Monday, September 3, 2018

My Log 641 Sept 3 2018: Chronicles from the Tenth Decade: 77 Trudeau, McKenna, Notley --- our political leaders have their heads in the sand before the fact that our economies can no longer handle the waste we produce.

Take a look at these three paragraphs:
“Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources.
“Climate change and species extinctions are accelerating even as societies are experiencing rising inequality, unemployment, slow economic growth, rising debt levels, and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, the new report says that these are not really separate crises at all.
“Rather, these crises are part of the same fundamental transition to a new era characterized by inefficient fossil fuel production and the escalating costs of climate change. Conventional capitalist economic thinking can no longer explain, predict, or solve the workings of the global economy in this new age, the paper says.”
Well, this turns out to be one of the conclusions of a group of Finnish scientists who have been asked to provide research that would feed into the drafting of the UN Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), which will be released in 2019. These scientists go on to add that the “sink costs”, that is to say the  ignored environmental costs of production, of which the greatest is climate change, are rising all the time to the point that “economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use.”
I could go into further detail about this report,  but will set it aside for the moment with the hope that someone will shove these commonsense  conclusions under the noses of such as Prime Minister Trudeau, Environment Minister McKenna, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who have perfected a curious kind of English that seems to be totally detached from the actual earthly reality of the matters over which these ministers hold sway.
The paper quotes another investigator into these matters, a billionaire investor, no less, called Jeremy Grantham,  as having recently concluded that “we face a form of capitalism that has hardened its focus to short-term profit maximization with little or no apparent interest in social good” ---- which seems to me at least to be a perfect description of the behaviour of Trudeau, McKenna and Notley, correct down to the last detail.
Trudeau’s and McKenna’s so-called environmental policies appear from the get-go to have been masterpieces of obfuscation, or of wishful thinking, based as they are on doubling the size of the world’s most damaging oil production site, the Alberta Tar Sands, while pretending that this would have no effect on  Canada’s commitment to meet a rigorous carbon emission target that  has been pledged under the Paris climate change accord, and that absolutely has to be met unless the world as we know it is to head into an climate disaster that will have a drastic effect on all living things. Let’s be clear about this: it is not a question as to whether the planet will survive: that is a foregone certainty. It is a question whether all life on the planet will survive, or how much of it will be able to adjust so as to eke out some sort of survival, or if homo sapiens, the driver of this disaster, is able to work out some way of stopping drastic climate change that we can see is already under way.
In this broader context, McKenna’s feeble mantra that “we have to get our resources to market”,  and Trudeau’s lunatic insistence that ”this pipeline will be built”, and his even more lunatic action in buying a wornout pipeline and the right to extend it, at a huge cost to the Canadian taxpayer,  a pipeline that no private company apparently will touch with a bargepole, seems even more like a crazy far-out scheme given the setback delivered by the Federal Court of Appeal.
 In relation to that court’s judgment, I might add that its excoriation of what has traditionally been the federal attitude towards promises made to the indigenous people, is more than welcome, and not before time. As a person who has spent the better part of four decades keeping in touch with this question of federal-indigenous relations, I can tell you that the federal concept of “consultation” has never been more than a sop offered to the defendants, which has almost always turned out to have no real substance.
The only  action I can think of that took the indigenous inhabitants seriously was the massive 1970s inquiry headed by Tom Berger, into the proposal to build an oil pipeline down from the Arctic through indigenous hunting territories to market.  Berger, a former NDP leader in BC,  a lawyer who triumphantly brought the decades-long struggle of the Nishga people of northern BC to a fruitful conclusion in 1973, causing a change in the federal government’s attitude towards indigenous land claims, and later a Supreme Court judge, decided, when Trudeau appointed him to head up the inquiry,  that for once the aboriginal mindset, along with its vast knowledge of the terrain in question, should be treated with the respect it deserved, rather than as some quaint outmoded concept that had just emerged from the cupboard.
It is significant that the BC government, in fighting the Trudeau government on this recent  pipeline, apparently turned to Berger for advice, which seems to have been so well-placed as to have allowed the protesters to win a notable victory.
Let’s hope that what eventually emerges from all this uncertainty is that our leaders at last face the facts about the precarious position in which our obsession with economic growth, no matter what the ”sink” costs, is given proper recognition as the dramatic crisis it undoubtedly is.
At the moment there doesn’t seem much sign that we are heading in that direction.

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