Talking to our Children

April 13, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

We have a lot to answer for. The party life we have lived, using up resources, filling the air with a cocktail of poisons and likewise the water; building as though land is unlimited like air, building badly, still building badly and too much building with too little thinking.

What do we tell our children? Hey, kids, gee, like, you know – sorry! About the bad air, the droughts, the storms, the wars, nuclear bombs – the internet… Sorry, we’re not about to stop. Sorry, you can’t find a place to live that you can afford and is more than 500 square feet.

I read a feature this week that affirmed a greater-than-ever use of alternative energy in Britain and Europe. Primarily solar and wind power has increased to the point where wind has been sufficiently developed to nearly power the whole of the United Kingdom. Across Europe, alternative, emissions-free sources of power are replacing coal and oil. According to new data, solar power worldwide increased by 24% last year, enough to run a country as big as South Africa. Such optimism. 

Yet, with the ferocious war-mongering of Putin and his ailing army, the need for alternative energy sources to escape the use and purchase of Russian oil in Germany and the rest of Europe sees scientists scrambling to make advances in other – could be called more exotic – sources like magnetic fusion, which is not quite “there” as yet.

Certainly, solar and wind, free sources of energy with the cost and point of employment being the construction and maintenance of the equipment and infrastructure, along with nuclear and hydroelectricity, establish more and more that fossil fuels can, as they must, be reduced and fazed out of use so, so soon. The biggest job then would be to clean up the monstrous mess they will leave behind.

Here in Canada, our government promises to stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies, and the joke here is: what is a subsidy? The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) reckons the billions of tax payers’ money in tax measures, loans, equity and insurance are not subsidies. They are money out of the taxpayers’ pockets and are not refunded to the government, but they are regarded, I guess, as bookkeeping.

This claim confronts a report in December from Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer that tax reductions by fossil fuel producers accounted for a reduction in federal tax revenue of $2.3 billion in 2019.

It is here in North America, in Canada, where the fossil fuel experts will tell our children that the dirtiest, most inefficient and deadly way of producing energy by fossil fuels is here to stay for decades.

It is honestly understood that fossil fuel production is no longer the secure source of employment that it once was. The industry has long since used the blackmail of jobs to promote itself well after this was a viable argument for extending its life “for decades.” The United Nations Development Program, the International Energy Agency and the IMF have all been calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies under any umbrella for the really serious harm those industries are doing all this time. Since the mid-20th Century, people in the business knew full well how dangerous mining and drilling for oil is, especially the dirtiest of them all – the Tar Sands. But there was so much money to be made.

Like tobacco – like cutting down the forests to make toilet paper – like landfills – like our disposal of plastics and other garbage into the ocean – all this and all the rest, we have known how bad these are, but we have carried on indulging them because there was so much money to be made or sloppy and destructive was easy, lazy – there was land that stretched forever. The oceans were bigger than we could imagine, and… sorry kids.

When the Philippines finally demanded that Canada come and retrieve the garbage we had been dumping there by the massive ship load, we trudged there and back, bringing all our own garbage back, landing in B.C. and we did not create another huge landfill. No, some clever souls incinerated it all in a safe way and provided power to local homes for months! Every day we create mountains of garbage. Those mountains can be disposed of and reused in several environmentally friendly ways. 

Hold on – is there good money in it? Yes.

Do alternative ways of controlling our waste management lead to recycled and useful materials? Yes.

Can they be incinerated in a safe way and also provide cheap alternative power? Yes.

It is time we began talking to our children and once we’ve inflicted our weeping, hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing apologies on them, we could begin to have constructive conversations about the alternatives. We could beg them to become involved, dedicated to the rescue of the planet.

Our governments could withdraw their free-wheeling, free-handed spending on industries that are killing us and every other living thing and pour lots of that money on the wisdom to change and the need to hurry. 

There are plenty of interesting, amazing jobs saving the planet and we must implore our children to pursue them.

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