Wednesday, July 10, 2013

England v. Canada on Climate Change

Via Wikipedia

From the Guardian:
Droughts could devastate food production in the England by the 2020s, according to a report from the government's official climate change advisers. Without action, increasingly hot and dry summers may mean farmers will face shortfalls of 50% of the water they currently use to grow crops. The report, from the climate change committee (CCC), also warns that current farming practices may be allowing the country's richest soils to be washed or blown away.
The future risks to England's food supply are becoming more apparent, with MPs warningthis month that the government's failure to protect the most valuable farmland from flooding "poses a long-term risk to the security of UK food production" and food experts cautioning that crop yields are reaching their maximum biological limits. Extreme recent weather – the wettest recorded autumn followed by the coldest spring in half a century – cut wheat yields by one third, leading to the import of 2.5m tonnes of wheat, the same amount that is usually exported.
"If we don't start acting now we will be in serious trouble," said Lord John Krebs, who led the CCC report. "We already rely on food imports to a significant extent." About 40% of the UK's food is imported.
Friends of the Earth's Andrew Pendleton said: "Climate change poses a devastating threat to our environment, food supplies and security, which could trigger future economic crises. Urgent government measures are needed."
Food security is being taken very seriously by the public in Britain (particularly among the readers of the Guardian). And, while recent events (like Calgary and Toronto) are showing that Canada is at least as vulnerable to a changing climate, somehow there is no corresponding level of public debate around the topic. In Britain, the Prime Minister has found it necessary to develop and publicize a plan for  mitigating the worlst effects of global climate change--including the recent opening of Britian's (and the world's) largest windfarm.
Offshore wind turbines near Copenhagen, Denmark. via Wikipedia

Here in Canada, the PM won't even say the words "climate change." As we have descended from apparent democracy to petro-state, it has become clearer with each passing day that the government and the corporate "elite" will not allow Canada to even talk about the problem at a governmental level, let alone do anything about it.
To quote from an interview with Andrew Nikiforuk:
Technically a petrostate is any jurisdiction where approximately 20 per cent of its income is coming from hydrocarbons. Alberta was there a long time ago. The first thing that petrostates do is they dismantle the relationship between representation and taxation. They say, "We're gonna make you all feel warm and fuzzy about oil production by lowering your taxes." They don't add the next part, which is "Oh, and by the way, if we're not taxing you, we're not going to represent you."
Petrostates first and foremost represent the developers of the oil resources. The next thing that happens is that you have so much easy money flowing into a petrostate that all statecraft disappears. Whether you're looking at Russia or Saudi Arabia or Iran or Nigeria, or Alberta, or Louisiana, Alaska, and Texas, you're struck by the lack of innovation, the lack of smart public policy. Any and every problem is resolved by pouring petro-dollars on it.
Then the third thing is secrecy. Petrostates are not very transparent because there are so many issues about the money -- who's getting the money, who's watching the money, and is any of the money being saved? That information is very hard to come by. In Alberta, there is a whole fog that surrounds any royalty issues. In fact the government actively discourages any discussion of royalties or corporate taxes.
The fourth characteristic would simply be hubris. When they're sitting on top of all these hydrocarbons, governments act as though they've suddenly become wiser and nobler than the rest of mankind. Venezuela was going to have a grand experiment, Mexico was going to have its miracle, and Iran was going to create a new civilization. Alberta had the "new advantage," and Canada is now going to be the "new energy superpower." Oil and bullshit go together.
 Our commitment to oil and the easy wealth it brings is exactly what is getting in the way of our preparing for a sustainable future. With an easy trillion dollars at risk of becoming "stranded" should be decide to move away from our humanity-killing ways, it's no wonder that projects like Keystone XL and northern Gateway are being planned for. It's also no wonder that the Harper government has all but completely removed environmental standards and requirements from the proposed routes. These line are essential to getting bitumen tar into the refineries. And if that doesn't happen, tar sands investment begins to dry up, and all that money invested in the tar sands sees it's return on investment fall to little, nothing, or actively lose money.
I understand not wanting to lose money on a multi-billion dollar investment. but I also see that by destroying human life on this planet, you're not going to make your money back anyway. And this is why, if we hope to survive the coming years, we have to start having the conversation already happening in the public arena in Britain; we have to start talking about what the new world will look like, rather than talking about the signposts to the apocalypse.
Cities are important and seemingly inescapable. As Grist points out;
Cities are a meta-innovation: an innovation that creates more innovations. It takes some smart thinking to build a thriving, cultured metropolis where a zillion people can live on top of each other and not go insane, but once you do that, the city gives back by turning all those people into geniuses.
(I know, you're having the same reaction I did....) But the question is "How are cities to survive when there's no more cheap oil?" I've commented on this before, in talking about the Cuban experience with hitting the petro-wall and having to convert overnight to a new/old system of farming with an emphasis on urban agriculture and changing the culture to "feeding people" from the current standard "let's make sh*tloads of money without paying any attention to the costs".  And yes, Cuba had to face that, as they were an agricultural product exporting nation.
Cuba's experience has shown that the transition to non-industrial agriculture is possible. The question remains, are we going to be able to accomplish the same thing? A lot of the knowledge we're going to need is already available, but we are not looking ahead to when we, as a nation, are going to need to put that knowledge to work. And, honestly, thirty years ago wouldn't have been too soon.
So i say again, the time to start putting alternatives into production is now. Ignore the industrial ag system--we're not going to be able to change it. Ultimately, it will self-destruct under it's own paradigm. Just start putting an alternative system into play now. We're already seeing the beginings of what we need--heck, we intensively farmed a small farm for 15 years. It is doable. But the sooner we start making these changes, the longer we'll have to get the systems right before the inevitable crack-up comes.
if you can't farm, support a farmer. if you can't grow any of your own food, at least talk about the issues.We're going to need all the democracy we can muster to counteract the corporate oligopoly we have now.

No comments:

Post a Comment