Are you tired of all of the endless chatter about climate change? Me too. With the exception of the odd catastrophic oil spill or a plague of sea lice here and there, most of the energy being spent on environment issues these days seems to center on the changing climate and global warming. The climate surely is changing, and records do indicate we are having warmer years, only the most die-hard denialist with their head firmly in the sand would advocate otherwise. The real area of debate is about cause, more specifically about whether or how much the change is the result of human activity.
Quite frankly, whether should not even be debatable. To what extent is certainly open to investigation, but logic alone tells us that human activity does have an effect on the climate. And, one can argue that the more humans there are, the more effect they will have.
What should bother us about this, however, is that the climate problem is not the main problem. It is only a symptom of a much more serious one. A suspicious mind would say that all of this attention being given to climate change, and all of the green speak starting to come from the mouths of egregious corporate polluters and their government toadies, is an intentional smoke and mirrors production to divert attention away from the real issue.
The issue that should be foremost on our minds and in our discussions is the fact that we are consuming the ability of the planet to support us. We have been doing so since the last century, and every year we add more people to make demands on an already overburdened system. These demands that we make are the cause of much that is wrong with our environment. Everything that we do that is beyond the capacity of the environment to repair quick enough to neutralize our impact is doing too much as it degrades the system that we depend on for our long term survival.
So, why are we wasting time on climate change when there is a much bigger issue that needs to be resolved? It is simple, we have built a society on growth and consumption, and it cannot survive a switch to a rational and environmentally sensible one based on stasis with a balance between demands and replenishments.
An environmentally stable society is incompatible with any system, such as our economic system, based on growth and accumulation, and those who control the system know it. Those who control the system also have the most influence in the dispersal of information, the content of entertainment, and the direction of education. All are used to set common reference points and to channel debate into the least threatening areas possible.
A very threatening term is sustainability if one understands it and takes it seriously. Sustainable means that you take no more from the system than it can continually replace. This is not something compatible with continual growth since it recognizes limits. So, it is a term that the system seeks to co-opt.
On Earth Day the B.C. Minister of Citizens’ Services published an editorial claiming that the government “walks the talk on sustainability.” He talks about the government being a leader in making greener choices and striving towards carbon neutrality. It is a warm and fuzzy piece for the gullible meant to redirect the understanding of sustainable to suit the system rather than scientific reality.
Sustainability is not really about greener choices, it is not about carbon neutrality. Sustainability is about balance, and in a world so out of balance on the consumption side, it is about consuming less, not so much about better choices as about choosing to do less of everything, not about a growing economy, but about a shrinking one, not about more efficient production, but about less production.
Sustainability and our current society are incompatible. The vested interests in that society will divert our focus as far from it as possible.
Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada’s West Coast.