Friday, January 24, 2014

Small breezes of the reality of global warming and climate change...where it matters

Reports that Coca-Cola is facing water shortages in India, Nike's facing cotton shortages in its far-eastern factories, and substituting synthetic materials in its products, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank spending real time and energy focused on the impact of climate change and global warming....these are very good, if very late, signs of hope. Even some private wealth, under the tutelage of prominent Republican and Democratic economic advisers, is being dedicated to the study of climate change, while economists from some of the top universities are beginning to convince their colleagues of the science of climate change. These are all signs that industry and "thought leaders" are outpacing the legislators on this issue.
Of course, the corporate magnates like soda and sportswear remain primarily focussed on their bottom line, but when that is threatened, they start to pay attention to the causes of shrinkage in their profits.
Sadly both the oil and coal industries and their executives, along with the politicians whose careers and reputations are married to these industries, are not catching the "fever" and clearly, in countries like China and India, where fossil fuels are feeding economies in which the elimination of poverty for millions trumps the long-term impact of CO2 emissions.
However, if this "elephant in the room" that has been the subject of public debate and denial for decades, is now being brought out of its closet, perhaps the lagging legislators will be forced to see the dangers and enact laws to generate a carbon tax. Sadly, and ironically, while these little green shoots of new life and growth and positive change are emerging from the political greenhouses where ideas are incubated, the European Union, once the leader in adopting measures to combat climate change and global warming, is cutting back on those measures, just when it seems that the scale is tipping toward an attitude that at least takes the threat seriously in  board rooms, and even in upscale cocktail parties among the corporate elite.
Of course, Canada and its government, is so enmeshed with the oil industry's fixation on the extraction of fossil fuels that our currency has become fundamentally a petro-dollar. It is not incidental to note that neither the  Liberal nor the New Democrats are providing the public debate with scientific evidence that would force the government to change course, based on a surge in public opinion. Neil Young notwithstanding, the rock star who has just completed a cross-country tour raising funds for the legal battles of the First Nations whose lives have been and will be impacted by further development of the tar sands oil project, this country's newspapers and television news rooms are not spending much time or energy "leaning forward" on the government and the fossil fuel industry. We are, instead, picking at the fringes, once again, attempting to deliver stronger skins on the tanker cars that carry dangerous substances like crude oil across our miles of railway tracks, without endangering the communities through which these cars pass, and occasionally (as in Lac Megantic in Quebec) tear the heart and soul, as well as dozens of lives, out of the community when their brakes fail, and the train becomes a run-away monster just careening into its own implosion.
Shakespeare once wrote, giving the line to Brutus in Julius Caesar, as final plans are laid for the murder of Caesar, that has been borrowed many times, in reference to many different situations:
Brutus:There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Clearly, we are not at the "flood" stage in the public debate that supports legislative, corporate and social actions, policies, regulations and even laws that are dedicated to the prevention of the other "flood" that will result from global warming and climate change, if we do not act.
But there are at least signs of a rising consciousness among the people with the most clout, perhaps the only clout that matters in politics, those with the fat bank accounts, that we must do something to push back against the threats that take so many potential forms, to the lives and livelihoods of millions.
To borrow from Earle Birney, 'will (we) wake up before its too late?"...

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