Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's Not About Politics. It's About the Planet

I have been watching, with increasing dismay, the diminishing level of political discourse on the issues surrounding climate change in national Canadian politics. The “debate” is not on the issues, the merits of policy options or the design of the way forward. It is almost entirely concentrated on efforts to define the “other guy” in negative terms for some less than adequate political “advantage.”

The Cons have a big television buy for their Attack Ads, attempting to position Dion as the guy who is totally responsible for all Liberal alleged lack of action on environment policy for the past 13 years. The Liberal rebuttal is Harper is merely a born-again environmentalist of political convenience but not a true believer and therefore not to be trusted.

The facts and evidence in support of each position are thin at best but that is not the issue really. There is plenty of blame to go around but time for action is a-wastin’ and we need some definitive action and serious competent political leadership with a larger vision and a longer view than the pending election.

My sense is Canadians will reward resolute, stringent and responsible regulations on GHG limits. The policy we need must encourage and provide incentives for what is nothing short of a culture change in how we live as part of nature and not as its “masters.” That is what polls are saying will be rewarded by the majority of citizen's at election time.

The people are much farther ahead of the politicians in seeing it is time to act on the issues of climate change. We know this is about “us” as much as it is about “them.” We know “we” as individuals, families, communities, countries and enterprises have to change first. We can’t afford to wait for “them” to move first and we have precious little leverage on others save persuasion and market forces.

We need our biggest brains, our most creative minds and our wisest thinkers to be unleashed and able to focus to help design a different way forward. We don’t need more communications consultants commissioned to produce misleading manufactured political rhetoric.

The policy framework for all of this is simple to see but difficult to deliver. It has to link economic growth to enhanced ecological outcomes and provide for improve social cohesion – on a local, national and international context. No big Whoop! (sic)

The chance to actually rethink our operational definitions of success and progress is upon us. Growth without concern for all the costs involved and the integrated ecological implications is no longer "on." The public policy change parade is forming and is at the tipping point for a new public policy approach.

The new approach must balance economic well being, ensure ecological enhancement and advance our social cohesion. The practical people, be they in business, politics or social activist, who can get in front of that parade with credibility and ability, will be the new leaders and agents of this change.

We need to attract, nurture and reward a different kind of person to come into politics if we want to change the nature of how we are governed in our democracy. I have great respect for the abilities of all the current leaders in our federal political parties. My sense is we have good people in a poor system because the system often rewards the wrong things. It is too much about attaining and exercising power for its own sake and not enough about defining progress and measuring achievements for the sake of us all.

This will only change when citizenship becomes something we all value and return to using its power to make a difference. The political system is only as good as the express expectations and the forceful insistence's of its citizens.


  1. Anonymous1:46 pm


    Agree with the creative minds and wisest thinkers unleased and able to focus... however, the current policy development process is very pragmatic and focused on keeping out and dimishing the impact of EXACTLY those same people.

    There are huge vested interests in the civil service as well as in politics...
    ...and frankly the people that I know that are interested in positive environmental change are getting REAL tired of hoops and interests based, rather than future based, policy .... not even suggesting you can get your political buddies to get serious!

    All the really innovative and bright spots seem to be elsewhere... and if we can not get out of our ruts.. our best and brighest will go elsewhere,

    Sorry it has been a long week (and it is only Tuesday)


  2. ken chapman2:19 pm

    Greengirl - the issights you exprress in the above comment lead me to belive you may be one of the crative minds and wisest thinkers I am talking about.

    Thanks for your input and keep pushing!

  3. Anonymous6:03 pm


    Can you comment on the logic of appointing Rob Renner as Alberta's Environment Minister as well as the Premier's recent comments refusing to slow down the development of the oilsands?



  4. Anonymous6:15 pm

    Also, Ken, how do you feel about Mr. Turner joining the Liberals? I, for one, understand his decision and sympathize with him when he writes that "[he] didn't leave his party, but rather his party left [him]." I think Joe Clarke has said something similar. 'Canada's New Government' just keeps getting more and more recalcitrant...


  5. Anonymous7:43 pm

    Oh Sean, how turn things negative on a geniunely postive post.

    As for Garth (just like Khan for the CPC), the liberals will have their hands full. All of his blogs state that anyone crossing the floor has to immediately resign and run in a byelection. If he doesn't do this, he's a hypocrite and the cons will win that riding.

  6. Anonymous9:21 pm

    Hi Anonymous,

    Turner has said that he will be happy to run in a by-election and encourages Fortier, Khan and Emerson to do the same. Also, Garth Turner isn't a 'floor crosser' in the traditional sense. Let's not forget that he didn't just decide to leave the CPC and directly join the Liberals. He was forcibly removed from the Conservative caucus, sat as an independent for four months and then after much consultation with his constituents, chose to join the Liberals because they best represent his progressive vision for this country.


  7. ken chapman9:54 pm

    First off - floor crossings...I am just fine with it...because I have always voted for the person first and the party second or thirdly in terms of the most important criteria.

    We never saw a party, or a government or a university or a church or any other institution, make a decision to save its soul...every pun intended (any achieved?).

    Decisions are made by individuals who in the political process persuade others to support the ideas they present. All of this is in the "name" of the institution but the power is in believe otherwise is to think the tooth fairy should be your financial advisor.

    If anyone voted for the Cons last time based only on the campaign platform should be submitting themselves for therapy. Look how little consistency there has been with the platform and performance.

    There was a policy a day in the campaign period, then all of a sudden, there are only 5 "big deals" - and only one of them is really big...wait times...and we are still waiting for nothing to happen there.

    The breaches of politcal promises by all democratically elected parties are a continuous chain of deceit all the way back to Magna Carta. I am fine with that because we voters are a superficial lot and so facile that we knowingly vote for stupid positions that, with a bit of genuine reflections, we would know was bullfeathers. We get the kind of government deserve because we choose it. We are the problem because we are prepared settle for so little.

    I vote for individuals based on my personal assessment of their character and my sense of their commitment to public service. Everything else to me is unnecessary detail or just spin.

    Turner was turfed by Harper using the Ontario Caucus as the hangman.(gotta love mixed methaphors). I would have loved to see him go Green but for for tactical reasons only...namely to assure the Greens of a place in the TV debates because they would then have a "seat" and be able to show how stupid that broadcaster participation ruling really is.

    His decision to go Liberal has proved to me he has character and is more substantial than most. There are three choices for former federal Progressive Conservatives...become Red Greens or go Liberals..or go home! Turner did the right thing.

    As for slowing down the oils is moot. It has already happened...most second phase projects are on hold or deferred. The market place is working...messy and inefficient as it is...but still better than any cabal of second guessing politicians with constituencies to represent and nothing at risk but a ballot box beating in the very distant future.

  8. Anonymous10:45 pm

    Poor attempt to spin Sean. Garth said he'd run in a byelection IF other individuals who crossed over run in a byelection. On his blog, he has clearly stated that anyone who crosses the floor should immediately resign and run in a byelection. The fact that others didn't do the right thing does not give the high and nighty Garth the right to do the wrong thing.

    If you're turfed from your party, you ought to go to the people that elected you and ask them what they want. Garth didn't. His polls from his constituent stated that he should remain as an independent or join the Green Party.

    Sean, your attempt to spin Garth joining the LPC is very terrible - ...ah, I have to admit, similar to the terrible efforts of my Cons to portray Khan's crossing as beneficial to our party.

    Nice try though.

    Ken you stated that "Turner did the right thing" - tell that to the constitents who voted for Turner on the belief that he represented conservative values and not liberal ones.

    I'm assuming then Ken, you would approve of Khan's crossing.

  9. Anonymous8:08 am

    I loved your quote: "The breaches of politcal promises by all democratically elected parties are a continuous chain of deceit all the way back to Magna Carta. I am fine with that because we voters are a superficial lot and so facile that we knowingly vote for stupid positions that, with a bit of genuine reflections, we would know was bullfeathers."

    Sums up the boosters of Kyoto to a tee. People wrongly equate GHG emission reduction directly with "The Environment" and allow others to label as "anti-environment" anyone who is not in favour of Kyoto. They - the people - allow this to happen because the majority of folks say they are worried about global warming but do almost nothing to educate themselves about the science of same, the various proposals put forth to address it, and the related economic/social costs of the proposals. So they endorse Kyoto to feel good about themselves, and then go back to idling their car in the Tim Horton's drive-thru.

  10. ken chapman9:26 am

    Anonymous @ 10:45 - I am fine with all floor crossings. Loyalty to prinicple trumps party every time.

    I don't see any personal betrayal as a result because I vote by weighing my sense of the character and capabilities of the candidate as a person first. The same issues relating to the leader is next, then the party platform. A good candidate with a crappy leader and a poor party policy would not get my vote...even if the candidate was Ghandi or Mandala.

    As for by-elections as a result of floor crossings, they should not be automatic. That issue is better resolved by a capacity for calling a byelection by local constituents, it is their representation in Parliament after all that is a issue here.

    If they want a byelection as a result of a crossing or a caucus expulsion of their MP, then they could call for one by petition. It could/should be automatic if say 15% of eligible voters in a constituency petitioned the government within say 2 months of the change in MP affiliation- regardless of the status of the party in government.

    It is the representation of the constituents that get forgetten in all of this floor crossing. The media handles it with the depth of discourse usually reserved for the gossip of the serially monogamous Hollywood stars line Jolie, Aniston Stiller and Pitt.

  11. Anonymous8:10 pm

    Interesting article in Newsweek today.

    Samuelson: The Dirty Secret About Global Warming
    From politicians to the corporate world, everyone's talking about saving the planet from disastrous climate change. But for now, it's just talk.
    By Robert J. Samuelson
    Updated: 9:40 a.m. MT Feb 7, 2007
    Feb. 7, 2007 -

    You could be excused for thinking that we'll soon do something serious about global warming. Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—an international group of scientists—concluded that, to a 90 percent probability, human activity is warming the Earth. Earlier, Democratic congressional leaders made global warming legislation a top priority; and 10 big U.S. companies (including General Electric and DuPont) endorsed federal regulation. Strong action seems at hand.

    Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which—in all modern societies—buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.

    Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to "do something" with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations. As for editorialists and pundits, there's no explanation except superficiality or herd behavior.

    Anyone who honestly examines global energy trends must reach these harsh conclusions. In 2004, world emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main greenhouse gas) totaled 26 billion metric tons. Under plausible economic and population assumptions, CO2emissions will grow to 40 billion tons by 2030, projects the International Energy Agency. About three-quarters of the increase is forecast to come from developing countries, two-fifths from China alone. The IEA expects China to pass the United States as the largest source of carbon dioxide by 2009.

    Poor countries won't sacrifice economic growth—lowering poverty, fostering political stability—to placate the rich world's global warming fears. Why should they? On a per-person basis, their carbon dioxide emissions are only about one-fifth the level of rich countries. In Africa, less than 40 percent of the population even has electricity.

    Nor will existing technologies, aggressively deployed, rescue us. The IEA studied an "alternative scenario" that simulated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce fossil fuel use. Fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles was assumed to increase 30 percent by 2030; the global share of energy from "renewables" (solar, wind, hydropower, biomass) would quadruple, to 8 percent. The result: by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions would rise 31 percent instead of 55 percent. The concentration levels of emissions in the atmosphere (which presumably cause warming) would rise.

    Since 1850, global temperatures have increased almost 1 degree Celsius. Sea level has risen about seven inches, though the connection is unclear. So far, global warming has been a change, not a calamity. The IPCC projects wide ranges for the next century: temperature increases from 1.1 degrees Celsius to 6.4 degrees; sea level rises from seven inches to almost two feet. People might easily adapt; or there might be costly disruptions (say, frequent flooding of coastal cities resulting from melting polar ice caps).

    I do not say we should do nothing, but we should not delude ourselves. In the United States, the favored remedy is "cap and trade." It's environmental grandstanding—politicians pretending they're doing something.

    Companies would receive or buy quotas ("caps") to emit carbon dioxide. To exceed the limits, they'd acquire some other company's unused quotas ("trade"). How simple. Just order companies to cut emissions. Businesses absorb all the costs.

    But in practice, no plausible "cap and trade" program would significantly curb global warming. To do that, quotas would have to be set so low as to shut down the economy. Or the cost of scarce quotas would skyrocket and be passed along to consumers through much higher energy prices. Neither outcome seems likely. Quotas would be lax. The program would be a regulatory burden with little benefit. It would also be a bonanza for lobbyists, lawyers and consultants, as industries and localities besieged Washington for exceptions and special treatment. Hello, influence-peddling and sleaze.

    What we really need is a more urgent program of research and development, focusing on nuclear power, electric batteries, alternative fuels and the capture of carbon dioxide. Naturally, there's no guarantee that socially acceptable and cost-competitive technologies will result. But without them, global warming is more or less on automatic pilot. Only new technologies would enable countries—rich and poor—to reconcile the immediate imperative of economic growth with the potential hazards of climate change.

    Meanwhile, we could temper our energy appetite. I've argued before for a high oil tax to prod Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. The main aim would be to limit insecure oil imports, but it would also check CO2emissions. Similarly, we might be better off shifting some of the tax burden from wages and profits to a broader tax on energy or carbon. That would favor more fuel-efficient light bulbs, appliances and industrial processes.

    It's a debate we ought to have — but probably won't. Any realistic response would be costly, uncertain and no doubt unpopular. That's one truth too inconvenient for almost anyone to admit.


  12. i know, the stuck-in-a-box imaginations of our modern day politicians is enough to tear your soul to bits.. but we mustn't let their stupefyingly indifferent inattention to the planet's needs get us down. we must carry on with renewed vigilance. please know that there are many others out there who share the same desire of doing less harm to the world. it's not even about 'doing more' these days.. i think the focus should remain on 'doing less' or 'making less impact'. get bare-bones about it. refrain. refrain from creating an even bigger personal carbon footprint. all the best to you and your mission. -from your neighbor, an "American" who cares.