I’ve been writing about the environment a lot lately, so I’m gonna level with you guys: the situation is really starting to scare me. It was one thing when our existence would be wiped out by the death of our sun, billions of years after everyone I know has already died. That would be fine; I’m not going to be around for that dystopian hellscape. But the way things are going, the world is probably going to end well before I even get to retire.
As anyone who has read the Globe and Mail’s recent article on greenhouse gas emissions or attended Tim Cooper’s talk on global warming can tell you, Canadians are not looking too hot when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, our per-person emissions are almost three times higher than the eight tonnes average of the other members of the Group of Twenty (G20). With a yearly average of 22 tonnes of emissions per person, Canadians are the least green citizens of the G20 countries by far. As Tim Cooper said in his talk, European countries — who have very similar lifestyles to us — are producing half as much greenhouse emissions per person.
So really, I have to ask: what’s wrong with us? With our reputation as the “nice” country, you’d think we’d be doing better than dead last in environmental issues. But you don’t need to know very much about the years-long Trans Mountain pipeline debate to see the real issue here: Canada cares far more about making money than the environment. It’s not even a competition at this point.
The other members of G20 might be progressive when it comes to environmentalism, but we can’t rely on them to carry the team here. And I think that might be a big part of it too: we’ve all kind of adopted the mindset that it’s someone else’s problem, that someone else will find a way to fix it, and that just isn’t true.
Other first-world countries have laid out the example for us, and all we need to do is follow.
Sweden plans to be fossil-fuel free by 2020, Norway has banned deforestation, China has become the world leader in solar power, and a number of countries (like Germany, Norway, India, France, China, and the U.K.) are banning fossil fuel cars.
Personally, I don’t think individuals can make enough of a difference — unless we’re all going to totally devote our lives to living without a carbon footprint — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put in an effort, anyway. Little bits add up: think about how much waste ends up in your compost bin at the end of the week, and then think about how much organic waste that is a year, and then realize that there are still plenty of households that don’t compost at all.
But us little regular people aren’t going to produce the kind of change needed to reduce our emissions, especially when we’re working in a system where ways of doing things predominantly involve natural gas rather than renewable energy. Or, more importantly, when we’re working in a system motivated by profit rather than the greater good of our country and our planet.
Image: Cory Jensen/The Cascade