26 January 2007

Will the people save us?

I've been an optimist all my life. I've always felt that, even though it may take a crisis to alert people to a problem, they will ultimately do the right thing. And then global warming came along. Or maybe just old age. But I've been starting to think maybe this time we won't do the right thing. This is the biggest threat we have ever faced, or ever will face -- it involves everything, the planet itself -- and if we wait for a crisis it may be too late.

Yet I have been observing little leadership that was prepared to deal with the challenge. The leaders of the world's major polluter, the United states, have shown little concern. Nor did the leaders of the potentially biggest polluters, China and India, seem to take heed. So I have been growing increasingly pessimistic even while I enjoy the warmer winters.

Now, rather suddenly, it seems a little optimism may be justified after all. As leaders have pursued other priorities, often seemingly oblivious to the changing climate, ordinary people have been taking notice. A recent Globe and Mail/CTV survey illustrated the remarkable awakening of Canadians to the growing threat. According to the poll, a year ago only four per cent of us thought the environment was the most critical issue facing the country. Today, 26 per cent do. It's now the major issue in Canadians' minds. According to Allen Gregg, chair of the Strategic Counsel, which conducted the survey, "It's developed a top-of-mind salience the likes of which we've never seen before. In 30 years of tracking, we've never had over 20 per cent saying they think this is the most important issue.” As people recognize the threat, politicians follow, and it seems those two laggards on climate change, Stephen Harper and George Bush, are starting to do just that. As Ralph Klein once said, political leadership is about figuring out where the people are going and then running around to get in front of them.

People in other countries also seem to be coming to grips with global warming, and as they do, and as their politicians scurry to get in front of them, I feel my old optimism returning. It feels good.

No comments:

Post a Comment