Saturday, July 11, 2009

Canadians want to reduce ghg footprint without changing shoes

Carol Goar illustrates Canadians' penchant for wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle without making any significant changes. NIMBYism, consumerism and habitual behaviour are among the hurdles that need to be crossed. Without dismissing government's role and big carbon's influence, as long as people keep driving to the store to buy what they want, Goar asserts that these attitudes let government off the hook. I think she's got a point, but that there is more to the story.

Just Fair-Weather Friends of the Environment

As long as it isn't expensive, noisy, inconvenient, uncomfortable or labour-intensive, we're eager to save the environment.
Little wonder our greenhouse gas emissions keep climbing. Little wonder Canada produces more municipal waste per person than any other country. Little wonder we rank among the world's top consumers of fossil fuels. (The oil-rich Gulf states are worse.)

Our 20-year quest to preserve the ecosystem – without changing our lifestyle – has led to a succession of unrealistic plans, missed targets and ineffectual initiatives...

It is possible to get along without central air conditioning, a leaf blower, a snow blower, an espresso maker, a plasma TV, a winter vacation abroad, apples from South Africa and avocados from the Caribbean. People managed for generations.
However, we should also acknowledge that our government, and residents, won't solve the problem alone. True, we are energy hogs, but it's a global problem which will require co-ordinated, co-operative efforts across borders. We could be setting an example while doing our "small" part (I think Canada accounts for about 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions).

Unfortunately, our economic system, by its very nature, does not lend itself to "reducing" or "reusing". It is a system that relies on expansion, growth and private profits. Huge wealth is amassed for a very small minority whose influence is well beyond its numbers. It is a system that passes off the real costs of doing business (cleaning up their messes) to the public while decrying taxes.

Even as the world economy is going through a huge contraction - caused by a combination of the "growth/recession cycles" of capitalism, greedy deregulation, rapacious fraud and raiding of the public treasuries - the mainstream public discourse, with very few exceptions, unimaginatively remains limited to entrusting the same people who've gotten us into the mess to tinker around the edges.

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