Wednesday, 6 February 2008

An Inspiring Lunch Hour!

Of all the ecological things that we ponder in our household, Gord is the one who thinks about water-related issues the most. He noticed that one of Canada's (and maybe the world's) foremost experts on water ecology, Dr. David Schindler, was speaking at a lunchtime town hall meeting at CBC Edmonton's interactive space. So we both headed down there at lunch today, me walking from work and he half-driving, half-taking public transit to listen.

Accompanying Dr. Schindler was Dr. Steve McLean, Canadian astronaut. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about Edmonton author Thomas Wharton's award winning book, Icefields. The book was written in 1995, in a time when the prospect of glaciers disappearing wasn't thought possible.

But, it has turned out to be all too possible. Dr. McLean spoke about how seeing the Earth from space made him feel more connected to it than before, because he could see how fragile and amazing it is. Dr. Schindler spoke about how frustrating it is to have scientists' efforts at measuring climate change and other scientific phenomena undermined by decades of government funding cuts. Both of these speakers pointed out how essential it is that we measure things like oxygen emitted from the Earth's atmosphere into space and the flow rates of our rivers before they are seriously affected by climate change. Otherwise we have no baseline of information from which to measure what is being affected and how.

At this point I turned to Gord and said that this lack of data is what climate change deniers would want. That way, there is no solid evidence of how things used to be, which would mean there can be no solid evidence that things are actually changing. This lets the deniers say that the science and the scientists are "imprecise," and gives them more ammunition to delay taking any restorative action.

We need to demand that our governments restore funding to those agencies that monitor the weather, the rivers, the wilderness, the glaciers. We need this information so we can take pro-active steps to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change.

Picture courtesy CBC Edmonton flickr site


DC said...

It's amazing how myopic government leaders can be. Their vision for the future goes only as far as their potential terms in office. They don't seem to be too concerned about whether the planet will be able to support life after that time. Lenin once said, "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." That same mentality seems to be present today with respect to the environment. We're on a sinking ship, and the politicians and big corporations are selling tickets to cabins with "waterfront views" instead on manning the bilge pumps. They are gouging their own eyes out and then claiming not to see any problems after having blinded themselves. If it weren't so tragic, it would be really amusing to watch.

Theresa said...

It is tragic. I used to just shake my head in disbelief and then get on with my life, but the stakes just keep getting higher and higher. So I will plug away and do my little bit, writing letters, talking to others, voting in the upcoming provincial election, and who knows, maybe participating in a protest or two one of these days!

DC said...

It’s not just governments – a lot of regular people have become apathetic and complacent as well. After the Kent State shootings in 1970, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington against the Vietnam war and the killing of unarmed student protesters. Nixon's chief speechwriter recalled the demonstrations saying, “The city was an armed camp. The mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That's not student protest, that’s civil war.” To ensure his safety, Nixon was taken to Camp David, and the military was called up to protect the administration from the angry students. Nixon’s chief counsel described the situation as follows: "The 82nd Airborne was in the basement of the executive office building, so I went down just to talk to some of the guys and walk among them, and they're lying on the floor leaning on their packs and their helmets and their cartridge belts and their rifles cocked and you’re thinking, ‘This can't be the United States of America. This is not the greatest free democracy in the world. This is a nation at war with itself.’” The shootings also led to protests on college campuses throughout the United States, and a student strike that caused over 450 campuses across the country to close due to both violent and non-violent demonstrations.

I don’t know what it will take for people to get that pissed off about what’s happening to the environment. A recent survey found that the majority of Americans (62%) consider global warming to be “a very serious problem” – and yet SUV sales are brisk, despite the emergence of a recession, and the faltering economy, not the environment, is the top 2008 election issue.

Where have all the flower children gone? Are they stuck in traffic in their Lexus SUVs or asleep on their Swedish Tempur-Pedic mattresses? Looks like we’ll have to make a go of it without them. I’m not going to throw things out of windows and slash tires, but I’m totally through supporting the consumer economy. Bush is cutting important social programs and sending people a tax refund to stimulate consumer spending. When we get our check, it’s going overseas to help a nonprofit environmental organization in India. We're praying that we get someone better in the White House this November. If not, we may be knocking on your door and asking for asylum, Theresa. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Theresa,

I'm so glad you were able to attend the panel discussion. As a member of the NeWest Press team (publisher of Icefields), I was thrilled to see these three amazing individuals bring similar ideas from such varied perspectives (from earth, the page, and space) to the issue of water conservation. They are all surprisingly modest men, considering their accomplishments. Here's hoping that, somewhere in a far-away bureaucrat's office, ears are buzzing and some good may come of hosting public discussions like this. The CBC will be broadcasting the Alberta Icefields discussions for all to hear on February 18th at noon, on CBC Radio One. Lou

Theresa said...

dc - yes, there seems to be a disconnect between what people say they believe in, and what they actually do. I've been guilty of this, and still am in many aspects. I don't know either what it will take for the connection to be made for people. We've had collective blinders on for so long, we don't know that we can't see what's real. Comfort has bred complacency, and complacency has turned to apathy. I don't know what will lift us from our collective coma.

There seem to be some individual awakenings though, like at the lunchtime panel discussion Gord and I went to - it was very well attended.

Lou - it was indeed an amazing confluence of ideas and intellect - yet another demonstration of how all things are connected! The modesty of the panel members was certainly evident - they spoke not of themselves, but what needed to be done next!

I will be listening on Feb 18th for the broadcast on CBC Radio One to catch the last few questions and answers - I had to duck out early to get back to work on time....