Monday, February 26, 2007

Just Who Is In Denial?

So Brian Peckford denies the scientific consensus about climate change. He has company. There are still those who deny Hitler’s Holocaust, many who denied Stalin’s Ukranian genocide, people who deny that the moon landings took place and people who deny the decisive cogency of the theory of natural selection. Incredibly there remain people who deny that the earth is a sphere. What makes Peckford’s denial more dangerous than the aforementioned lunacies is that if it proves contagious it would paralyze those who might otherwise effect measures to counter-act climate change.
But more lethal than his denial is the denial of mainstream environmentalists and “green” politicians who refuse to recognize the role that population growth plays in environmental degradation. Their focus is entirely on “consumption”, but that is only one-half, albeit an important half, of the equation.
The questions we must ask are these: What is the point of cutting our per capita energy consumption in half if we turn around and double our population? What is the point of cutting our greenhouse gas emissions by 20% but grow the economy by another 20% so that all things that emit gases exist in greater numbers?
In 1996 Tony Blair introduced a bold plan to slash greenhouse emissions by 20% over ten years. The result? Greenhouse gas emissions actually increased 3% over that 10 year period. Why? Individual cars and individual factories, thanks to his tough regulations, were spewing less noxious gases alright, but thanks to economic growth and the population growth that fuels it, the number of cars and factories increased during that period to erase any gains his stringent standards made. As a result, 80 British MPs signed a document to the effect that the only way that we could combat climate change was to abandon the paradigm of Economic Growth. Economic Growth, it should be noted, is a function of population level and per capita consumption rates.
Economic growth will thwart Kyoto targets and it will continue to destroy habitat across the globe. The loss of biodiversity and the vital services it provides us is the forgotten casualty of our relentless growth—and it is a catastrophe just as fatal as the one Al Gore has dramatized. It’s just that global warming is sexy, the flavour of the month, the one environmental issue that has finally grabbed our attention. What Gore doesn’t understand, what his groupies don’t understand, is that we won’t be rescued by all of us becoming “green” consumers. What we need are fewer consumers, green or otherwise. Globally, but in North America even more so because we have a huge footprint. As author Richard Wakefield put it, “ the more humans there are, the more environmental degradation there will be. More homes needed to be built, more food grown, more energy required and more CO2 emissions.”
And yet so-called “green” politicians like Elizabeth May, Jack Layton and Mr. Dion call for immigration rates which will shortly add 8 million people to our current 32, excluding their permissive attitude to refugees. How can a Canada of 40, 50 million people happily co-exist with a healthy biodiversity and zero energy growth, not to mention with the little arable land that has not yet been carved up by subdivisions. One prominent local B.C. biologist offered the guess that Canada’s environment could sustain its present population level of 32 million IF we reverted to the consumption rates of the early 1950s. If we add another 8 million people do we then have to consume at 1935 rates?
Too many people, too much consumption. If you don’t deal with both, you deal with neither. You are in denial. You are as much a fully-paid up member of the Green Party, the NDP, Dion’s Liberals, the Sierra Club or the Suzuki Foundation, all of whom dance around peripheral issues without addressing root causes. You have jumped on board the runaway train of Economic Growth, which apparently, will not be slowed by the pro-active intervention of awakened politicians, but abruptly de-railed by the imminent calamity of oil and natural gas depletion. A disaster for us, a respite for the environment. Perhaps.

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