Monday, February 5, 2007

Going Green...For A Month or Two, Anyway

The Canadian media and politicians have gone all Chicken Little on the environment of late.

To hear them tell of it, we will shortly experience a global apocalypse if Canadians don't immediately start bathing and washing their clothes in rainwater, adopt walking as the most common mode of transportation and cease any and all forms of economic growth.

We have seen this before. The environment is the yo-yo of political issues, every five years or so the fad strikes again and we are deluged by a storm of alarm that is the media equivalent of a hurricane. There was acid rain and the Great Lakes, there's the Arctic shelf, there was holes in the ozone and today there's Global Warming. As a result, David Suzuki is popular again (good grief!), Al Gore's movie might get an Academy Award and Kyoto is no longer just an anagram for Tokyo.

Now, I'm not a naysayer. We have created some very serious environmental problems, especially in the past 100-150 years. But the science of predicting our impact on the globe has been somewhat suspect over the decades. Often the reports and projections border on propaganda and, in any case, those commenting on them invariably choose the most alarmist aspects and worst-case scenarios as gospel truth.

As we've hurt the environment so, too, have we often learned from our mistakes. Numerous products have been banned or changed to minimize their environmental impact. Millions and millions have been poured into rehabilitation projects. Today, almost everyone recycles; 20 years ago, no one bothered.

There is real work that can be done to benefit the environment without slamming the brakes on growth or radically altering the North American lifestyle. Retrofitting plants, encouraging changes such as increasing the use of battery powered or hybrid vehicles, more nuclear power plants (something the environmentalists always choke on), encouraging politicians to shut up and stop spewing hot air, etc.

In fact, it doesn't help at all that the parliamentarians and the media talk so much about the environment. The record of doing anything about it is pretty woeful. Usually, it takes really angry people to force environmental changes. And, interestingly, this time around, the talk doesn't seem to be resonating with anyone I know. The conversations around the environment recently seem pretty much restricted to:

"gee, we sure have had a lousy winter, eh?"

"Yeah, global warming, my ass."

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