By Ralph Martin
Seth Klein approaches the challenge of the climate crisis as, “A Good War,” the title of his new book. He refers to C.D. Howe, our Canadian Minister of Everything during WWII, who revamped government, harnessed industry and ensured that Canada was well equipped to fight Hitler. Klein argues that the Canadian government could similarly fight rising, devastating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In my opinion, rather than a war, the climate crisis requires dogged resistance, as we dig in for the long haul. Klein is correct to urge us to take steps quickly, and not just baby steps but real adult strides. Our current cumulative emissions may already have flipped climate systems to a new trajectory (https://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252 ).
When the Israelites were in Egypt, Pharoah ordered all their firstborn males to be killed. One mother resisted by hiding her baby for 3 months and then placed him in a floating basket among the reeds. Her young daughter, Miriam, watched and eventually saw the daughter of Pharoah approach the basket and open it, with evident compassion for the crying baby. In a remarkable repartee of restoration, Miriam offered to find a nurse (her mama) and then clinched a royal upbringing for her brother, Moses. She dealt with the immediate risk while being strategic in the long game of restoring freedom for her people. The training of Moses would pay dividends.
GHG emissions are harming poor people now and as they accumulate, will increase hardships. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, not only did Canadian GHG emissions fail to trend downward toward our 2030 target, they actually went up (https://bit.ly/3nEMr9Q ). Canada is the only G7 country emitting more GHGs than we did in 1990; embarrassingly, 21% more.
In 2019 when I was a Green Party candidate, in Wellington Halton Hills, numerous voters expressed urgency about the climate. Grandparents who had always voted Liberal or Conservative, expressed authentic concern about the lives of their grandchildren in a world of floods, droughts and rising sea levels. They wanted to tell me, the Green guy, what they were doing to reduce their footprints.
More than ever, we need a government that will establish an inner climate cabinet of all parties, and like Moses’s mama, will authorize a 21st century Miriam to mobilize for immediate risks, in the context of strategic adaptive management for as long as required.
The climate crisis is the predictable reaction of Earth Systems to human patterns of production and consumption. Humanity is acting like a truculent toddler screaming at Mother Earth “you’re not the boss of me.” As a matter of fact, she is.
Resistance is required to halt the patterns of production. For example, let’s stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, which is well beyond the training wheels stage. It is past time to slow it down. It is also necessary to resist profligate consumption patterns. For example, wasting over 50% of food is tragic and even ‘unavoidable’ waste with some probing can either be assessed as actually avoidable or much of it can repurposed for animal feed (https://bit.ly/3vSNNjV and https://bit.ly/2RzI0RA ).
Restoring patterns of production and consumption will include green energy, less travel, less material use and discerning needs from wants. It is time to restore the old fashioned word, conserve. Since Earth systems are the final regulator, we should conserve ecological systems and the roles of our numerous relatives, non human creatures.
To conserve recent economic structures is to underachieve. Conserving ecological resilience strengthens a healthy long term economy and associated possibilities. Restoration is to focus production on what we need, to transform waste to inputs in a circular economy and to consume with care and gratitude. What if resisting the climate crisis restored a better life?
Ralph Martin, Ph.D., Professor (retired), University of Guelph. Information on new book, Food Security: From Excess to Enough at www.ralphmartin.ca