Energy will determine Canada’s fate

Crisis is a powerful motivator, as we saw during the economic crash of 2008.

Energy is on everyone’s minds these days. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined to make Canada an energy superpower, fuelled by Alberta’s tarsands.

Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, elected to lead a province with a strong economy, now finds energy price fluctuations are reducing provincial revenues. Saskatchewan is booming from oil, gas and uranium revenues, and B.C. Premier Christy Clark plans to expand exploitation of liquefied natural gas, which requires huge amounts of energy and involves the  contentious practice of fracking.

While Quebec Premier Pauline Marois maintains a moratorium on fracking, New Brunswick Premier David Alward claims it’s an energy opportunity for his province. Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s progressive Green Energy Act is under serious attack, and Prime Minister Harper embraces exploration for oil.

While the federal government demonizes environmentalists as “radicals” bent on derailing plans for the tarsands and other natural resources, opposition is rising against pipelines to transport Alberta’s diluted bitumen to the B.C. coast via Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, or to Texas refineries via the Keystone XL.

Politicians who want to make significant change must focus primarily on re-election if they are to see their agendas come to fruition. That means they must respond to immediate economic demands while leaving longer-term problems like climate change and water issues on the back burner. Surely the enduring consequences of today’s actions or inactions must be a priority. We’ll be living with the ramifications of the current crop of politicians’ decisions and actions long after they’ve been relegated to history.

Crisis is a powerful motivator, as we saw during the economic crash of 2008. In a matter of weeks, President George W. Bush and his successor, Barack Obama, committed hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out banks and automobile companies – without imposing conditions that might get them to change their ways. I was astounded at the speed and scale of these actions, compared to the snail’s pace on ecological issues that threaten the survival of our species and our way of life.

The science has been in for more than two decades: human use of fossil fuels creating unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases is altering the chemistry of the atmosphere, leading to climate and weather effects that will be chaotic and devastating. Continued increases in emissions will only exacerbate what is already an out-of-control atmospheric transformation of the biosphere.

We claim brainpower makes us superior to the rest of life on this planet. But what use is intelligence if we don’t use it to respond to threats and opportunities? After all, foresight was a great human attribute that brought us to a position of dominance on the planet. We used our knowledge and experiences to look ahead and recognize potential dangers and favourable circumstances so we could take control over our destiny by acting to avoid hazards and exploit possibilities.

This is Canada’s moment. We are confronting a crisis with the economy and energy. No economy can grow forever; it is simply impossible on a finite planet. Shouldn’t we ask what an economy is for? How much is enough? What are the limits? How do we build a sustainable economy? We have learned from painful experience in single-resource communities that relying primarily on one major component of the economy – logging, fishing, mining – makes for dangerous boom-and-bust cycles.

Nations that export fossil fuel too often become over-reliant on that sector. That destabilizes the economy (as we’re seeing in Alberta), distorts priorities (leading to the so-called “Dutch disease,” where other parts of the economy are neglected or ignored) and undermines democracy by holding government hostage (as we saw in the enormous lobbying power of industry in the last U.S. presidential election).

The future of energy in Canada will determine the fate of our society. It must be widely discussed, nationally as well as provincially, beyond the boundaries of politics and economics. This is about the type of country we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

davidsuzuki.org.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supporter Gordy Dodd cheers on HeroWork Victoria executive director Trevor Botkin, who will be in a lift for 36 hours beside Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress on April 16 and 17 to raise funds for the organization’s next project, a makeover of the Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street. (Courtesy HeroWork Victoria)
HeroWork Victoria tackles makeover of Salvation Army rehab centre

Executive director to spend 36 hours living in a lift as fundraiser

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

Grandmothers to Grandmothers is a campaign that connects Canadian grandmothers with grandmothers in Africa who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Here, they are in Kakuto, Uganda in 2018. (Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar photo)
Greater Victoria and African grandmothers celebrate solidarity with virtual concert

Grandmothers to Grandmothers supports women in Africa caring for children orphaned by AIDS

West Shore RCMP is seeking information about a collision involving a car and a bicycle on Six Mile Road, near the Island Highway, at 11:30 a.m. on April 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP seeks information about collision between bike, car

Collision occured on Six Mile Road on April 7 and a bystander got the blue car’s plate number

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Driver who crashed into Uptown Walmart likely suffering mental health crisis, police say

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Most Read