Vancouver is a big city with an aggressively progressive plan to transform itself in a sustainable direction in response to the climate change problem. They want to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. British Columbia has implemented a very successful carbon tax that has shifted incentives in a favorable direction, business favors it, and Washington State will get a chance to vote on I-732 this fall to implement a similar scheme (please support it!).
So today on a sunny Sunday I was feeling optimistic. We worked on the system that allows our boat’s solar panels to charge the batteries and then we rowed our dinghy ashore for a 15 mile urban wander about. We saw a huge number of people on bikes as well as thousands of pedestrians. The very young were out in strollers, the old were out as well. People of all races and cultures were getting around enjoying the turn in the weather. The non-car infrastructure was amazing as those who have visited Vancouver know.
We visited Granville Market, the Maritime Museum and made our way around Stanley Park back to Coal Harbour where we stopped at a cool spot to grab a beer. I wanted to sit at the bar that had like 40 taps of beers but Karen wanted and table and so it happened that we were seated in what I would call their library section; one whole wall was covered in books. Awesome, I love used books as everyone knows. You never know what you’re going to get. Then a certain book caught my eye.
I Spy a book titled “Climate Crisis”, I rose from our table and plucked it from the stack. It appears to be a very well-done book providing the basics of science education relating to the Greenhouse Effect and the threat of runaway Global Warming. It was geared to a younger audience and when I turned to the inside page there, next to the library checkout card, it said this book had been discarded by the Gilpin Elementary School in Burnaby. I thought this was ironic given that Portland School District has just recently ordered the removal of curriculum that confuse on the sources of climate change (this is considered progressive today.) Obviously we need to educate our kids on the dangerous direction the world is taking.
The Thing is, sadly, that the copyright of the “discarded” book was 1989. As in 27 years ago. 1989! We knew back then. We knew.
What happened? Well, politics happened. Corporate lobbying happened. Reagan and anti-government attitude happened. Republicans especially but also neoliberal democrats altered course to the right. Faux news started in the 1990’s and stink tanks and money from Charles Koch and his ilk began to exert strategic influence. Exxon buried what they knew (as surely did many other fossil fuel companies) in order to earn profit. And we engaged in denial about the science and ignored the corruption of our democracy. That’s what fucking happened!
Wonder not that greed itself can bring down an empire no matter how mighty or widespread.
I sat back and started to consider all this as I sipped that beer (Fat Tug, great IPA) and I once again felt sad about what we’ve allowed to happen. If we had started a generation ago transitioning away from fossil fuel energy, if we had educated our kids, if we had faced facts, if we had been doing more of what Vancouver is doing today back then well maybe, just maybe…
This generation of lost opportunity is something that deserves examination. Our kids and grandkids will want to know what were we thinking, this won’t be easy an easy conversation. Meanwhile, the sun’s setting, its time to finish that beer, figure out where we left our dinghy and row back to the boat.