoil from it. Dr. Strangelove.

The Mound of Sound said...

RS is right, Danneau. At this point we may be playing for scraps. There is still a chance to seize the "best-case (remaining) scenario." However, if you work that through from the late 60s to today, you'll see a dynamic where the amount of effort and sacrifice to secure the best-case option steadily increases as the prize steadily declines.

Many, many times on this blog have I lamented how mankind stood by, at first unwittingly but then knowingly, as our best options slipped through our fingers to be foreclosed by the growing severity of our predicament. We watched this unfold. We've known as far back as the 80s what was underway and yet here we are, 30 or 40 years later, still talking about seizing the 2020 iteration of "best-case scenario" and talking about it with a plainly nihilistic apathy.

A number of times I've written of my undergrad studies into Latin American affairs. One aspect of life in South America is the plight of the Andean mountain people. Theirs is a precarious life. Flash floods and mudslides simply erase entire villages. Buses used to convey goods to market run off the most treacherous roads on Earth. The people, however, still cling to their traditional way of life with a psychological device sometimes called "Andean fatalism." I suppose it embodies a bit of "don't worry, be happy."

Toby said...

Mound, according to Google Translate the post by Unknown reads: "If you are looking for an accounting program or a compatible sales program With laws and regulations in Saudi Arabia you will find the solution with MUST Saudi Arabia" The links go to a commercial web page. It looks like spam to me.