"One day, you're going to look back and wonder what it was all for," he says. I worry it may be the first true thing he has said. He insists that climate change is a socialist scheme backed by 'special interest groups' and green-energy investors. He believes that the oil sands -- not the tar sands, he assures me -- are an asset to the nation that our economy simply couldn't survive without. The earth is heating up as part of a natural cycle, and to try and reverse it by cutting fossil fuels is 'messing with nature'. I can tell from the confused, contradictory and disjointed range of excuses for fossil fuel development that I am talking to a Sun news viewer, an Ezra Levant follower, an evangelist of the muddled, self-aggrandizing scienceless sellouts that peddle misinformation on the behalf of delusional corporations with no care or concept for global sustainability.
As long as their disproportionately vocal (if fragile) presence is maintained in our mainstream media -- enough to create the illusion of uncertainty and debate -- then it may well be impossible for us to save humanity from the pending climate disaster. It may well be futile for frustrated citizens like me, no matter how outlandish or challenging our forms of protest may be, to solidify the unequivocal nature of this threat in the public conscience and prompt rapid, strategic, political action.
So, yes, perhaps one day -- even before the year is out -- I will look back on my 5,000km unicycle journey for climate action and wonder, 'what was the point?' But not, as this climate denier suggests, because I will suddenly realize that 97 per cent of scientists were wrong and that there isn't, never has been and never will be a human-caused, global, environmental catastrophe. And, not, as this denier suggests, because this realization will cause myself and others to conclude that I have been "a fool." God forbid.
I struggle to find merit in any anti climate-action argument I've ever heard, but this surprisingly pervasive one really takes the cake. The vast majority of scientists and policy makers agree our immediate future is in grave danger and we should delay our response for the considerable counter-threat of…looking silly?
In this climate-denier's version of the future, I'm an old man on my death bed contemplating my regrets: taking a stand based on scientific evidence is apparently top amongst them. Damn those 1,000 children who died of supposed 'climate change'-related issues every day; instead of calling for justice, I could have spent six months of my life on Alaskan cruises, experiencing warming that's sure to be beneficial and is caused by some vague climate-trends that definitely are caused by just about everything except human pollution and definitely don't constitute global warming.
Oh, and all that money I spent on food and accommodations during my ride? I could have spent it on gas.
Yup, that's my biggest regret of all: If I could only go back in time, I would have driven more. And why drive a 50-year-old 4-cylinder? I could have driven a Hummer. And the worst part? All the folks who laugh at me for buying that whole 'climate change' hoax. I really should have known that virtually every Western government, NASA, the UN, the Pentagon, the World Bank and the International Monetary fund were just putting on a big show for those tree-hugging pinkos like Al Gore who stood to make millions from unproven forms of energy like 'solar.' After all, Greenpeace and the World Bank have always been a little too cozy for comfort, right?
Okay, so maybe that's not exactly what climate deniers are picturing, but it's the best I can imagine. Because no matter how mislead, I just can't imagine how these possible regrets could ever compete with the alternative: I did nothing, and now I have to justify it to the next generation. I have to look them in the eye and say, "I'm sorry. There wasn't 100 per cent certainty what would happen so it was only logical that I do nothing. I hope you understand." And I get to say this as they battle wildfires that ravage entire communities, catastrophic floods that bury countries, fatal heat waves, droughts, famine and a whole spate of other symptoms of a fever-struck planet.
Climate deniers accuse me of being motivated by fear. They're right, of course, but so are they motivated by fear.
My fear is rational: a scientifically calculated prediction of civilizational collapse and environmental devastation. Their fear is not: a fear of looking foolish for reacting to said-devastation if it doesn't occur.
I wish I could so much as hope for the future these climate-deniers predict. I would be relieved if, in decades to come, they could justifiably point a finger at me and mock my impassioned, one-wheeled plea for my government to take action. But until that happens, we're stuck with plain-old reality.
Reality, where facts and logic matter, and informed predictions, risk factors and mitigation options must be taken seriously. Reality, where there is only one kind of fool; those who fear personal risk and ambition above all else. Those who would rather risk a planet than their own pride.
Joseph Boutilier is unicycling 5,000km from his hometown of Victoria B.C. to Ottawa to call for action on climate change in the leadup to the 2015 federal election. Readers can follow his journey at www.unityfortheclimate.ca or on Twitter: @josephboutilier
Photo: flickr/David Stanley