Monday, June 9, 2008


Oh dear. It seems that “Norm”, the villain in a “Powerwise” commercial, has not been very hospitable to poor Dr. David Suzuki. While Suzuki is sitting in his T shirt shivering, Norm has his air conditioner set so low that the living room is comfortable for the penguins, but not for His Highness to whom he is apparently oblivious.

Dr. Suzuki tells Norm to forget about the Penguins and think about the fact that if we set our air conditioners (ACs) just one degree Celsius higher, it would release enough energy to power another 38,000 homes. Now that is just what the greenbelts outside our cities are crying out for. Another 38,000 homes each year.

This is an interesting proposition. Let’s think about where it will get us, like all the other conservation and green living tips the feel-good movement encourages us to follow.

Currently 260,000 immigrants enter Canada annually. But it is the insane ambition of all federal parties to boost this annual intake to one percent of the national population or more, that is, currently, to 330,000 consumers. Business lobbies like the Royal Bank have visions of 400,000. Half of this total is destined for Ontario (now about 129,000), which Environment Commissioner Gordon Miller warned would see another six million people crammed into the Golden Horseshoe in the next 25 years unless immigration rates are reigned in.

Let’s assume that the immigration quota of 1% is met next year but the 330,000 intake level remains frozen for the next decade. And let’s further assume that Ontario gets its annual 165,000 dose of cultural enrichment every year for that same ten years.

In that case, I suspect that Dr. Suzuki will have to re-visit Norm and get more demanding.

Do the math. He says that a one degree upward adjustment will deliver power to 38,000 homes. Now, according to 2002 census data, the average household is occupied by 2.6 occupants. Therefore those 38,000 homes that we’ve liberated by turning our ACs up by one degree will offer shelter to 98,800 immigrants or 38% of the current intake, or 30% of the target number.

However, to power the approximately 126,923 homes needed to accommodate 330,000 immigrants, ACs will have to be turned up another 3.34 degrees. Not a big deal, you say, unless you live in Ottawa and that 3.34 degrees is the difference between sleeping and not sleeping on a humid night. But that is only in year one. The energy needs of succeeding immigration waves is cumulative and will call for off-setting sacrifices. Suzuki surely will call for further cut-backs in our AC use. Each new crop of immigrants will require, for the integrity of his scheme to be maintained, that we turn up our ACs by 3.34 degrees year after year after year until the politicians have achieved their goal of erasing biodiversity in Canada with a human monoculture. In any case, by the end of five years, you’ll have consigned your AC to the junk heap because the setting will have had to have been raised beyond 16.7 degrees and there would be little point in having something that ugly and obtrusive in the house that didn’t kick in until it was 36 degrees Celsius.

But wait. All of this is assuming that every Canadian household has an air conditioner. In fact, 70% don’t. So just 30% of Canadian households will have to turn up their ACs to power homes for immigrants. That means that only 4.5 million homes would be carrying the burden for Dr. Suzuki’s green living feel-good plan. In Ontario, just about 1.9 million homes in that province of 14 million would be responsible for generating the power for 63,461 housing units immigrants would need. How high would their settings have to be?

Now of course, immigrants are not the only people who occupy houses, or consume power, so why scapegoat them? For one thing, they make up 70% of our population growth and that proportion will grow over time. Secondly, our fertility rate is already quite low at 1.53. Not much room for reduction there, although are criminal pro-natalist policies are ecologically irresponsible, and yet strangely immune from green lifestyle admonitions.

The point here is that Dr. Suzuki should be talking about the greenhouse effects of population growth in this country, of the fact that population growth, whether driven by immigration or not, wipes out the relatively trivial gains made by conservation efforts. Efforts like screwing in fluorescent light bulbs, recycling garbage---or telling “Norm” to turn up his air conditioner and lose his penguins. Those penguins, BTW, look more willing to adapt to Canada than many of Suzuki’s friends who want us to customize this country to their liking the moment they step off the plane. Penguins stay. Suzuki leave. Are you listening Norm?

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