Comment 17511

By Alex Patterson (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2008 at 08:50:52

The comment, above, about China and the Ganges is a perfect illustration of what's going on here. China is not a "poor" nation, in fact, it is undergoing an economic boom at the moment larger and faster than anything the west has ever seen. A new city-scale coal-fired-power-plant is being built every week to keep up with demand (or, on the greener side of destructive energy projects, there's the Three Gorges Dam), and the enevironment is suffering tremendously. This is a direct outgrowth of western-style ideas of industrialized consumer affluence, and given the amount of participation by large Canadian corporations, I don't think we can honestly claim it as any sort of opposing model.

A healthy environment doesn't require a healthy economy. A healthy environment IS a healthy economy, which provides for all the life-forms within, with a level of efficiency and sustainability not dreamed of in human endeavors. The environment was healthy long before we had much of an economy, and truth be told, has been declining ever since.

Is Canada cleaner than Mexico? Or Indonesia, or Honduras? Yes, but where was your shirt made? Shifting production to poor nations and leaving them to deal with the legacy of poor working conditions and toxic byproducts does not prove that we are clean, only that we don't like to be confronted by the dirty stuff.

Canadians use more energy than any other nation, per capita. Our consumption of other natural resources isn't far off. There are very clear links between the affluence of our nation and huge swaths of ruined landscapes, both at home and abroad. The same could be said for America, Britian, Japan, or even (but to a lesser extent) western and northern Europe. While we have stringent laws on certain pollutants (which often aren't enforced), the total impact we have is so many times greater than a Kenyan, Columbian or Indonesian, that any attempt to paint us as "green" falls flat on its face.

The simple fact remains that if the rest of the globe were to attempt our level of material indulgence, the pollution problems of today will pale in comparison. And yet, in the face of nations such as China and India attempting such things, we've found no better solutions than griping at Kyoto meetings and handing them entire sectors of our economy. The hypocrisy of the first world is going to have to end if we aim to avoid a global catastrophe, whether or not the economists and executives of wealthy nations like it.

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