Friday, November 16, 2007

Canada's leaders pretend to address environment

This is from Rabble.
The governmnent is doing a few things to help the environment but West seems basically correct that there is more pretense than real action. The concentration is still on growth. Sometimes the word "sustainable" is used before growth but just the word, there is no reality to match it.
West fails to show how with the decline of production one might at the same time ensure that inequality was reduced. He says that must happen but his own analysis rightly points out that given control is in the hands of the very well off it is hard to see how this can be made to happen. I expect it won't be without some sort of revolution. Perhaps the middle class will shrink creating a huge mass of disgruntled citizens when they can no longer be bought off by toys (or can't afford them) and their material standard of living declines precipitously. At this juncture bouregois democracy could collapse.

Canada's leaders pretend to address environment
>by Jerry West
November 14, 2007
The C.D. Howe Institute put out a report earlier this year complaining about the rate of taxes that corporations have to pay in Canada. One of their points was that lower taxes would lead to greater economic growth. Late in October federal opposition leader St├ęphane Dion called for broad tax cuts to “improve competitiveness” and “productivity and move our economy forward.” Last September when Premier Campbell announced the B.C. Liberal plan to tackle climate change he emphasized “strategies that are economically and fiscally achievable.”

In early November Richard Rees, the CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia, wrote an editorial on B.C.'s economic situation saying “growth needs to continue unabated for a few more years before we can rightly claim our place as an economic powerhouse on the national scene.” And, last week the Bank of Canada was reported in the Globe and Mail as saying that it would consider intervening in the currency market “if extreme currency movements seriously threatened the conditions that support sustainable long-term growth of the Canadian economy.”

If one digs through the press releases and position papers of the Chambers of Commerce, the business press and other political and economic organizations, numerous other references can be found promoting economic growth, often as a panacea for any number of social and economic problems. Some of them even get so silly that they talk of sustainable economic growth. Our economy and by extension our society is being governed by a fantasy. One that holds that we can grow our way out of problems and into greater prosperity. It is like arguing that one can get rid of cancer in their body by encouraging more of it.

On the other side of the fence are many of the world's scientists and independent thinkers. Last month The Times in the U.K. carried an article reporting on an environment audit conducted by 1,400 scientists for the United Nations. Their conclusion was that our use of resources has put our very survival at risk, and that we were taking a third more out of the planet than it can replenish.

An article published in the New Scientist last month reported that “Only the total elimination of industrial emissions will succeed in limiting climate change to a 2°C rise in temperatures....“ The article went on to say that researchers concluded that a 90 per cent decrease in all emissions from current levels should be considered.

Governments and industry, in the face of considerable public concern, have finally started to move from denying that there is an environmental problem, to pretending to do something about it. Taking effective action to halt environmental degradation and the destruction of our ecosystem will require radically altering the way that we live and do business.

It will mean an end to growth and a period of decline to the point where our demands could be met sustainably. It will mean an end to business and economics as we know them, and the reallocation of the vast amount of wealth and power now concentrated in the hands of less than twenty per cent of the world's population. Given that this wealth and power controls the system that makes the decisions one can expect things to get much worse as governments and industry continue to play shell games that show concern without really taking any effective measures to halt the destruction.

How much worse things will get is a question. In an article last month in Rolling Stone noted scientist James Lovelock predicted that by the beginning of the next century the world's population, currently just over 6 billion, will have been reduced to about 500 million due to the hardships that will be encountered as the climate changes. That figure of course is debatable, but the 84-year-old Lovelock has a distinguished career and is not to be dismissed lightly.

Just as big a question as how bad it might get is what can we do about it. A difficult question given the nature of control in our society. In an article published by the BBC this month John Feeney wrote “We humans face two problems of desperate importance. The first is our global ecological plight. The second is our difficulty acknowledging the first.” Perhaps getting government and industry to publicly recognize that growth is a cause of the problem is the first step.

Jerry West is the editor of The Record, an independent, progressive newspaper published every other Wednesday in Gold River, British Columbia. His columns regularly appear in rabble.ca.

No comments: