Members of Science for Peace have taken up in a vigorous manner a considerable number of issues that have an impact on the understanding of the nature and consequences of climate change. From the Global Issues Project to recent forums, considerable discussion has taken place concerning climate change and how some of the proposed solutions can be promoted. These efforts have become all the more imperative given Canada’s role as a leading producer of greenhouse gas emissions due in considerable part to the nature of the massive energy reserves which exist in this country.
It is history and geography, however, that prevent a serious change in the policies which lead to the increasing contributions Canadians make to possibly the greatest challenge humans have had to confront (given the previous track record of humans on nuclear weapons, famine and war, the outlook is bleak). Historical in the sense that control of the exploitation of natural resources is strictly a provincial responsibility, thus preventing the intervention of the majority of Canadians in determining what constitutes “polluting policies”. Geographical in that the solid base of the far right wing ruling party (who received less than 25% of the possible votes (36% of actual votes) in the last election) resides in the same region where exploitation of these polluting resources generates handsome profits.
Not to be outdone, the agribusiness sector is now increasing massively the levels of crop production for the purposes of conversion to ethanol for fuel. That this has driven the prices of basic foods to new highs and due to the notion that the only people who are allowed to eat are those who can pay, new levels of hunger have reached all regions of the world. Furthermore, as two articles in Science Magazine have recently reported, the production of agrifuels actually results in greater production of greenhouse gases.
Lost, however, in this discussion is the fundamental role that an economic system based on growth has in driving these problems to their (likely) catastrophic conclusions. As is well understood, capitalism’s various crises resulted in the well-organized generation of consumer societies where self-worth was measured in the number of toys one possessed (“health, liberty and the pursuit of toys” as articulated by the slave-owning Locke over 400 years ago). Thus, while individual choices concerning the amount of air travel in which we engage are suitable for personal aspects of reducing our “footprint”, our program requires that we also work towards a fundamental change in the organization of our society. Hoping that yet another on-line petition will somehow sway the folks on the Hill will never counter in any meaningful way the voice of the white men in the towers of downtown Toronto or Calgary. These same voices are those that continue to make Canada a warring nation in order to drive profits upward yet are immune to the consequences of their policies where, for example, we learn from the World Food Program that 2.5 million Afghans are at severe risk of famine despite all the “help” we provide. Likewise, there exists sufficient food in this country to ensure that no one goes hungry ever. However, this same consumer society denies food to those who cannot pay for it, a profound abrogation of our responsibilities to each other due to a system predicated on hoarding.
Thus, a profound connection between a system driving us to the collapse of the biosphere and our control of the “means of destruction” needs to be articulated if we wish seriously to alter the course of our history.