Nothing is more vital to our survival and well-being than our environment. One may apply to economic theories, social development theories, psychology, engineering, but none have the answer to our survival other than to resolve to use these theories to ensure that we as a society act responsibly with respect to our environment. Mr. Fefchak’s letter to the Brandon Sun (Aug. 9) is, therefore, a welcome effort to bring the issue of environmental stewardship to our attention.
While Mr. Fefchak points the accusing finger at governments, we must then, by definition, point the finger at ourselves for the failure in ensuring that we pass onto future generations a healthy, viable world.
We install our governments (that is, the governing political party, which determines public policy) by choice through the election system.
It, therefore, follows that any failure in our responsibility to and for the environment within which we live rests with us. Certainly in recent history, there have been only two political leaders who have defined environmental issues as central to their election platforms — Stéphane Dion and Elizabeth May. Dion was derided by fellow Liberals, members of the other national parties, the media, conservative-minded think tanks and, generally, by the public. May was able to rally sufficient support for her party to install one member in our current Parliament. In other words Canadian voters have not embraced but rather have soundly repudiated any thought of humankind’s responsibility to be ever vigilant in the protection of our environment.
One should be able to argue that the Canadian voter has, with supreme knowledge, due diligence and clear vision, determined that environmental issues are the least of our concerns or at best, are a luxury item in relation to economic and other personal and public issues. However, we know better.
The Canadian voter has no time, no interest, no capacity to assimilate the information necessary to make an informed political decision with respect to environmental issues (as well as other public issues). The norm probably is, assuming an interest or concern about environmental issues, to use proxies — what do his/her friends think, which politician has the best spin, which politician speaks the loudest or longest, what do business leaders say. Assuming no interest or concern about environmental issues, the default behaviour is to vote for the party of personal choice based on factors irrelevant at best and damaging at worst with respect to environmental issues. The point being that, at best, Canadian voters, as a collective, when selecting their government, are paying little attention to the substance, essence of environmental issues. A reality that is reflected in our present behaviour. Our governments are, therefore, a proper and accurate representation of who we are and what we believe in.
And that is the dark side of democracy. That we can vote for, lobby and promote politicians who will implement policies that will destroy our environment and by extension ourselves or who will ignore environmental issues and ultimately lead us to the same fate. This is what Mr. Fefchak was referring to when he states “(T)he result — economic disaster,” in reference to governments’ non-action with respect to environmental issues. One could go further and state — world disaster. But then the issue may be moot. Maybe humans are an extinct species — we just don’t know it or we anticipate it. In which case environmental issues are immaterial, irrelevant and it is best to attend to more immediate matters such as establishing a thriving economy — which will drive our world to extinction. The ultimate debasement of economic theory.
So far, humankind has been complacent about environmental issues. So far, humankind has survived in spite of that complacency. While we are beginning to appreciate the damage we have done and continue to perpetrate on our environment, we hold onto a fading hope that the environment will forgive us through its capacity to adapt. Forgetting that the environment might adapt by ridding itself of us. Or we hold onto the self-deluding idea that science will find a way out. Little do we appreciate that we cannot bargain, argue and reason with the environment. We have no one to go to, to argue our case for destroying trees because our neighbours are destroying theirs. We have no one to go to and ask for a break since we only represent two per cent of the world’s pollution. We have no one to got to, to ask for forgiveness and a second, third, fourth chance. Neither can we manage the environment, the idea of stewardship, by sequestering the damage we inflict, or sequestering ourselves from the damage inflicted by others. Our air in Canada becomes the air that the rest of the world breathes. Our water becomes the water that the rest of the world drinks.
So far, so good celebrates the fellow halfway down after jumping from the high tower.
and CHESTER LETKEMAN
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 15, 2012