I have asthma and so I’m always acutely aware of my dependence on air to keep me alive. The curse of asthma is also a gift in that way as it is a constant reminder to me that I do not live in the environment, that the environment is in me. That everything that is in the environment will eventually find its way into my body through the air I breathe, the food I eat and the water I drink. Which is why I think about the environment a lot.
Lately those thoughts have been focused on the changes that are happening in the environment as a result of climate change. As though in a demonstration of the scientific evidence of this change, fish are moving to colder waters, birds are showing up in areas that they have never lived, and insects are moving away from the tropics toward the poles.
But this is not about the mountain of evidence that climate change is happening. This is about the fact that we citizens are at a historic moment when we not only have the understanding and the tools to mitigate the effects of climate change but we also have the opportunity to do so in a way that will simultaneously address other intractable societal problems.
Premier Christy Clark’s BC Jobs Blueprint has a few worthy goals that, if achieved, will go a long way toward addressing both societal injustices and economic needs: a dramatic increase in the number of young people entering the trades, support for students who want to enter trades while they are still in high school, the provision of training opportunities for Aboriginal students and support for education and training for people with disabilities.
But where the plan falls apart is that it focuses on an industry that not only spews vast amounts of chemicals into our waterways but also speeds up global warming, the driver of climate change.
There is now serious doubt that a BC LNG industry will provide one million, good paying jobs as the Blueprint promises.
There are also serious concerns about the environmental damage that fracking causes to land, water and air.
Every minute that we are breathing, oil and gas wells are leaking deadly methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane gas is 30 times more potent than carbon when it comes to warming the atmosphere.
Thirty times more potent…
Should this fact not give us pause?
Gordon Campbell, Christy Clark’s predecessor, had a “road to Damascus” moment in November 2006 when he went to Beijing to see the preparations for the Olympics. Instead of being in awe of the amazing architecture, he was instead struck by the quality of the air there. On sunny days when one should be able to see far off into the horizon, it’s possible to only see a few feet in front of you because of the smog.
Campbell’s experience of Beijing smog was what led to several actions by the then BC Liberal government to address pollution and climate change. Did you know that the BC government has had an Air Quality Action Plan since 2008?
What would it take for Christy Clark to have her own “road to Damascus” moment? More Mount Polleys?
Or perhaps she needs to take a helicopter flight over the Skeena Watershed, an area that she has targeted for fracking.
Wade Davis recalls that Gordon Campbell had another moment of environmental destruction awareness when he took a helicopter flight over the Sacred Headwaters, the area where the Red Chris mine is planned. Campbell was stunned by the beauty of the land that was soon going to be deforested and exploded in the pursuit of profit. It’s too bad that this experience did not stop the plans for development of the mine. Is this when the the Green Dream the BC Liberals used to have turned into the fracking nightmare?
What happened to our leadership that lead to our current situation when we are allowing ourselves to be blackmailed by a multinational corporation into giving up a pristine environment in exchange for the equivalent of relative pennies?
The current BC government already has all the means it needs to take advantage of this historic moment. All it has to do is to implement the environmental plans that have already been published by previous BC Liberal governments.
Did you know that our government has a Climate Action Plan for the 21st century that calls for an increase in renewable energy use?
All that is needed for Today’s BC Liberals to leave an ethical legacy is the willingness to put children, not corporations, first.
That legacy would include ensuring that our children are prepared for a world of wild weather as climate change speeds up.
Our children should be learning more about the environment, not less. One of the major flaws in the new curriculum proposed by the BC Liberal government is that it decreases the focus on environmental studies at precisely the time we should be increasing awareness of our impact on the environment.
If our children do not receive a good foundation in environmental literacy, how will they have meaningful discussions and debates, as citizens in a democracy, about what they will be witnessing in a dramatically changing environment?
Post-secondary institutions have already recognized the need for more environmental education with SFU just recently announcing the new Bachelor of Environment, the only such degree in Canada. A search on EducationPlanner.ca reveals 53 post-secondary environmental programs. These are what should receive the money earmarked for post-secondary education in the BC Jobs Blueprint.
We need to turn the Blueprint green.
We need to turn away from seeing environmental destruction and low wages as the only way to build an economy.
One of the most significant aspects of a green economy is that there is an added benefit, apart from jobs and a return on investments, of ensuring that we also have a healthy environment. A goal that our current economy does not even recognize as necessary.
We can transform our economy into one that provides good paying jobs with benefits, an economy that does not place people in an invidious position of having to choose between feeding their families and polluting the land, water and air on which we all survive.
If Germany can turn its economy around, so can we.
We have the means and the knowledge to create an economy that will not cost us clean air to breathe, does not cost us the chemical death of fish and fowl and does not cost us the earth.
We owe it to our children to turn away from the Faustian bargain that we are being offered by the LNG industry.
We can do better.