Friday, April 27, 2007

Who Cares About Global Warming?

Much noise has been made over the last few years about the dangers we face, as fast-paced global warming threatens to dramatically change the environment. Many people claim that global warming is somehow related to human activity, while others deny the clear, scientifically-proven existence of such a link.

While the movement supporting some kind of action has gained momentum within activist circles (à la Al Gore) and the international public opinion, I for one am not hopeful of any significant change over the near future.

In the international relations arena, the divide between those that favour action to curb climate change and those who deny the pertinence of such action is a very clear one: on one side, you have the Bush administration, Australia and Canada (whose previous administration failed to implement the Kyoto Protocol and whose current one has no intention of upholding it); on the other the "rest of the world", including world leaders, NGOs, international bodies, public opinion, etc... Kyoto, without the participation of the United States (25% of world emissions) and of China and India (who ratified but are exempt from emission cuts for the time being) is truly dead.

No change can come from the top on climate change: those who can enforce change will not betray the industries that pollute the most, because they are direct or indirect beneficiaries of industry. Most declarations of politicians concerning curbing emissions is mere lip service, as what really drives the world is the bottom line: profit, re-election, consumerism, comfort, all of which can be neatly tucked into that most American (indeed, Western or globalized) of ideals - the pursuit of happiness, which means that not enough consumers care enough to demand a change in attitude from their elites, or from themselves.

What I am getting at is that the whole discussion on whether or not climate change is man-made is deeply flawed. Rather, it sidesteps the issue. If you deny human activity as a catalyst for climate change, then clearly there is no issue. If, on the other hand, you agree that the current fast-paced climate change is related to human activity, then you wallow in self-pity, blaming the lack of will of those who are in the position of actually bringing the mass scale change that is necessary to revert the trend.

But, as I said, both sides have missed the real issue: human misuse of the world. Whether or not our activity is causing global warming does not matter. What matters is that it is NOT sustainable. Changing from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Recycling is a great thing, although very little of it is done on a global scale. Organic food? Great, if you can afford it.

Clearly, though, those solutions (including carbon emission reduction) are but band-aids, typical of the Western-turned-global mindset: we treat the symptoms without addressing the disease. Have a problem? Pop a pill and keep moving! What we need is a paradigm shift. We need to change as a society, as individuals even. I could go first, but what's the point - are you gonna follow???


FurGaia said...

Red Jenny has an interesting take on this subject. I left a comment there re. your post. She needs to approve it though.

Your post is right on the money ... if a bit depressing.

Léo Martin said...

Thanks for the link, Furgaia. It's funny, cuz I read about Suzuki and Baird's exchange a few moments after I posted and wished I had read it earlier...

Red Jenny's article is indeed a very interesting one as it shows a different side of the same coin.

Red Jenny said...

Hi, I found this thanks to furgaia's link. I have to say, I completely agree with you. I believe our current path is unsustainable, unequal and also immoral. To me one of the saddest things is that those who are affected most are those who have the least to do with creating the problem.

I listened to an excellent talk by Van Jones on Saturday in which he suggested three possible future scenarios. If I remember correctly, they were 1) Eco-apocalype, 2) Eco-apartheid, and 3) Eco-Justice

The image he chose for eco-apartheid was of a pale woman doing yoga in a tranquil setting contrasted with another, darker woman holding a child on a respirator. It really hit home. His organization is creating training programs for green jobs in inner cities, and Nancy Pelosi recently contacted them and is now putting forth a bill to fund "green" vocational training. He sees the "greening" economy as a potential opportunity, as long as class, gender, and race are not left out of the equation.

While I believe capitalism is indeed the root cause of our self-made ecological disaster, I don't have a lot of hope for changing that any time soon. So, in the meantime, I feel I need to set aside my ideology sometimes and work on pragmatic reforms. *sigh*

That means both regulating and incenting business to do the right thing, and truly, I believe Capitalism (and our Economy) has great power to persist regardless of the regulations we put on it.

People thought laws to regulate work time, like the fight for an 8 hour day, were impossible and would destroy the system. They were wrong. It happily kept chugging along!

Red Jenny said...

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My greatest hope is seeing the growing solidarity between movements. In my mind, the anti-war movement and environmental movement have no choice but to join forces. War is devastating for the environment (it makes my chest hurt to even think about the vast quantities of fossil fuels used to kill people). Environmental disaster is devastating for peace. They are both symptoms of a greater problem and "green" weaponry is emphatically NOT the answer!