Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Al Gore

“What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?”

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Greenpeace Shell BC

Illustration taken from GreenPeace

One of the benefits of having a blog – and one of its curses too – is that I get things in the email that other people want me to put on my blog. Or write about on my blog. This is one of those: it comes from The Nation which is a magazine whose web site operates behind a paywall. So I get a complimentary log in to see articles which they think I will direct you to. Many are worthy, and I understand why The Nation wants to stay in business and keep paying its journalists to provide content. But, as far as possible, I continue to try and find sources that are not paywalled.

Today the news is full of two things that everybody is writing about: the new Papal encyclical and the latest American shooting atrocity. The Nation has three, searing articles about that and how this church and this date were neither randomly picked. And a commencement speech by Naomi Klein to the College of the Atlantic on June 6, 2015.

Mine is not going to be your average commencement address, for the simple reason that College of the Atlantic is not your average college. I mean, what kind of college lets students vote on their commencement speaker—as if this is their day or something? What’s next? Women choosing whom they are going to marry?

So as it happens there’s a couple of things here that have resonance with me. Firstly the Atlantic has, very wisely, closed comments on the three articles about the Charleston massacre. After yesterday, I have been seriously thinking that might not be too bad of an idea here, but two comments from the Usual Suspects set me straight on that. We do have good discussions here, and one wingnut is not going to be allowed to upset that. Secondly, one of the topics that Naomi Klein addresses speaks to something I have been thinking about.

These days, I give talks about how the same economic model that superpowered multinationals to seek out cheap labor in Indonesia and China also supercharged global greenhouse-gas emissions. And, invariably, the hand goes up: “Tell me what I can do as an individual.” Or maybe “as a business owner.”

The hard truth is that the answer to the question “What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?” is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts.

Recently Jane Fonda visited Jericho Beach and spoke there about pipelines and coastal tankers and whatnot, and of course the commenters weighed in as usual, being snide about how Jane chose to travel here, and thus was some kind of hypocrite because that trip used fossil fuel. Just as the same cabal has chided Al Gore for his campaigning on the same topic.

Maybe the Pope is going to be different. Maybe his speech will start the moral shift that is needed in the corridors of power to finally address the issue. Of course the fact that someone inside the Vatican leaked the encyclical (not a usual turn of events) and that Jeb Bush was already out front of it seem to point in the direction that the pontiff will be going. A bit like the way the President has had to acknowledge on gun control.

But continuing the “fair use “privilege, here is how Naomi Klein sees it towards the end of her speech

….the weight of the world is not on any one person’s shoulders—not yours. Not Zoe’s. Not mine. It rests in the strength of the project of transformation that millions are already a part of.

That means we are free to follow our passions. To do the kind of work that will sustain us for the long run. It even means we can take breaks—in fact, we have a duty to take them. And to make sure our friends do too.

And, as it happens you can also watch – for free –  what Naomi Klein said on YouTube

And also here is what she has to say about the Pope’s new message

Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming

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It is nice to find something optimistic to pass along on this topic. It  comes from The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog, not something I had even heard of let alone read but Steven Godfrey did and tweeted about it. (That’s called a hat tip.)

Well worth the read.

Initially I was going to post something about 350 – since there is still that badge up there to the right.

Ezra Klein: In 2005, when “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, I remember that the hope was we could keep the carbon load in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, and the fear was we would hit 400ppm. Now we’ve hit 400ppm and people are hoping to avoid 450ppm. This seems to be getting out of hand, and fast.

Al Gore: We have already crossed the 400 parts per million mark. We crossed it earlier this year. The question now is how high it will go before we begin bending the curve. But in spite of the continued released of 90 million tons of global warming pollution every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer, we are now seeing the approach of a global political tipping point.

But the badge is actually about something else so I am leaving it where it is.

I was also thinking about posting something about flood risk since at one time used to post about that but was then told that somehow the North West of America was exempted. Turns out that was wrong too. But given the blue paint on Cambie Bridge I have not felt nearly so alone on that issue lately.

I wish I could share Al Gore’s optimism. I think that may be because the view from here tends to be more pessimistic just because Christy Clark got re-elected and Stephen Harper isn’t going anywhere soon. Canadians in general, and BC in particular, does seem to be remarkably short sighted. We still blow up with rage over bike lanes, for goodness sake. We will probably vote “No” in the transit funding referendum (see almost any recent issue of Price Tags). We have the widest bridge in North America, after all, so what could possibly go wrong with that? The port is still seriously considering this Texada Island linked coal terminal – as though the world market for coal had not collapsed, and the BLI got zero bids for it recent public lands coal rights auction. Actually those last two may also be straws in the wind to boost optimism.

But we have governments at both federal and provincial levels who are both committed to an expansion of fossil fuel production. As though the issue of unburnable reserves did not exist. Even some of the wiser financial commentators are looking at what that does to the balance sheets of the oil and gas companies.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Impact of Climate Change

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Gore likes B.C.’s green moves

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This is deeply depressing. I suppose that for the same reason sharks don’t eat lawyers (professional courtesy) Al could not point out that our emperor has no clothes.

Al Gore says he’s impressed with the environmental initiatives being promised by B.C.’s government.

The former U.S. vice-president told a Vancouver audience Saturday night Premier Gordon Campbell is to be praised for his promise last week of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and his pledge to adopt California’s tough tailpipe emission standards for vehicles.

I do not think anyone should praise politicians for promises. Especially this politician who broken so many: the man who wrote the Livable Region Strategy and now intends to see it dismantled: the man who promised not to sell BC Rail, so he just leased it for 999 years: the man who put a freeway cut through Eagleridge Bluffs: the man who made the promise to reduce emissions but forgot to tell his cabinet colleagues so an entire year will have passed before anything actually happens.

Al Gore was a politician but he also knows first hand what happens to politicians who become dependent on their handlers. Politics may be “the art of the possible” but Gordon Campbell has had plenty of opportunities to change direction. But as far as this region is concerned, he is committed to replacing what has set us apart from other North American cities with what will make us exactly like them. He is part of the massive right wing conspiracy to foist neo-liberal economics on the world – and especially what he persists in calling “the Best Place on Earth”. Which will shortly be seen by the world on their tv screens as the place that could have been, and once was, but is no more. The place where gridlock rules. The place where the salmon and the resident orcas will have gone. Where the Pacific flyway has been intercepted by container storage. Where a shabby deal with big business counts for more than an irreplaceable ecological gem.

I think the real environmentalists were not in the Bayshore. They were in the Unitarian church earlier that afternoon, and shivering in the rain outside the Bayshore later on. An extraordinary cross section of the community who all share one thing in common. A real concern for the place we live in and what the almighty dollar is doing to it.

I think it is really sad that David Suzuki and Al Gore did not point out to Premier Campbell that his actions speak far louder than his words. They could have done it politely. They could have used the the presence of the media to make a point, but they chose not to. If you were waiting for the opportune moment, gentlemen, that was it.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm