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Disbelief

I like to think of myself as a pretty reasonable guy. I eat meat, I work in a pretty normal job, I’ve got a wife and two kids, and we even have two cars, (although they are smaller than the average for North America).

But recently I’ve had people call some of what I believe in “unreasonable”. Some of these people are seemingly intelligent and “reasonable” people themselves, and one could consider the things that they have to say somewhat “unreasonable” at times.

So, when I suggest that Climate Change, Peak Oil and the Economy are not going to be solved by changing out light bulbs, watering our lawns less, refusing to accept a plastic shopping bag or buying a more fuel efficient car – and the response is to suggest that I am “unreasonable”, my response is one of bemusement.

Climate Progress » Blog Archive » Yes, the science says…

On our current emissions path we are projected to warm most of the United States 10 – 15°F by 2100, with sea level rise of 5 feet or higher, the U.S. Southwest a permanent Dust Bowl, half or more species extinct, and much of the ocean a hot, acidic dead zone.

If someone made this statement in a meeting around here, the standard assumption is that the “government” is doing something about it.

Folks, I’ve got some breaking news – they’re not.
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The policies of the federal and provincial government related to climate change, peak oil and the economy are little better than making no change at all. While some changes to push for carbon offsets and for public institutions to be “carbon neutral” seem to be making great leaps forward. The net effect is actually little more than an offset – pushing the problem to somewhere else in the world. Energy intensive production will move to places where the carbon tax doesn’t apply, offsets will be purchased for those things that society can’t do without, but the market for offsets includes things that actually haven’t been verified to actually have a long term offsetting value, such as forestry.

Investment in wind, solar, and other alternate energy sources is so limited on the national scale, it is clear that the intention is to rely on Canada’s Oil Sand reserves, and the remaining natural gas, both of which have some serious limitations, and the reliance on these fuels does nothing to offset Peak Oil issues or the continually rising levels of atmospheric carbon. I posted a link to an excellent video a couple of weeks ago – Saul Griffith on Future Energy, watch it, particularly the last 10 minutes and tell me that we have even the slightest chance of keeping CO2 levels at anything near a management level. Big Business and the Government have lost the upper hand on this one, we literally need a war-like effort to make the changes necessary, and by the way – the recovery packages being promoted by governments across the world are not even close.

Now doing something may seem better than doing nothing – but what if it is not enough? Or what if it is entirely the wrong thing to be doing? At that point it is wasted money, time and effort. This is the cruel, harsh reality of disbelief in the massive effect of Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Global Economy, and it will flow down from the upper levels of government to every dollar wasted on every project in every household and municipality across the whole of North America that was not directed towards true resilience and away from reliance on fossil fuel modes of transportation and business.

What are you doing? Have you weighed it against the reality of climate change and peak oil – or are you relying on the marketing department to tell you that it is all ok?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

3 thoughts on “Disbelief

  1. As I am fond of saying, "Denial is a river in Africa." And I think that's what's going on: everyone is still in denial.

    I think because I live on a small income, I live quite lightly from the earth: I don't own a car so I walk or take transit; I don't consume tons because I cannot afford to; I grow a small garden; I recycle meticulously and try to reduce packaging and use of of plastic bags; even my cat has all natural food and litter! I'm not perfect but I do my best, just as I know you do.

  2. @WC – Denial is rampant. Doing our best is just part of the equation – the whole structure of our society is so overwhelmingly energy dependent, and the government has itself tied in knots over the stimulus package, or in BC's case – the election.

    Peak Oil and Climate Change are on a collision course with our corporate inaction, can we head it off with a last minute flurry of concern?

  3. No, we cannot head it off at the last minute. But I don't think any real change is going to happen until we start voting differently. Government and corporations are so intertwined that you can't change one until you change the other.

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