Unpopular truths

March 8, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Laura Campbell

I realize that part of my column title requires me to write a little bit about motherhood- since that is, theoretically, what occupies a lion’s share of my time and intellectual space. But it’s when I look at my two sweet children that I can’t put out of my head just how grim their ecological future looks.

As I’ve written in this space before, we love to be outside with the kiddos. Indeed, we just got back from a winter camping trip with them. We ventured north with some friends and slept in Yurts. The beauty of this kind of trip, as anyone who camps in the winter knows, is that you’re mostly occupied with the business of survival: eating and staying warm. (And having a whole lot of fun in the snow, too!). We are lucky and privileged to do this stuff for fun. 

The rugged shores of Lake Huron were a frozen wonderland. I imagined immediately what it was like for the early settlers to come upon this land and have to figure out food, shelter and warmth. The resilience of human beings astonishes me, always. We do what we can to survive…. except for right now. Right now, in 2019, we are buried in our smart phones, seeking instant gratification and losing our will to learn the basic skills we need to survive as humans. But it’s not just basic skills that we’ve lost. In their place we’ve learned to cover our ears when we hear the unpopular truths of the climate crisis. 

So for this week’s column, rather than writing about political corruption, or Venezuela, or Doug Ford firing a top cop, I’ll address briefly the major unpopular truths that we must face as a society if we are to ensure our survival. 

Unpopular truth #1): In order to actually save the planet, we will need a whole lot more than the carbon tax. And that’s why I feel such deep frustration when I see the political moment we are living in. The carbon tax falls woefully short, partially because companies find ways to lobby for other tax breaks that essentially make the initial carbon tax meaningless. If the carbon tax is high enough, and designed well, then perhaps it could be effective. But doing so requires a rare political backbone- and one that we haven’t yet seen. And the worst of it is that the political alternative to the lacklustre carbon tax is a rejection of even that minuscule policy.

Unpopular truth #2): Gradualism is the equivalent of doing nothing at this stage. Thinking about a 50 year plan is a death sentence for our oceans, our forests, all of our life systems. We can’t have an economy on a dead planet- so trying to protect the economic fundamentals that have gotten us into this mess in the first place (aka maximization of profit and growth) stands in stark contrast to the total transformation we need. 

#3) We need global solutions to climate change. Sadly, we are altogether in an anti-global moment (thinking about Brexit). Anyone who engages in discussions around global frameworks is now dubbed a “globalist” or an anti-nationalist. And there’s nothing worse in politics than having your Canadian-ness called into question. But when it comes to environment, what is best for the world, is in the long-run, also the best for Canadians. How can we communicate that reality more effectively?

#4) Individual actions are not nearly enough. Politics, as dirty and ugly as they are, needs our attention immediately. In the environmental movement, we’ve got a whole lot of ‘changing personal behaviours’- like ditching single-use plastic, driving electric cars, embracing a zero-waste lifestyle. Some are even divesting from fossil fuels in their investment portfolios. These actions are no small feat. Indeed, when I see people committing to habit shifts like this, it warms me from the inside out. (From what I can see, it’s people from all walks of life- my farm neighbours at the grocery store, always using their cloth bags, young Moms looking for alternatives to plastic wrap and starting new ventures selling beeswax food wrap etc). But unless we all engage every single day with our politicians, all of this won’t be enough. Because just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. So we need to change their behaviours, too. They can, and they must. I’ll offer more thoughts on this last fact, in two weeks time. Until then, thank you for reading! 

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