Sunday, August 23, 2015

Angry For Good Reason

Every evening at 6:30, I try to take about 10 minutes to watch NBC Nightly News, the object of my interest not American politics but the apocalyptic imagery of the West Coast wildfires. Every night seems to bring reports of new conflagrations and tragedy, and every night my anger grows, not just for the loss of valuable forests and the consequent release of all of their stored carbon, not just for the loss of hundreds of homes that have often been in families for generations, and not just for the loss of the lives of the brave people putting themselves on the front-lines in often futile attempts to contain these raging conflagrations.

No, my greatest anger is reserved for two groups, one of them being the politicians and their well-heeled enablers who facilitate either outright climate-change denial or, even more insidiously, now acknowledge it but doubt that it is caused by human activity. Hence, no need to change our reliance on fossil fuels or anything else about our earth-altering habits - it's out of our hands, goes the messaging.

The second target for my deep anger is the rest of us. Sure, as a society we may express concern, but as soon as measures are proposed that would constitute concrete action against ever-rising temperatures, outrage ensues. Consider the glee with which Conservative MP Michelle Rempel pounced on Linda McQuaig's recent assertion that much of the tarsands oil may have to be left in the ground if we are to keep the rise in global temperatures under two degrees Celsius. Rempel's Dark Lord and Master, Stephen Harper, quickly joined in the pile-on, saying such a statement shows that the NDP will “wreck our economy” and should never come to power.

But why do you think their triumphalism is so nakedly and unapologetically on offer? It's because they know that whatever veneer of noble intent and purpose we have can be easily pierced by raising the spectre of job loss, tax increases, and disruption of our profligate lifestyles, this, of course, despite the fact that those consequences, and much worse, are coming our way as runaway climate change takes hold.

That is also why people like Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau limit their references to climate change to platitudinous generalities.

Said Mr. Mulcair recently:
At a time when world leaders are negotiating new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Mulcair said he wants to represent Canada in December when decisions are made in Paris.

“Nothing would make me more proud than to be there in December, as Prime Minister of Canada, to participate in the conference on climate change, to declare loud and clear that Canada will work with the world and not against the planet,” he said.
Note the similar stance taken by Trudeau:
He would take the premiers with him to the Paris climate-change summit in December. By April 2016, he would hold a first minister’s conference to forge a consensus on emissions-reduction targets. He would commit “targeted federal funding” to help provinces reduce their emissions.
Their timidity, of course, is predicated on the same boldness that galvanizes the Harperites: the knowledge that people are all for addressing climate change, as long as it doesn't impinge upon their lifestyle choices and economic statuses.

In the days of widespread church attendance, Sundays were devoted to uplifting messages, and in that regard my post falls far short. However, I will end on a positive note. One of the few things that keeps me from complete despair is the knowledge that there are those among us who are willing to put everything at risk, even their very lives, in service of their fellow humans. The above-mentioned firefighters are sterling proof of that. Now, if only the rest of us could awaken that noble potential ....


  1. We all have it within us, Lorne. But we shrink from challenge and danger.

    1. And we have no leaders willing to try to cultivate it, Owen.

  2. Lorne, whenever I see a baby I feel very sad thinking that what kind of future is waiting for him. What kind of future we are going to leave behind for the upcoming generations.

    1. I know, LD. If only we could think beyond ourselves and the immediate moment....