Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Seeing Is Believing

While on the official level there is much todo about the best way to keep the world's temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, those who follow such things closely make it clear that that is likely a forlorn hope, given the feedback loops that seem to now be in play. And we are reminded almost daily not only of the destructive weather that climate change is bringing about, but also our powerlessness in its face:

So the uproar about real measures to ameliorate the situation, as found, for example, in the Leap Manifesto, seems almost quaint and is clearly indicative of our collective failure to truly contemplate our extinction as a species. In today's Star, Thomas Walkom tries to put that uproar into perspective:
Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley has called its centrepiece recommendations naive and ill-informed.

Writing in the Star, former party official Robin Sears has dismissed it as the product of “loony leapers.”

In the media, it is usually described as radical. When delegates at the NDP’s Edmonton convention last weekend voted to debate the manifesto at the riding level, some fretted that the party was about to ride off into a Quixotic dead end.

In fact, the Leap Manifesto, which first surfaced last fall, is neither radical nor uniquely left-wing.
Authored by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, the central premise of the manifesto is that carbon emissions can be reduced to zero by 2050. One of the cornerstones of that goal is an end to new gas and oil pipelines, something that naturally is vehemently opposed in Alberta, but not so much in almost all of the rest of the country. Additionally,
[l]ike Ottawa and virtually every provincial government, the manifesto calls for investment in clean energy projects. As Ontario has found with its windmill policy, this isn’t always a politically painless process. But except for the manifesto’s suggestion that, (as in Germany and Denmark) such projects be community-controlled, it is hardly novel.

Like Ottawa and virtually every provincial government, the manifesto calls for investment in clean energy projects. As Ontario has found with its windmill policy, this isn’t always a politically painless process. But except for the manifesto’s suggestion that, (as in Germany and Denmark) such projects be community-controlled, it is hardly novel.

Like the federal NDP (sometimes) and both U.S. Democratic presidential candidates, the manifesto opposes trade deals that limit government’s ability to regulate in the public interest.

Like former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, the authors favour imposing a financial transaction tax to help pay for all of this.
They also call for a carbon tax (like that levied by British Columbia’s right-of-centre government), higher taxes on the wealthy (like those imposed by the Trudeau Liberals) and higher corporate taxes (as suggested by the federal NDP).

Workers displaced by the move away from the carbon economy would be retrained.
Walkom's point is clear: these are hardly radical or outrageous proposals, but rather ones that ultimately are necessary if we are to have any hope at all of saving ourselves.


  1. I find Leap unconvincing. Avi Lewis calls it a plan but it's really a fanciful mission statement at best that ignores reality. There are many critical points Leap fails to address such as laying the groundwork through informed consent, social licence. The Lewis-clan roadshow seems to think that governments should simply impose these changes regardless of public support.

    There are so many pitfalls to this. What is the global objective? How does Leap address the companion existential threats of overpopulation and over-consumption of resources?

    The most glaring omission in Leap is that it treats climate change as the disease, not a symptom of the real malady that underlies the greater crisis out of which all these existential threats emerge. If we can't acknowledge the underlying disease we may be battling one symptom even as we succumb to the others.

    Lorne, we cannot live unless we get the global economy shrunk until it again fits within the limits of our finite planet's ecology. We've been floating through space in these little suits but we're running out of air and we have to get back inside the space ship of we're dead. The same thing with population. The planet has a clear carrying capacity - about 3-billion - and there simply is no way we can maintain the current levels much less expand our numbers to 9+ billion.

    It's our inability to embrace "sustainable retreat" that leads Lovelock to conclude that, by 2100, mankind's numbers will be well below one billion. There's an awful lot of mayhem between here and there.

    1. Having read you posts on the triple threat we face, Mound, I am well-aware of the pitfalls of this narrow approach to the degradation of our planet. However, if the Leap Manifesto at least provokes some serious discussion and offers some impetus for government action, it will at least be moving in the right direction. I realize time is very short, but I am at a loss to see how, with our own narrow perspectives and insularities, we can attack the other two components of our global miseries.

  2. Many years ago in the late 1980s, I was asked to comment on the Brundtland Commission Report insofar as it related to our company.

    That report talked about sustainable development. Within a couple of months, that sobriquet had already been changed to sustainable "economic" development by the various talking heads of the time. I criticized this co-opting of the terms compared to what Brundtland had actually said in my essay. Economics as such were not part of the report, sustainable development was, but none of the nitwits could see the difference.

    BTW, there is a decent enough article on Wikipedia about the commission, the main point(s) being this"

    ""...the "environment" is where we live; and "development" is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable."

    The Brundtland Commission insists upon the environment being something beyond physicality, going beyond that traditional school of thought to include social and political atmospheres and circumstances. It also insists that development is not just about how poor countries can ameliorate their situation, but what the entire world, including developed countries, can do to ameliorate our common situation."

    This degree of cerebral thought went right past the heads of nearly everyone, including all I read in commentary about the report at the time. No, it was instead taken as a signal to rape and pillage the earth, because the new buzzwords were "sustainable economic development", which is a completely different thing to mere "sustainable development."

    By 1993 I had become convinced that there was no chance that anyone would voluntarily cut back, sitting as I did one day on a plane to Ottawa next to David Suzuki sucking back his champagne and orange juice, wasting jet fuel.

    The way I saw it then was that we had only the one chance to really cut back and examine what we were really up to on this earth, and we had better get down to it right away.

    I also sickeningly realized that there wasn't the slightest hope in hell that anything would actually get done. Man doesn't exist like that. The selfish gene means that as biological entities we go on reproducing without limit come what may. Furthermore, any state control of child numbers to one per couple a la China still meant population increase, as mathematics will easily show if a generation is assumed to be 20 or 25 years. And in our primitive basic selves, government control of something as basic as the reproductive urge will never work.

    So we are basically effed as a species. I don't think I've ever become despondent other than in an intellectual way about this. Back in the 1970s, I had worked out that the ideal world population was about 200 million humans. Then everyone could enjoy a reasonably comfortable physical and cerebral existence basically for ever. But the shrill environmentalists of the time turned me off. Just as today, everything has to be done IMMEDIATELY, frightening the general population, who just want to get by with a job, shelter and food.

    It's too late now, but the same tactics are still being used. Panic, panic, you're either with us or agin us and thus an almighty fool. I really don't know if there is an answer, but am pretty convinced that the general population is highly unlikely to be swayed by logic of the LeaP variety, no matter what we may all would like to think.

    I therefore declare myself as a fatalist rather than a defeatist.


    1. Thank you for your informed and insightful comments, BM. I can't disagree with your assertions, and, like you, the selfishness that seems to permeate our natures will surely be our undoing. Here are two small examples that I observe every day attesting to selfishness and egoism that goes beyond biological imperatives:

      So many people are still driving huge vehicles that they don't need, be they trucks o SUVs. Indeed, every time the cost of gas drops, their sales increase.

      People continue to spew greenhouse gas emissions through idling of their vehicles, whether they are waiting for a spouse in winter and keeping warm in their vehicle or in summer, when they keep the engine going for air conditioning.

      If people cannot even make wise choices in these two very small matters, the big ones are obviously well beyond their capacity.

      You are absolutely right: humanity is screwed.

      BTW, I am taking the liberty of posting your comments as a separate blog entry. Thanks again for you input.