“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
~ Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Today, I learned that a Chinese company won the role in Site C construction. The already started destruction not only will continue, it will be in the hands of people known by their disregard for the environment. According to The Tyee, “The China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. has a history of corruption and workplace safety issues in projects around the world.”
I got thinking on the novel and movie “The Road”…
This week, I read one of the most courageous, authentic and beautiful letters a person can write to an elected politician. The letter happen to come from a woman who is already walking the talk and is a politician herself, which makes the letter even more powerful.
The points it contains are pretty simple, I’m sure a five year old would understand. The problem is that something happens in our heads after that age and when we join formal schooling: we get fully “educated” by a system that tries to convince us that we are somewhat different from the rest of Life in this universe.
The fact that we, human beings, keep making decisions based on things that are ONLY our creation and live in our heads is beyond my comprehension: this letter names this clearly: “Economics, religion, arts, culture, sports, and politics are human creations.” I would add that all the things that come from those creations are human creations as well: jobs, debt, ownership (or private property, however you want to see it)…the things and beings we tend to see and name as “resources” are actually other beings and elements that from the universe and planet Earth’s point of views, have exactly the same right to exist and be here as each one of us has. From Life perspective, we are not different or special, not even unique: while the DNA combination, mixed with the life experiences you may have had make you different from any other human being who has ever existed or will ever exist, the simple reality is that you, I and each one of the (human) beings in this world need exactly the same: air, water, food, shelter from the elements, a community of some sort, a manageable climate…and we are all subjected to the same laws: we will all eventually get older and die; we will also suffer and potentially die if subjected to certain circumstances and environments.
I’m amazed to discover new things about other beings and even “lifeless” elements every day: their intelligence in adapting, evolving, thriving, changing their environment, collaborating, helping each other, protecting their like…and even between otherwise “opposite” species (such as pray and predator), I continuously see the cooperation and the caring: how predators never take more than they need; how they tend to take the weak, sick or too old/too young.
We humans are no different nor special. We don’t have special powers no matter how much we want to imagine them in books and movies. We are not “spirits having a body experience”, our spirits are an emergence from the fact that we feel and think, that we have a consciousness that (seems) to be a bit different from that of whales, dolphins and dogs. If anything, our spirits are part of a wider universe, populated also by all these other beings and elements whose existence is also attached to that wider consciousness…but I am digressing!
When Site C was approved by the current NDP government, I was appalled and I was not the only one…
But I also happen to live in a paradox: the paradox of what we call BAU (Business as Usual): while jobs, debt and ownership are human creations, they are for most of us as real as our needs for food, water, air and the like…try leaving all behind and you’ll see how fast they come after you!
Some people claim being beyond BAU (or having “rejected” it as lifestyle)…and I wonder in what world they are living, because I can’t see a way out. You may have the chance to go live in a co-housing community or an ecovillage, you may be able to grow your own food and live a simple life. But you can’t escape BAU: it is here for all of us: when the NDP approves Site C, you are also impacted, no matter where you go to hide.
My point is that none of us has the power to turn this giant wheel and get out of BAU on our own. Those who claim they did, better check their invisible knapsack (privilege) and the ways in which they are judging and hurting others, as well as the ways they could potential empower and help others.
The only way this wheel will turn is if we each and all come together. The grassroots will never go anywhere close to success if acting on their own either. And the top-downs (leaders with power) will never get things done until they get honest and authentic and courageous enough to name things as they are and ask for the efforts from EVERYONE, without fear or doubt and at the same time.
The reality is that we are all facing a future like that painted in The Road book/movie: a future of chaos and oppression, a future with a terribly unstable climate; a future without enough food and water; a future where other species may be the first to go extinct, but we surely will follow. That is what we are creating with this staying in BAU day, after day, after day…
I recently watched “Blade runner 2049”, the sequel to the original “Blade Runner”. The movie shows a future where you can barely distinguish between real humans and replicants (bioengineered humans, perfectly made and obedient); in this future, there are no trees or forests, the cities are all crowded and dirty and the climate is chaotic. But there’s still Coca-Cola and people can buy virtual companions or even get passes to “Off World” (another planet we will be savaging next?)
What was both funny and sad in that movie (otherwise very well made) was that people can be made believe that a future like that can actually exist!
The movie seems to sit under the assumption that yes, we will devastate all life in this planet but we will still survive, not happy, but we will still be alive and somewhat well…
That believe is sitting on the idea that we are special, that we can somewhat fabricate air, clean water, food (from worms, in this movie, all bioengineered) and keep building stuff (and running it with energy!) while all the other forms of life and elements are being subjugated, destroyed and eventually disappeared!
We do have a huge imagination…
The letter I mentioned earlier is here, I hope you have had the patience to read so far and may have the time to read even more ahead…then, reflect on how we will get out of this BAU thing, so our future, just before we all become extinct, does not resemble Blade Runner 2049.
What image would you choose for our future?
(Originally sent by Email on Dec. 15, 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Office of the Premier
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT VICTORIA,
BC V8W 9E1
Attention Honourable John Horgan,
Hi John, I’ll dive right in to what I have to say and as always, I will continue to be respectful. I hold you in very high respect, and not just for how you have treated us personally with our work with Eco-Sense, but because you are an ethical, hard-working, compassionate, and intelligent human being doing the best you can for your constituents, and now your province. We continue to believe that your intentions are good and always have been.
However, I have to say a few things. Economics, religion, arts, culture, sports, and politics are human creations. They are only real in the human imagination. They are social tools used to help direct and shape the human condition. This means they are very important to us, but they do not run the primary show. The primary show is our earth made up of biology, chemistry, and physics. These are not negotiable.
Our collective human civilization is on the brink of collapse. We are mammals fully dependent on a living planet sitting at the edge of tipping into runaway climate collapse. We are 7.6 billion people aspiring to more economic growth and more material consumption. The science is clear that we need to reduce GHGe at more than 10% per year to avoid climate collapse and then when we hit zero emissions we need to go into negative emissions. The model projections continue to predict the worse outcomes with business as usual. But forgetting the models, one only has to pay attention to the fires, the arctic ice, the hurricanes, the droughts, the rising sea levels, the dwindling resources, the famines, the refugees, and the wars, to see that our situation is dire. Latest models suggest a 93% chance of exceeding 4 deg C rise in global average temperature by the end of the century…and just look where we are with only 1C rise in global average temperature? We are toast this century without a sharp change in direction. We need facts to inform our policy. I continue to bring this information forward in my community, with the rest of Highlands council, and at the CRD. The CRD has just put climate change as it’s number one priority. They recognize that without a livable planet, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. I also represent the Highlands with the local economic development group South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP), where I continue (with the backing of Highlands council) to fight to get the phrase, “Promoting local economic resilience through the opportunities arising from mitigating and adapting to climate change” inserted into the constitution of SIPP.
Anyways, there’s only so much I can do as a councillor with the District of Highlands, which brings me to write this letter to you.
Since we (local to global governments) have been completely incapable of decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions we simply must create a new economy. Time has all but run out. The BC Liberals focus on financial capital. The BC NDP focus on financial capital AND social/human capital. The BC Green party has good ideas to focus on financial capital, social/human capital AND natural capital simultaneously. We simply cannot make decisions in silos. Our current line of thinking ignoring natural capital has got us into this predicament. We have created a planet where ecological and climate systems are in collapse.
Five years ago, I sat in your office and we discussed this. I said we cannot continue to ignore science. We cannot negotiate with nature. Nature doesn’t care about economic growth or jobs. Facts are facts. Today, you have the ability make meaningful changes and literally lead the world by showing what is possible. You have an incredible team behind you with the amazing NDP caucus and the green party MLA’s.
Yet your government’s decision to move forward with site C is more of the same business as usual. In my world (possibly a delusional one), I see you having an epiphany and speaking loud and clear that our very survival means putting climate change, adaption, mitigation, food, water, equality, and reconciliation first.
My 2 cents worth:
- Reverse the Site C decision (take on the debt)
- Consider bringing back the bridge tolls if required to take on the site C debt
- Turn the Peace River rehabilitation project into an ecological food production hub as a demonstration for all of BC agriculture. (not lost money going to debt but money going to expanding agricultural initiatives and long term agricultural jobs)
- Create policies in BC to transition to a zero-carbon economy with focus on
- a food producing and food secure province in the face of a changing climate. Carbon sequestering agriculture province wide – lots of jobs. (btw loss of soil carbon from agriculture accounts for roughly 1/3 of GHG’e. The good news is that regenerative agriculture builds soil carbon and is resilient to extreme weather events)
- Low carbon green building technologies and energy retrofits. Lots of jobs.
- Community owned distributed energy grids for a power rich province. Energy resilience. Lots of jobs.
- Becoming a carbon sequestering province (negative carbon emissions) through reforestation and carbon sequestration in our built environment. Required to maintain a livable planet! This is not negotiable. It must happen.
- Producing more of our “low carbon” goods and services locally. We will not be able to depend upon trade in this changing world. Lots of high tech and manufacturing jobs.
- And all the other social policies in the NDP and Green platforms – both parties have lots of excellent ideas for a socially just society from carbon tax, to education, to health care, to basic guaranteed income.
I know it’s far more complex that one short email, but we simply must do everything differently.
Site C is a BAD idea and prevents our province from moving into a life sustaining future. We don’t need Site C; we need food, carbon sequestration, habitat, we need distributed community owned energy systems and we need local community based jobs. Site C is old technology and there are disruptive technologies just around the corner that are going to change everything. Site C will be a big liability to our province.
Believe me I understand your predicament…you are literally damned if you do and damned if you don’t. To me the only solution is to embrace reality and speak to the facts around climate change and the need for a rapid shift in our economic system…we need ecological economics or we are done.
Seven years ago, you stood in our living room of our cob home and said you personally did not want Site C to happen. Yet today your government has approved this decision due to the economics. Economics are a human abstraction. Site C is a real thing…it’s a river…it’s an ecosystem…it’s farm land…it’s people. It makes NO sense to make a bad decision based on a human belief system. We can do better than that, but it takes guts; guts to do what we know is the right thing to do. Changing your mind would not be popular, but if not now, when exactly do we break free and start to make decisions to maintain a livable planet?
Thanks for reading, I needed to share my thoughts,
Ann Baird, BSc