Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Sometimes All I Hear is the Sound of Heads Banging into Walls.

I've started to think of them as "prescription pieces" and there are plenty of them. These are the articles that pop up daily to repeat warnings of what we must absolutely do right now to avert unspeakably dire consequences in the not too distant future.

I can't criticize those articles. I agree with them. They're usually backed up by reams of scientific research and analysis, a mountain of knowledge that grows every day. Most of those who write these essays are well-credentialed individuals, top drawer men and women. They write with sincerity and passion. They want to even our keel, steer us away from the shoals that lie just ahead.

It would be amazing if we listened to these people, heeded their warnings, embraced their prescriptions and demanded that our leaders stopped skirting these building crises and finally dealt with them. Only that never quite happens.

Imagine if these articles and studies and papers ever got traction, if they ever lasted more than a few days before being flushed down the Memory Hole.  Imagine if our lawmakers strolled into the House of Commons, their minds seized with the awareness that they are, today, passing judgment on our young people and the generations to follow them. Imagine if they knew that the decisions they're taking now will translate into lives and deaths of Canadians in a decade or two. Imagine if they realized there are some options that are still available to us that will be foreclosed in just a few years. Imagine if they knew that we, today's voting public, would hold them accountable for their indifference and neglect.

None of that is happening. No, there is no epiphany among those to whom we entrust the power to safeguard us and  secure this nation's  endangered future. Imagine the dark farce of a Parliament proclaiming a climate state of emergency and then, less than 24 hours later, greenlighting a massive new pipeline to deliver high-carbon, low-value bitumen to world markets.

I still read those prescription pieces as they come in.  My habit is to start right at the end where there'll be listed the authors and their credentials. Then I wade into their essays, top to bottom. I dwell on them for a while but then I hear that Memory Hole beginning to slowly creak open, followed by the thudding sound of heads banging into walls.


thwap said...

You are well informed on the danger of global heating.

You have identified the problems of political corruption and/or inertia.

What do you think is needed to change things?

The Disaffected Lib said...

If I could wish for one thing, Thwap, it would be a powerful sea change in public attitude on climate breakdown. There are many things that can be done but almost none of them that don't require sacrifice and cutting back what we perceive to be our standard of living. Many Canadians are concerned about climate change and want something done but they're not willing to pay/lose/sacrifice much to achieve it. Without strong public demand there's little political will for taking bold action.

We know what must be done before this decade is out and there's no plan to get there. Now I fear he social and economic impacts of the pandemic will undermine our already weak chance of change in the limited amount of time remaining to us.

My view is that future generations are screwed. Yet that very belief is what keeps me advocating for change, not throwing in the towel. It's really quite helpful to be able to be able to liberate the fight from perceived outcomes. All that's necessary is to accept that we may not be able to spare the next generation or two from a dangerous and less viable future, we still have a role to play in making it less hellish than, at this point, necessary or we can go along as we are and make life harsher for those generations which seems to be the course we're on.

I've been trying to do my part. I've downsized from a large house to a comfortable but modest bungalow. I've made that about as energy efficient as I can manage. I last flew about 10 years ago to attend my father's funeral. I still have to drive but I've gotten my mileage down to just under 4,000 km. per year which means my current little car should outlast me. I haven't been off the island in years. The best part is that I don't feel deprived in any way.

thwap said...


I'd say we have to construct a positive vision of a political-economic system that reflects ecological reality.

Show people how things can be better. (Especially since it's life-or-death necessary anyway.)

Show how it's possible.

Force politicians to accept that it's all-or-nothing. Show them as well that powerful people aren't powerful anymore if they come up against a democratic state.

The Disaffected Lib said...

I don't mean to discourage you, thwap, but I think that horse has already left the barn.

How many electoral cycles do you think it would take to achieve such a tide change in Canadian politics? And, once that had been achieved, how long would it take to implement change of such magnitude across the federal/provincial structure of our confederation?

Then, if your goal is to create conditions for a "soft landing" on climate breakdown for young and future Canadians, how much time do you think we have remaining to bring such massive change into effect?

I don't think we have nearly enough time remaining to avert global climate breakdown. The Liberals don't have a plan to do that and the Tories are far more doubtful starters. There are some European nations that have already made real progress on slashing emissions but what of Russia or China or the United States?

Canada already has a podium finish for per capita greenhouse gas emissions and, despite our minuscule population, we're well within the Top Ten for overall emissions.

Back in 2013 the climate team at the University of Hawaii released a report warning that catastrophic heating would begin setting in across the tropical latitudes around 2013. It seemed like a radical, even suspect outlook when it came out. Since then, and especially over the past two years, there has been a succession of studies from other agencies that generally corroborate the U. Hawaii paper.

There's a problem, perhaps insurmountable. The Third World experience of climate breakdown is going to be massively different - in rate of onset, in severity, in duration - than our own. I'm sure we'll send them our thoughts and prayers, at the outset at least, but how long before we come to see them as a threat as they migrate under the imperative of survival? In both hemispheres, animals are migrating poleward. We're seeing this marine life exodus out of the south in our own coastal waters. Even plants are migrating (albeit at about 8" annually). Why would we imagine humans won't have to do the same?

The difference in how we experience climate change sabotages prospects for some universal response. The affluent, developed world will be "last and least" impacted. That is bound to be reflected in the public appetite for change that would entail sacrifice and a reduction in "standard" of living as we understand it. With rare exception, every nation has an excuse, every nation points fingers at some other. How do you forge a global consensus out of this?