Imagine Earth Day

blue_earth_and_moon_1152x864What can a Canadian say on this year’s Earth Day?

Over the past 25 years or so, successive Canadian governments have promised to take action–the Liberals signed the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997 and then did basically nothing to meet the targets–or have ignored or actively worsened the situation–the Conservatives have consistently backed the fossil fuel sector to the detriment of emerging renewable energy markets and have decimated several pieces of environmental legislation, which we will end up paying for one way or another in future.

Deniers will say that Canada contributes only about 2% of the total global emissions so why all the fuss? It’s the same childish logic we all used once (when we were 9 or 10):  “Well, so-and-so isn’t doing it, so why should I?” When even China is investing more in renewables and clean technology than we are, that lazy, illogical argument just doesn’t wash anymore, if it ever did.

Combined, China and the U.S. account for about 40% of global emissions but on a per person basis, the average Canadian produces about 20 tonnes of GHGs annually, more than twice that of the average Chinese. People will argue that China’s economy isn’t as far developed as ours; okay, sure, but please explain why then that in countries like Sweden, a first-world country that’s as cold as ours, or Norway, where oil and gas account for a big part of their economy, per capita emissions are far less than ours.

No one is off the hook. Not me, not you and not David Suzuki. Sure, we can all rationalize our habits, wants and needs but at the end of the day we’re all taking more than we’re giving back.

On this day, I drive myself a little crazy dreaming of what our country could have been like today had we done something back in the 1990s or the 80s or the 70s.

Imagine if every building was required to install geothermal and solar heating systems; there would be far fewer shocks from oil and natural gas price fluctuations (the sun’s energy and the captive heat below the earth don’t charge by the litre or cubic metre). Imagine if we had invested in those technologies which, unlike oil and gas, keep on giving in terms of jobs and environmental benefits. Imagine if we had far fewer cars on the road because of better planned communities where people can walk, cycle or take transit; traffic jams could be a thing of the past.

Imagine if we had a government where all decisions were made with the environment in mind, a government enlightened enough to understand and then communicate the benefits of tax shifting: tax the things we don’t want, such as pollution, and either reduce taxes on things we do want or use the revenue to invest in additional environmental initiatives or to provide relief to our country’s most vulnerable people.

Instead, we have governments that pass silly budgets that are politically expedient. Platitudes won’t mop up oil spills; apologies won’t bring back poisoned arable land or extinct species; tears won’t eliminate the Great Pacific garbage patch.

It is this short-term, myopic thinking that is the most galling because, regardless of who you are, where you live or what colour your political scarf, if you’re a human being, you need clean air, clean water and clean soil to grow food. It’s that simple.

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