01 February 2012

The real radicals revealed

The word "radical" is being thrown out a lot lately, particularly from the mouths of certain federal ministers. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver garnered a great deal of attention when he published a rant about opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline in The Globe and Mail. He has backed off a bit since then, saying he was referring not to all environmentalist but only to those who wanted to kill tar sands development entirely.

Well, I would like to kill tar sands development entirely and if that makes me a radical, so be it. But let's be absolutely clear about one thing: the most radical behaviour in this whole affair is what is being done to the environment in northern Alberta. When the scars caused by a behaviour can be seen from outer space with the naked eye, that's radical.

Extracting resources from the planet faster than it can replenish them—that's radical. Polluting the planet faster than it can absorb the pollution—that's radical. And we are doing both of these things. It would appear that our whole damn species is radical. And in the wrong way.

If Messrs. Harper and Oliver are opposed to radical behaviour they should, as our elected leaders, be leading us away from this folly, toward a sustainable, no-growth economy. Instead they passionately support what is perhaps the world's most savage assault on Mother Earth while denouncing those who oppose it. The Prime Minister has called the tar sands “an enterprise of epic proportions akin to the building of the pyramids or China’s Great Wall, only bigger.” And, he failed to add, much, much dirtier.

Rather than enterprises of epic proportions, we might limit ourselves to enterprises of more modest proportions that respect the planet. A radical idea too, perhaps, but in the right way.

1 comment:

  1. You're spot on, Bill. Much of what we are doing is unsustainable and, hence, radical. And, yes, a good deal of our handiwork is visible to the naked eye from the ISS - spreading desertification and deforestation, sustained droughts and floods, the Athabasca tailing ponds, on and on and on. Other radical behaviours such as the collapse of global fisheries may not be visible from space but it proven daily at docksides around the world. And then there is the truly unseeable but critically dangerous depletion of our groundwater resources, the world's aquifers.

    This is the global equivalent of the closing scene of Thelma and Louise.