By: Suzanne Elston
In the Adam Sandler film, “Click”, an overworked architect is given a magical universal remote control that allows him to fast forward through the awkward and stressful moments of his life. At first this seems like a great idea, until Sandler’s character finds himself at the end of his life without really having experienced any of it. The old man who gave Sandler the remote explains that it is the hard stuff that we try to fast forward through, like dinners with our parents and fights with our spouse, that actually gives substance and meaning to our lives.
“Remember that old cereal commercial where the leprechaun was always trying to get the Lucky Charms so he could have the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” the old man asks. “Well guess what, when he finally gets to the bottom, it’s just cornflakes.”
Although billed as comedy, “Click” is a cautionary tale for our times. Its message is clear – the end of the journey is just that – the end. The magic comes from the journey and our willingness to consciously and responsibly live each and every moment.
Unfortunately our entire culture is based on the buy now pay later idea. Why put off having anything that you want or desire when you don’t have to pay a cent until 2008? As a result, we live in a constant state of indebtedness. Nowhere is that more evident than in how we treat our environment. We all know that we are using up resources at an unsustainable rate, and that global warming threatens to reshape life on this planet, but we really don’t do anything because there’s always tomorrow.
The Harper government’s new Clean Air Act is a frightening example of this mentality. The Act, if passed, won’t significantly reduce greenhouse gases until 2050. The Act would be truly laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. By 2050, most of today’s politicians will be dead – the ultimate fast forward. The polar caps will probably have melted; global coastlines will have been redefined by rising sea levels, inundating most coastal cities in the process. Those who survive the flooding, droughts, hurricanes, and other severe weather events, will do so in a vastly different and undoubtedly seriously challenging environment.
Our fast forward mentality is precisely why two very important new studies will likely get little more than passing headlines. The first study, prepared by Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist for the World Bank, was released on October 30th.
“There is still time to avoid the worse impacts of climate, if we act now and act internationally. Governments, businesses and individuals all need to work together to respond to the challenge. Strong, deliberate policy choices by governments are essential to motivate change,” said Sir Nicholas. “But the task is urgent. Delaying action, even by a decade or two, will take us into dangerous territory. We must not let this window of opportunity close.”
Stern estimates that unchecked, global climate change will cost the world economy a staggering $ 7 trillion and displace 200 million people. His conclusion is that contrary to popular belief, tackling climate change now is a pro-growth strategy and will support, not undermine the global economy.
The second study, published in the respected journal, “Science” on November 3rd, warns that if current trends continue, the commercial fish and seafood industry may collapse by 2048. Dr. Erik Stokstad of Dalhousie University headed the scientific team that conducted the study. The team found that thanks to human activity, “rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean's capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations.”
The good news is that according to the study, these trends are still reversible, once again, but only if we take immediate action.
But we won’t. To the contrary, this week at the global conference on climate change in Kenya, Canada’s Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, told reporters that Canada is making progress and that critics should stop picking on us.
“There should be no bad guy,” said Ambrose. Perhaps not, but what there will be is catastrophic climate change, dead fisheries, and the potential for global economic collapse if action is not taken.
And so when they come, these empty, violent oceans and burning angry skies we will be shocked. We will wonder what happened. How did we get to this end, to this bowl of corn flakes? Sadly, unlike Sandler’s character, there will be no magical remote control. This isn’t Hollywood. There is no “reset” button.
Voice your concern to Prime Minister Harper and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose. Visit www.gc.ca for email and postal addresses.
The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is available at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk
The report, “Global Loss of Biodiversity Harming Ocean Bounty”, by Dr. Erik Stokstad, is available on a pay-per-view basis at sciencemag.org