OPED: CLIMATE CHANGE-PROTEST OR BUST!

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“Here’s the thing: We can all go see Mr. Gore give his slideshow a million times and it’s not going to do a damn bit of good unless it leads to action. Driving our SUVs to hear him speak and then going home and putting out the recycling to make ourselves feel good isn’t going to get it done. Not even close.

“Changing the type of light bulbs we use and turning our computers off at night helps. But it’s only going to make a small, small dent in the problem. Only political will is going to change the tide of global warming. Right now, I don’t see that political will anywhere…”
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The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
October 2, 2007

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071002.BCMASON02/TPStory/?query=gary+mason

Time to grab a placard and slow climate change

By GARY MASON

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 – Page A8

VANCOUVER — As people arrived at the Bayshore Hotel Saturday night to hear Al Gore speak, they had to pass a small group of placard-toting protesters trying to be heard above the din of a driving rain.

Those strolling through the hotel’s front doors didn’t pay much attention to the group. It was such a hellish night, nobody was wandering over to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, the group was protesting against B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell’s Gateway project, which includes plans to widen highways and twin bridges – initiatives the protesters said accommodated carbon dioxide emissions, not diminished them.

Inside, Mr. Gore was introduced by Mr. Campbell, who a day earlier had announced he would bring in legislation requiring the province to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a third by 2020. While much of what he said in a wrap-up speech to a convention of B.C. municipalities wasn’t new, there were enough fresh plans to set the Premier apart from his counterparts across the country.

Mr. Gore was greeted by a rousing ovation from the crowd, many of whom had shelled out as much as $500 to hear him give his now iconic slideshow on global warming.

He’d updated parts of it to include events happening around the globe as recently as this past spring. He mentioned the trees that were blown down in Stanley Park last year. But apart from a bit of new material, it was pretty much the same presentation seen in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, right down to lines he’s now uttered thousands of times: “Hi, I’m Al Gore. At one time I was the future president of the United States.”

As someone who has seen the movie twice, I was still struck by Mr. Gore’s show. I could probably sit through it a hundred times and still be moved, and disturbed, by it. Having said that, there was something about the evening that bothered me.

Let me explain.

For starters, most people in the audience were just like me: They “got” climate change already. I’d bet 80 per cent of the people there had seen An Inconvenient Truth and so, in essence, knew what was coming. Not that a little reinforcement is ever a bad thing, but as I listened to Mr. Gore talk I couldn’t help thinking to myself: What is this accomplishing?

I believe the world’s scientists when they say we are running out of time to fix this problem. I also believe that as global issues go, this is No. 1. Nothing else is even close. Not Iraq. Not Osama bin Laden. Not a nuclear-thirsty fruit bar in Korea.

None of those even come close to the threat posed to the Earth by greenhouse-gas emissions.

Despite that, our politicians, well many of them anyway, still don’t get it.

A story in most newspapers yesterday said Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions have stayed at a record high for another year.

Our emissions are now 32.7 per cent above the target in Canada’s Kyoto Protocol commitment.

That is a disgrace.

Mr. Gore rightly mocked Prime Minister Stephen Harper for talking about “aspirational targets” to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Aspirational targets are something you hope for, not something that are mandated. And that is not good enough if we’re hoping to stop the planet from burning up.

Here’s the thing: We can all go see Mr. Gore give his slideshow a million times and it’s not going to do a damn bit of good unless it leads to action. Driving our SUVs to hear him speak and then going home and putting out the recycling to make ourselves feel good isn’t going to get it done. Not even close.

Changing the type of light bulbs we use and turning our computers off at night helps. But it’s only going to make a small, small dent in the problem. Only political will is going to change the tide of global warming. Right now, I don’t see that political will anywhere, especially in Ottawa.

To my mind, this is the only issue in the next federal election; which party has a plan to actually do something about climate change. Which party has the courage to introduce measures that are likely going to hurt a bit, economically and otherwise. There is no way around some pain. But it will hurt a heck of a lot less if we do something now as opposed to waiting another 10 or 15 years when the problem is even worse.

Which brings me back to the shivering protesters outside the hotel Saturday.

I’m starting to think this is what everyone in this country may soon have to do: Grab a placard and hit the streets. I think most people in this country are way out in front of the politicians on this issue. And if our national leaders are reluctant to do anything serious about the problem, then Canadians need to send the message that they have to. That we won’t be embarrassed and ashamed by our contribution to global warming any longer.

If it takes marching to be heard then marching it shall be.

Even in the rain.

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