27 September 2008

It's the Environment, stupid.

If you listen to the party leaders in the current political campaign, they might lead you to believe that the biggest worry the country is facing is the economy. Radio, newspapers and television reports all trumpet the same message. There's a flaw with this logic, though: without the environment, we have no economy.

Canada's economy relies in huge part on our natural resources. We mine coal, diamonds and potash; we harvest lumber, fruits, and veggies; we fish, hunt, and raise livestock; we drill for oil and natural gas; and we have a huge nation full of trees, coastline, and mountains that attracts thousands of people every year.

Is what's going on south of the border scary? I guess it depends on your perspective. I'm not quite so worried. I work in a relatively secure job. As a teacher, either there are enough kids to teach, or their aren't. The public isn't overly thrilled with the idea of cuts to the department that oversees my employers. I'm also young and have few investments. I have a couple of bank accounts and RRSPs, and I have a pension at work. I have a mortgage worth about 80% of the value of my home with payments low enough to buffer me from house fluctuations.

But I know this isn't the case for everyone. There are people whose lives depend on manufacturing. There are people who were close to retirement who are facing extra years on the job as they've watched their investments plummet in the last few weeks and months. There are people who just watched their investment income dry up in a major way. And everyday is another dip or crest on the roller coaster.

So why shouldn't people demand that the next prime minister have an idea of what to do about all this? I'm not saying that. I am saying that, as always, the markets correct themselves. I've never heard a financial planner (and I keep track of two, personally, plus the ones I hear in the media) say that you should sink all your money into your home or CTVglobemedia or Petro-Canada or even the federal government. If you've been told that, go hire someone new. Markets go up; markets go down. Jobs are created; jobs are terminated. I definitely have compassion for anyone affected by the turmoil. I don't think that a government led by any political party has the power to stop train unless they do away with the market system altogether.

But that's another post for another day.

How about this: if we don't get a handle on carbon emissions, the polar icecaps will melt. If the polar icecaps melt, valuable agrarian land will be flooded. Fish will die because of the shift the balance of ocean salination. More people will have to move inland and to higher ground causing over-crowding of the little land that's left and further jeopardizing agrarian land. The buildings, vehicles and infrastructure left behind in the flooded regions will pollute the water, killing more species. Polar bears will drown. Seals will drown. Seals, unchecked by polar bears, will eat the scant remaining fish stocks. People in the newly over-crowed regions will spread disease faster. Remaning hospitals will be unable to cope after a large percentage of hospitals sit in the encroaching ocean, unusable. Animals will spread disease more rapidly because of similar over-crowding. The price of food will skyrocket because agrarian land will be at such a premium, as will commerical, residential, and industrial spaces.

Doesn't that sound like fun? Okay, so it's extreme, but haven't we been warned enough?

It's unlikely that this will happen in my lifetime. But I don't like the idea of having children who will struggle with that life. I don't like the idea of knowing that I live in a country where we ignored the long-term problem to address a problem that comes and goes in regular succession every few years.

I'm not worried about the planet. I've addressed that before. I'll be sad to think that we could have done something to keep a few more species kicking around rather than speed their extinction, but something will survive and life will continue. I'm concerned about everyone. I'm concerned about people who have a real love of seeing humans continue to grow and thrive and learn on this planet. I'm interested in how to live in a way that doesn't make life worse for someone else, whether that person live 40,000 km away, or 200 years from now.

One way or another, the economy will hiccough, burp and keep going. But we have the ability to choose a government that allows up to keep going. The moral and economic fibre of this country mean absolutely nothing if no one lives here, or if we use up everything that keeps us going.

October 14th. It's your choice.

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