By PAT WATSON
Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined the invitation to attend next month’s UN summit on climate change and the reason may lie not in his busy agenda but in his shade of politics. As is the case with so many polarizing (pun intended) issues, one’s view on climate change or global warming – depending on what you want to label it – will depend on your political leanings.
Looking to the giant to the south for evidence, we recall that former Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, pooh-poohed the notion of global warming. As a standard position, many other solidly right-wing conservatives dismiss talk of climate change as a fabrication or, at the very least, reject the notion that it stems from industrial pollution and the sustained disregard for Mother Nature.
On the other side of the coin, liberals, a significant number of scientists, those tree hugging types, and far more women than men see climate change as highly related to human environmental abuse. Very early in his presidency, Barack Obama gave a clear message to Canada about his administration’s level of willingness to do business with Canada, contingent on Canada’s own environmental plan.
There is no question that the global climate is changing. We get enough information flowing from Arctic residents that ice caps are receding. The key question is why.
During the 1980s there was much talk of the next approaching Ice Age, and then, in the 1990s, climatologists changed to warning of global warming. We were told that chlorofluorocarbons being used down here on Earth were eating a hole in the ozone layer which was exposing us to an unhealthy level of ultra violet rays causing the rise in skin cancer and a host of related illnesses as well heating the planet, turning it into a greenhouse-like atmosphere.
One of the difficulties when it comes to public acceptance of this environmental crisis is that much of the world population live in urban areas, so that intimate contact and familiarity with the natural environment is severely limited. In the artificially manipulated formation of our modern cities, we are not seeing any real threat to the things that matter to us for our survival — things like food. Modern agri-business production is such that – provided one has enough money – one can eat without worry. However, if, for example, Toronto was blocked off from the outside world – if all those tractor-trailers streaming all those mega-tonnes of food into the city stopped for some unimaginable reason – we would face the prospect of mass starvation within days.
Also, regardless of the time of year, as long as we stay indoors, we can create our own heating and cooling. And an awful lot of our time is spent indoors these days.
Whether humans are, or nature is, responsible for the change in the climate is a debate that will no doubt continue. But, even if the climate is changing as a natural phenomenon, it does not absolve us as human beings from not taking more care of where we live. Regardless of the debate about who is to blame, isn’t it in our best interest and that of the planet to be more mindful about how we co-exist with the rest of Earth’s inhabitants and the natural environment? In that context, is the foolhardiness not clear regarding the current debate over limiting carbon emissions that is now taking place between top officials in the run up to the UN environment summit? While the arguing goes on, the same kind of pollution is being spewed into the air and water on which we depend to remain alive.
Leaders and big business are arguing that changing the way we do business in consideration of a healthy natural environment will have a detrimental effect on the world economy, on jobs and on people’s employment. But, if people are dying in record numbers from all kinds of cancers related to all the harmful chemicals in manufactured goods that also harm the environment, then what are we really achieving in the long run? Even if Mother Nature can take care of herself, are we not, in our pursuit of profit, paying a terrible price in terms of the damage we are doing to our human environment?
A note on a reality check…
Someone who volunteers in the prisons once remarked that there are far more ‘ugly’ people in jail than ‘good-looking’. Pretty faces are allowed more leeway. That could explain why a pretty blonde named Karla Homolka was able to get away with murder. It could also explain why so many Republicans in America are still enamored with Sarah Palin, the former beauty contestant who ran for U.S. vice president. This, despite her pretty poisoned political point of view.