This past December, our government met with other governments at the climate summit in Copenhagen to worry about what kind of a thing they will, or will not, do to reign in that rapscallion, troublemaker “environment” of ours. Since then, a hurricane of outrage and debate has flooded the media, so to speak.
Much debate and editorial fervor has ensued, but the way that problems of global warming and environmental damage have been approached is completely flawed. The responsibility to find solutions is handed over to industry leaders and governments, but, given the profit-centric model that most economies and industries are built upon, this course of action will not produce results. Yes we can hand the problem off to industry and government, but not with petitions. For anything productive to actually happen, people need to vote with their dollars and choose the companies and products that are marketed for sustainability. This is the best way to prove to companies, and therefore industries, and therefore governments, that the environment is actually important.
True, some companies are guilty of releasing products that claim to be more environmentally friendly than they actually are, but by merely buying into the marketing hype you are sending a message that should eventually trickle upward toward the people who make take the profits and make the decisions.
The only thing worse than governments and their supporters naively believing that industries just need to be calmly pointed toward the light at a conference [ see pg. 10, “Pardon me if I’m not impressed” ] and coaxed forward, and that that’s the solution to our global climate problems, is that people seem to feel like this matter even has room to be debated in the first place. I get it: most of the debate is about how to approach fixing things without ruining the economy or screwing up our resource management, but it’s still a really, really easy solution: just stop polluting the world. If something creates an environmental problem that will resonate for the foreseeable future, no matter how financially awesome it may be, it’s not worth it. That goes for bigwig industry CEOs as much as it does for us lowly consumers.
Supporters of our Canadian government [ see pg. 9, “Protecting our environment and our prosperity,” for this perspective ] will site the economy, financial matters, industry and whatever other abstract layers they can reasonably apply to the problem of us slowly destroying Earth, but that doesn’t win the argument. Perhaps if it were merely a question of fixing some bureaucratic loophole or stabilizing the economy those arguments would work out pretty well, but the environment is a physical thing. It was here long before Copenhagen, Kyoto or conservatives were, and neither the laws of our industries nor the rules of our economies apply to it in any way. True, there is a necessity to debate how best to deal with the economic repercussions of becoming a more environmentally friendly species, but there is no room to have an economics/industry focused debate on if we should become more environmentally friendly.
And if you’re not interested in buying into this whole “green” thing, well, I’m no master debater, nor am I an expert in politics, the economy, climate science, social science and a host of other disciplines (most of them, actually), but I know for a fact that I’m not a sociopath, and that I have no other major personality disorders. I know the difference between right and wrong and, while there is often some grey area in global politics, when asked to choose between “yes, destroy our home” and “no, don’t ruin all of our grandchildren’s lives” I’ll choose the latter. If you’d like to debate it, go ahead, but you know what the correct answer is.
My point here is that nobody has any business defending anybody who ever provides any comfort for anybody who ever does anything that actively harms the Earth. [ For more, see pg. 4, “Faculties across Canada band together against climate change” ]
Granted, there are a number of irritating “lefties” who obnoxiously complain about environmentally detrimental industries and governments. Canada, for example, has received several “fossil” awards from the Climate Action Network. I understand the point of such a publicity stunt, and even support these awards being handed out in the hopes that more awareness is built for these issues, but I can also understand how these actions end up patronizing those who staunchly support the institutions being called out. The natural reaction to these louder protests is to fight back, and so we end up with people who not only support a government that, while making some progress, refuses to set concrete goals for real change, but who seem to want to argue against climate change and the environment.
Like I’ve said, I’m no scientists — but scientists are scientists. In a 2008 study from the University of Illinois, 82 per cent of participants answered “yes” to a question that asked: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” There were various proportions of climatologists, geochemists, geophysicists and oceanographers, among other specialists. Of the climatologists who actively publish on climate change in scientific journals — in other words, the people who understand the science behind these issues — 97.4 per cent answered “yes.” Of the actively publishing scientists from all disciplines, nearly 90 per cent answered “yes.” These are the people who know what they’re talking about. That they publish research on climate change means that other scientists and editors have reviewed their research. It is incomprehensible to me that, in the face of so much agreement among scientists and, literally, proof in their research, still there are people who try to debate the issue.
It seems that we’re past the debate of whether or not we’re experiencing global warming, and it seems that we should be getting closer to understanding that humans have an impact on the environment, that dumping toxic waste into the ocean and squirting harmful chemicals into the air that we breathe is not a good thing. Still, in the above-mentioned study, only about 50 per cent of the general public agreed that human activity significantly contributes to changing global temperatures. It doesn’t matter how much scientific proof there is, if the general public doesn’t understand the effects they have on the environment, progress will not be made.
“Industry,” whatever it may be, will always choose the options that will yield the highest profits. Some are becoming more “green” but only because it’s good business now that more and more people are becoming environmentally aware.
If we truly want to move on with our lives and put all this pesky environmental debate behind us, all we need to do is make a point of purchasing products that are generally more environmentally friendly. The economy will be fine; people will still purchase and jobs will be created by the demand for newer technologies, products and services that will gradually replace the current norms. More importantly, the environment will eventually become fixed, rather than gone.