Category Archives: Environment

Fossil Fuels and Despotism go together like shit and flies

 

 

In 2022 we in  the west have learned first hand about the ugly consequences of oil and gas addiction. That addiction can lead individuals and countries into some nasty places to deal with some nasty people.

 

Even British Prime Minster, Boris Johnson, not a shining genius, has come to understand that the addiction to oil by western countries, has brought us to disaster. Weaning off this challenge will be particularly difficult. This is especially painful for Europe which is heavily dependent on oil and gas from Putin who has used that money to disrupt Europe like it has not been disrupted since the Second World War. By the time the west had given 1 billion of aid dollars to fight Putin, Europe had paid Putin $35 billion for Russian oil.  Does that make sense?

 

In fact, Prime Minister Johnson made the revelation that he had realized the absurdity of this on a trip to Saudi Arabia  where he gone to try to persuade Arab countries to help out the west by increasing oil production. Of course, why would they do that? These countries liked the new higher oil and gas prices that had started to rise before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Naturally, after the invasion, those price rose even more sharply. It sucks to be us in the west. Literally. We were literally left sucking the hind teat.

 

Somebody who understands this is Bill McKibben of the organization 350.org and other activist organizations such as The Third Act, an environmental organization for those of us over 60.  He was interviewed by Mark Kelly on CBC radio’s The Current. He understood clearly that Boris Johnson was taking the wrong approach. It was the traditional approach, but it was badly out of date and all of us must come to understand that. More of the same is what has got us into so much trouble, and continuing that approach will lead us directly to our doom.

 

As McKibben said, “It’s a reminder that fossil fuel and despotism often go hand in hand.” I think a better metaphor would be so say, fossil fuel and despotism go together like shit and flies. As McKibben said,

“The War in Ukraine is not a war for fossil fuel in the way that so many of America’s Middle East adventures have been, but it very much a war about fossil fuel. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have built an army without it. 60% of his export earnings come from oil and gas. You can tell that by looking around your house for something to boycott. There’s nothing there. Maybe a bottle of vodka in the old liquor cabinet. That’s about it. His main weapon for 20 years has been the threat to turn off the taps to western Europe. If we are serious about standing up to Putin we have to figure out a way to end all of our dependence on oil and gas. It’s a global market and as long as we are depending on it, he and people like him, such as the King of Saudi Arabia, the Koch brothers, you name it, are more powerful than they deserve. “

 

For quite some time Alberta has argued that its oil is the only ethical oil. But really, that is like saying, I am ethical because I am better than Jack the Ripper. Not the most convincing argument.

 

The one good thing , as McKibben pointed out, is that this dependency is no longer necessary. “Thanks to science and engineering in the last 10 years, the price of renewable energy has dropped by about 90%! It’s now the cheapest source of energy on earth.

 

McKibben said we could get off fossil fuels right now if we set our minds to it. We have to act like we are in a war. And we are in a war so that should be easy.  Business as usual, is no longer a viable option. Those, like Boris Johnson who are pushing that are continuing to lead us to disaster. They are only postponing it a little bit. We have to avoid the vested interests that want to keep us hooked. That’s what pushers do. But there is a better way.

It won’t be easy. Europe relies on Russia for about one third of its oil and about 40% of its natural gas. We need more than good intentions to get to the heavenly city of release from this dependency. What do we do to get there?

McKibben  says investments by the American Energy Department have been so successful that millions of heat pumps could be produced in a few months. The technology is there. All we need is the will. And like all addictions, we must resist what appears to be an easier route, but this is really the way to ruin. Heat pumps are really just air conditioners you can also run in reverse. The technology is not complicated, according  to McKibben. They could be installed in Europe quickly. North Americans have a lot of spare capacity and  can also produce a lot of insulation, also needed in Ukraine if we want to resist this addiction controlled by cartels. We in North American should do more than produce weapons Ukraine needs weapons right now, but they also need other weapons to fight their enemies. One of those is to voluntarily cut the oil pipelines depriving their enemy of the funds it needs to oppress them. Only in such a way can people effectively get free from the oppression of people like Putin and his ilk.

Europe and all of us in the developed world must learn there is a better way.

 

A Pandemic in Slow Motion

 

We are all familiar with the Covid-19  pandemic. The world economy shut down to deal with it. Who ever thought that was possible?  Why was it possible? Only because the world realized this was an emergency and as a result the world took emergency measures.

There are actually bigger problems out there. One is climate change; another is bad air quality. There are others too. They require emergency measures as well.

Beth Gardner wrote an informative article on air pollution in National Geographic.  Not exactly a left wing rag. The National Geographic called “air pollution… a pandemic in slow motion.” People just don’t realize how dangerous it is and because it is stealthy, except in some very large cities like Beijing, Mumbai, Los Angeles and Phoenix, we seldom take notice of it.  I know I did pay attention when I lived in Phoenix. It bothered me to see that constant haze in the atmosphere when I drove into the city from the suburbs where we lived for 3 months.

As leader writers for her article said, “Dirty air is a plague on our health, causing 7 million deaths and many more preventable illnesses worldwide each year.” But the solutions are clear.” So far, in over a year of the Covid-19 pandemic which I do not want to make light of, nearly 5 million people have died world-wide.  And, of course, we hope the disease is nearing the time in which it will be controlled because of vaccines. Dirty air is really a big problem, we just don’t realize it yet.  We will.

We could tackle dirty air  too and actually it would cost us a lot less money than fighting Covid-19.

We seem better at tackling fast moving pandemics than the slow ones.

 

A stealth Enemy: Air Quality

 

In early 2020 the world changed–we experienced Covid-19. This was something new an international pandemic that hit home to everyone except the most obtuse virus deniers, religious fanatics, anti-science cranks, and conservatives and their fellow travelers.

Covid-19 was big. It changed the world. In many respects the world changed including massive economic slow-downs or even lockdowns. For more than a year we were required to wear masks in most social settings. Many of us were not able to work. An international Marshall plan was established to work on vaccines. Millions of people died while millions of people denied the reality of their illness or the efficacy of the vaccines created to stem the tide. Yes, the world was different.

In the midst of this pandemic and the international response it was difficult to see anything else. As a result, we missed some pretty important things. For example, few paid attention to air quality. That was a mistake.

Rebecca Solnit was the first to draw my attention to this disturbing fact. As she reported in The Guardian,

While Covid ravaged across the world, air pollution killed about three times as many people. We must fight the climate crisis with the same urgency with which we confronted coronavirus.”

  

I was shocked to read that. It couldn’t be true. Could it?

After all at the time she wrote, 2.8 million people had died as a result of Covid-19 and it captured our entire attention. Whether we believed it or not, clearly covid-19 was the issue. Since then of course, millions more have died, and we are nowhere need done with this pandemic.

What most of us did not know is that during the first 15 months of the pandemic that Solnit was writing about “3 times as many people died from air pollution.”

While Covid ravaged across the world, air pollution killed about three times as many people. We must fight the climate crisis with the same urgency with which we confronted coronavirus.

 

According to a recent scientific study, 8.7 million people per year die of the effects of air pollution. And part of the problem is that most of us are unaware of this disturbing fact. Air pollution is a largely invisible enemy unless you visit some place like Phoenix Arizona as I did for nearly 10 years in a row. You can see it there. Air pollution usually arrives by stealth. As a result, unlike Covid-19 the world has not rallied to defeat it. There have been no lockdowns or mask requirements because of air pollution. Largely this stealth attack has gone unnoticed and unquestioned.  We have normalized the havoc by treating it as what Solnit called “moral background noise.” Instead Covid-19 gets all the attention. Solnit says we should treat air pollution like an emergency, like we have done with Covid-19. She does not say attention to Covid-19 was misplaced.

The first thing we must realize is that there is more than one serious consequence to burning fossil fuels.  We must also recognize that  climate change is not the only serious effect of our determination to burn fossil fuels. Climate change is a serious problem, perhaps the most serious in the world right now, notwithstanding Covid-19, but so is air quality.  The problem is that burning fossils fuels is to deep a part of the status quo that we don’t really see it. We are blind to it and have come to believe there is no reasonable alternative.

As Solnit said,

“We are designed to respond with alarm to something that just happened, that breaches norms, but not to things that have been going on for decades or centuries. The first task of most human rights and environmental movements is to make the invisible visible and to make what has long been accepted unacceptable. This has of course been done to some extent, with coal-burning power plants and with fracking in some places, but not with the overall causes of climate chaos.”

 

We cannot let this stealth bomber slip under the radar.  Climate change creates similar problems as until we experience dramatic effects as when wild fires consume British Columbia and California forests, or ice bergs break off continents, birds disappear, or in my case, beautiful flowers come earlier in spring, we often fail to take note of the serious changes. It is also difficult to notice when some of the richest and most predatory corporations in the world pay huge sums of money to pundits for hire to confuse the science and persuade these problems are not real.

We must be alert to these problems and the consequences they foist on us. We must dissent from the normal. We must resist the fake reality that predatory capitalist firms try to impose upon us.  As Solnit said,

“According to CNBC, at the outset of the pandemic, “New Delhi recorded a 60% fall of PM2.5 from 2019 levels, Seoul registered a 54% drop, while the fall in China’s Wuhan came in at 44%.” Returning to normal means drowning out the birds and blurring out the mountains and accepting 8.7 million air pollution deaths a year. Those deaths have been normalized; they need to be denormalized.”

Solnit also reminded us that,

 

“A lot of attention was paid to whatever actions might have caused Covid-19 to cross from animals to humans, but the actions that take fossil fuel out of the ground to produce that pollution that kills 8.7 million annually, along with acidifying oceans and climate chaos, should be considered far more outrageous a transgression against public health and safety.”

 

One of the excuses these corporations have tried to get us to believe is that we can’t afford to change. One thing Covid-19 has showed us is that we can afford to spend the money that it takes to fight off disaster. Hugely impactful changes require huge responses. We can do it. We must. We must not tolerate a “normal” that costs the lives of 8.7 million people every year (in addition to all the other horrific effects of fossil fuel consumption.

Rebecca Solnit left us with some hope in her important essay:

“My hope for a post-pandemic world is that the old excuses for doing nothing about climate – that it is impossible to change the status quo and too expensive to do so – have been stripped away. In response to the pandemic, we in the US have spent trillions of dollars and changed how we live and work. We need the will to do the same for the climate crisis… With a drawdown on carbon emissions and a move toward cleaner power, we could have a world with more birdsong and views of mountains and fewer pollution deaths. But first we have to recognize both the problem and the possibilities.”

 

We need to get serious about climate change and air pollution and stop ignoring the problem or paying lip service to them as we have been doing in Canada. It is time for change. It is time to realize that this is not a future problem—this is happening now. This is apocalypse now.

Welcome to the apocalypse: Doom is Here

 

For a number of years now we have been hearing, seeing, and reading predictions of doom. There have been so many such predictions that many people have stopped listening, watching, or examining such claims. People have doom fatigue.

I know a good friend of mine who said to me, quite a few years, “We are fucked.”  Sorry for the bad word. He used it so I feel I must tell you the truth. Frankly, I always thought he was exaggerating. Now I know he was telling the truth.

In fact, now I would go one big step farther than that. Doom is here. It is not something my grandchildren will have to worry about. I will have to worry about it. and I am an old man who will die soon as I was once told.

That has never been clearer than it is in this year 2021. The apocalypse is here.  What convinced me of that was the incredible weather this year. In particular, the off the charts heat wave in British Columbia convinced me of that. British Columbia is of course the last place we expect heat waves. British Columbia is famous for mild weather. Mild winters and mild summers. Perfect climate in other words. Well not this year. In fact, not in the last few years.

It is for that that reason that Sir David King the former U.K chief scientific advisor said, “Nowhere is safe…who would have predicted a temperature of 48/49C in British Columbia?”  The answer is obvious–no one would have predicted that.

In fact, I heard a climate scientist say that those temperatures did not appear on any of the climate models, not even the most extreme. It was not only unexpected, it was basically incomprehensible.

Welcome to apocalypse now. You don’t need to wait for it; it’s here. We are doomed. I want to explore this topic in future posts.

 

Clean Air

 

When we were in Paris a couple of years ago we noticed that there were places in the city where the government had provided electrical sites to charge their electric cars. Manitoba does this as well but to a very limited extent. In discussions with an American he asked me, “why should the government pay for that? ”Why should I have to pay for someone else to charge his car?” I would say in response that we should all pay for that because we all want a clean environment. Clean air is a public good and we should all pay for it. Besides, the government spends billions (many billions) subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. Surely it can spend a little to subsidize cars that don’t pollute the air and don’t increase our greenhouse gas emissions. Though I recognize that electric cars are not all good either. Life is rarely that simple. We all have to realize that there are many public goods that are important to a good life on this planet. We must all pay for those. The French have learned this. Canadians and Americans not so much.

One good thing about the Covid-19 pandemic is that we are starting to appreciate (not nearly enough of course) that the common good is important. Often more important than private goods, no matter what those who hoard the private goods tell us. It’s time to start thinking for ourselves.

Dark Water: A Much Bigger Question

 

I heard Mark Ruffalo who played Bilott, and Bilott himself on the PBS television show, Amanpour & Company and the real life Bilott. They made some important points.

Commenting on the legal fight that took almost 20 years of relentless endurance on the part of Bilott, Ruffalo had this to say:

“The system is rigged—against the people. They want us to think that it will protect us, but that is a lie. We protect us. Nobody else. Not the companies, not the scientists, not the government. Us We protect us. Nobody else.”

This is the fundamental idea behind the film. The system is rigged. Against us.

Of course, this was just one case. But is in any different in the pharmaceutical sector? Or oil and gas? Or tobacco? Or anywhere else? Not according to Ruffalo.

Ruffalo put it this way in his interview by Amanpour:

“We have a system where the government is not responsive to the needs of the people and where it is slavish to the corporate system. We have a democracy that is in service to an economic capitalist system, instead of that system being in service to our democracy. Yes that system is rigged. It has been rigged because there is so much money in politics. If you wanted to fix the problem, really quickly, you would have the state have a stake in health care. Then this stuff would get cleaned out really fast because right now we’re getting poisoned. We have to pay to get ourselves healthy and the state just keeps taking money from both sides, to keep the vicious circle going.”

In the American legal system the people have to prove the chemical harms them. The corporations can sit back and do nothing other than, of course, block the science of the opponents. This is a fundamental flaw.

According to the film there is still no regulation of PFOSA in America. And PFOA’s are ubiquitous. As Nathanial Rich who wrote the article on which the movie was based, explains,

“But if you are a sentient being reading this article in 2016, you already have PFOA in your blood. It is in your parents’ blood, your children’s blood, your lover’s blood. How did it get there? Through the air, through your diet, through your use of nonstick cookware, through your umbilical cord. Or you might have drunk tainted water…

Where scientists have tested for the presence of PFOA in the world, they have found it. PFOA is in the blood or vital organs of Atlantic salmon, swordfish, striped mullet, gray seals, common cormorants, Alaskan polar bears, brown pelicans, sea turtles, sea eagles, Midwestern bald eagles, California sea lions and Laysan albatrosses on Sand Island, a wildlife refuge on Midway Atoll, in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, about halfway between North America and Asia.”

As Manohla Dargis said in a New York Times review of the film:

“But at its strongest, the movie makes you see that the poison that is killing Wilbur’s cows and so many other living things isn’t simply a question of toxic chemicals. There is, Haynes suggests, a deeper malignancy that has spread across a country that allows some to kill and others simply to die.”

 This is the bigger issue. The exploration of this issue is what makes this film, and the article on which it is based, so important and so interesting. Ultimately it comes down to these two closely related questions: is our modern political system democratic and is modern capitalism anti-life? Those are two very big questions. Worth thinking about.

Dark Water: Real Monsters

 

 

Dark Water is a really good film. It is a monster/horror film, but not but not the kind you might expect. This is a real life horror show with real life monsters,.

The opening scene is dramatic, spooky and menacing. The scene is idyllic at the outset, like so many scenes in so many horror films. In 1975 a group of cavorting teenagers trespass onto property for a classic midnight swim. It’s obviously loads of fun. I have done exactly that type of thing. But just as in any self-respecting horror film you know from the menacing music that something is wrong. Danger lurks and teenagers dressed only in skimpy swimsuits are defenceless before the danger. There must be a monster lurking in that dark water. And there is. But it is not the typical horror film. It is much worse than that.

The water is oily—slimy. This can’t be good. Suddenly the strong deep male voice of authority rousts them up. The kids are forced to leave. And they do. After they leave a small boat softly glides across the pond spraying something over the slick and shiny surface of the water. The boat is marked “containment.”

In time we learn the monster is not supernatural. It is real. It is indeed profoundly menacing and dangerous. It is a chemical monster the result of corporate malfeasance of a high order.

The film was based on an article in the New York Times Magazine by Nathaniel Rich in 2016 titled, The Lawyer who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” That lawyer was Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo). He was a lawyer that typically acted for chemical corporations. He was an environmental lawyer—for the wrong side!

Bilott was persuaded to go to the other side by a friend of the family, a West Virginia dairy farmer Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), who was profoundly angered by what happened to his cows. His cows were strangely dying in horrible ways on land he farmed. He was suspicious. Something was wrong. It was a mystery and Bilott was intrigued. Like a relentless detective  on the trail of truth. And the truth is ugly and leads to an astonishingly long drawn out legal battle against a corporate giant and weak government regulators.

Tennant was unable to get help from anyone before Bilott. No veterinary or lawyer would talk to him. DuPont owned the town and the town was grateful for the ownership. People did not want to rock the boat. It got good paying jobs and security. But did it get something else too? Something less benign?

The corporate giant at the heart of the case, DuPont, never admitted liability or wrongdoing, but it did pay hundreds of millions of dollars for harm caused to animals, property, and people as a result of their chemicals ending up in a local stream and drinking water. The chemical central to the case is called PFOA short for perfluorooctanoic acid. It is a chemical that was entirely unregulated.

In the lawsuit Bilott asked for and got an order requiring DuPont to provide all relevant documents to Bilott. But he got more than he bargained for—110,00 pages of documents! He was literally swamped with paper. It took him months to just sift through the papers. Information in those papers did not come out easily.

It took 16 years for the case to wind through the courts, but of course all the resulting lawsuits have not been completed. Far from it in fact. Many of the parties involved died before judgment of the court was delivered, including Wilbur Tennant.

Yet with enormous—no heroic—work Bilott found a story. Sometimes, I am proud to say, lawyers are heroes. This was one of those times. According to Rich’s articles this was the story:

‘‘I started seeing a story,’’ Bilott said. ‘‘I may have been the first one to actually go through them all. It became apparent what was going on: They had known for a long time that this stuff was bad.’’

DuPont used TFOA in its wonder product Teflon. According to Rich, it was the source of about $1 billion in annual profits for DuPont. Worth defending with vigour. And that is what DuPont with the aid of their team of expensive lawyers did. They defended in the American style—with overwhelming force as the Powell doctrine demands.

PFOA, although unregulated at the time had some very interesting properties. According to Rich,

“PFOA’s peculiar chemical structure made it uncannily resistant to degradation. It also bound to plasma proteins in the blood, circulating through each organ in the body.”

 For decades DuPont had been dumping it into their own landfill near Tennant’s property and that in turn drained into a local creek. As Rich explained:

 “By 1990, DuPont had dumped 7,100 tons of PFOA sludge into Dry Run Landfill. DuPont’s scientists understood that the landfill drained into the Tennants’ remaining property, and they tested the water in Dry Run Creek. It contained an extraordinarily high concentration of PFOA.”

The court ordered an independent scientific analysis of Tennant’s claims that the harm was caused by DuPont’s chemicals and that report blamed poor animal husbandry on the part of Tennant instead of the chemicals. But DuPont had not been entirely forthcoming in disclosing information for the scientific panel to make its determination. The fight should have been over here. But Bilott was as relentless as a bulldog with its teeth in a human leg.

Bilott kept digging and as he kept digging he kept finding interesting stuff. Watch the movie or read the article to find the details and they are fascinating. Well worth the read or view. And he discovered a lot of people that were harmed. Horrendous birth defects and worse. An interesting little scene showed an adult person with horrible birth defects who had been shown in a photograph as a young baby in the film. The actual adult man, played himself as a happy-go-lucky gas jockey.

Here is Bilott’s side of the story according to Rich:

‘‘I was irritated,’’ he says.

DuPont was nothing like the corporations he had represented at Taft in the Superfund cases. ‘‘This was a completely different scenario. DuPont had for decades been actively trying to conceal their actions. They knew this stuff was harmful, and they put it in the water anyway. These were bad facts.’’ He had seen what the PFOA-tainted drinking water had done to cattle. What was it doing to the tens of thousands of people in the areas around Parkersburg who drank it daily from their taps? What did the insides of their heads look like? Were their internal organs green?

Tennant’s suit was eventually finalized after 16 years, but this film actually raises a much bigger question. Or even two. I will talk about that in my next blog.

The Rio Grande is not Grand

 

On our trip to Arizona we saw that the Rio Grande River was dry again. This magnificent historic river has been reduced to a few puddles here. Nothing that would warrant the name “grand” or even “river.”  This is a shame. After we passed it I realized I should have stopped to photograph its demise. Next year I should photograph that as well.

Will Rogers once described the Rio Grande as “the only river I know of that is in need of irrigating.”  This was funny, but also a wise observation because thanks to dams and withdrawals for agriculture this famous river has become fragmented.  It is nearly 1,900 miles longs second in the US to only the Missouri-Mississippi network. At least at one time the Rio Grande was that long. It really isn’t anymore as we could see. Water no longer flows through its entire channel.

The Rio Grande’s headwaters are found in the San Juan Range in Colorado. From there it empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville Texas. Water flows into the Rio Grande from 11% of the continental United States. Much of that land is drought prone, but it is also vulnerable to many dams and irrigation projects that divert much of it historic flow. In recent years significant portions of it have run dry. In 2001 for the first time the river failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico. It happened again the next year.

Diversions for municipal and agricultural use claim 95% of its average annual flow. That is the problem. Recent droughts have exacerbated the problem. Climate change may mean there are more droughts. So the future of the river is grim. Growing populations around Albuquerque and El Paso sharpen the problems.

Yet parts of it are still spectacular. But we did not see any of them. We just saw puddles. No river at all.

Mining Towns

 

As we drove to Arizona we listened to CBC radio. There was a story about Lynn Lake. In many ways it is a familiar story. It is a story about mining towns. And it happens over and over again.  A valuable mineral is discovered, a mining corporation or international conglomerate gets wind of it, scoops up the rights, usually along with some “incentives” from various levels of government, and establishes a mining town.

For a while the town booms. Everybody is happy. Everybody makes money. People move in to work in the mines, others to support the miners. Life is good. For awhile at least.

Then the industry collapses either because the rich vein of minerals is exhausted or prices drop so low it is no longer economical to keep the industry alive. Profits dry up and so does the town. The mining corporation of course, gathers up its chips and moves out. Ordinary people are left holding the bag, in more ways than one. People who owned homes in town find that their homes are worthless. No one wants to move in. Most want to move out, not in. Some die-hards want to stay. After all this is their home. They want to live there. Even though it no longer makes economic sense to stay. This can work for awhile, until the population is so low the town just can’t keep going anymore.

Then sometimes–as in Lynn Lake–remnant problems remain. Often these are environmental. The corporations leaves a mess behind. A mess that someone else has to clean up. This is what happened in Lynn Lake. According to the former Mayor who was interviewed on CBC, the contamination of the water was caused by tailings from the mine. A fund has been created from mining taxes but for some reason can’t be used to clean it up or pay for the Lynn Lake Water Treatment Plant upgrades that are required. So poor citizens in a dying town are left holding the bag. The townspeople don’t want to pay more for water they are told not to drink. That is understandable but who should pay?

I would say the polluter should pay. If that was the mining corporation they should pay, but often it is costly and time consuming to pursue legal uncertain remedies. The townspeople want the province to pay, but why should the province pay? I am all in favor of the collective helping out a group down on their luck, but does it really make sense to keep a town like Lynn Lake going? Is this going to be a classic case of throwing good money after bad?

The town of Lynn Lake now has a population of about 500 from a high of near 4,000. Now it has many abandoned houses. Such homes are not easy to deal with. There were at one time more than 230 abandoned lots in the town and 50 of those have vacant homes that are an invitations to rodents and vandals. They also pose a fire threat to the rest of the community. The town has taken to burning them down or pushing them, literally pushing them, to the dump. After that their foundations have to be covered up and sewer pipes closed. All of this costs money, for a community that does not have a lot of money.

Is this the best the mining industry can do?  Can it just cut and run without any heed to the consequences. Is this how our mining industry works. Often it seems that is exactly how it works. If so is it time to abandon the mining industry? I admit I don’t now squat. I just raise questions. Awkward questions.

Who cares about the next Generation?

 

I heard David Schindler speaking on National Public Radio in April 2017 on our way home from Arizona.  I have also heard him speak a couple of times in person. He is one of Canada’s most respected scientists. He is an expert on water and the harm we do to it.  Schindler warned that the damage to the environment that we hav caused would have profound effects on people 50 to 100 years from now. But it seems we are incapable of looking ahead that far. No one cares. That short-sightedness is extremely unfair to future generations. Don’t we have obligations to them too? Instead of worrying about them we continue to spew out pollutants into the atmosphere, the ground, and the waters we use. That damage might become  irreversible.

The classic example of this, according to Schindler, is the Alberta Tar Sands that he had studied for the last decade or so of his scientific career. The pollution in those Tar Sands are a ticking time bombing, he said. We are leaving it behind. We  will have a lot to answer for.

Another long-term problem we are creating for future generations is climate change. Scientists are 90% (or more) certain that our actions are causing irreparable harm to our climate. We can’t afford to wait until they are 100% certain.

Many people—like the editorial writers in the Wyoming newspaper I read early that morning  driving home from Arizona concentrate instead on short-term economic losses of pollution or climate change mitigation.  I don’t want to entirely discount those consequences. They will hurt some people. But these writers fail entirely to take into consideration the immense longer-term damage. The costs of mitigating climate change will dwarf the cost of the damage to our economy, but others (like our grand children for example) will pay them in the future. That makes it easy to ignore those costs now. It will be someone else’s problem. Our actions are extremely selfish, unwise and unfair. The editorial writers consider the cost of current job losses, extra taxes, and things like that. These are nearly insignificant in comparison to the costs of the harm of doing business as usual. We cannot afford to ignore the cost to the planet.

The editorial writers appeal to the same people Republicans and Conservatives appeal. Or my Member of Parliament. He only cares about the economic cost to his current electors. The next generation is not his problem. All these leaders are concerned about is what costs will they have to pay. The next generation can be dammed. That attitude could lead to disaster. In fact, it looks like it is leading to disaster.