Canadians Are The Worst. Or Why Carbon Reduction is Worth Some Thought…

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  • By Andrew Mackie
Canadians Are The Worst. Or Why Carbon Reduction is Worth Some Thought…

Canadians are the worst. It’s official… 


(Or maybe second worst, if we are measuring environmental offences. A close second to Saudi Arabia.)


I think they say the first step in any of those self-help programs is admitting you have a problem. Denial is not serving us any more.


Why carbon reduction? We have a problem…


Let’s face it. In Canada we have all the same stuff as they do in the USA. We have the same terrible, sprawling cities; the same crappy, ugly, toxic, plastic houses; the same mandatory vehicle ownership**; the same fracking frenzy; the same obsession with wireless communication; the same large-scale, industrial, chemical, feed-lot, GMO farming practices, (in contrast, I read the other day that what is considered a ‘massive’ cattle farm in the UK is 100 head,) our food travels further, we use the same pharmaceuticals, watch pretty much the same TV, we burn coal; leave the lights on, love fast food, shop at big-box power centers, etc. etc.


(**if you are interested in the politics of mandatory vehicle ownership, look up the Governor of Arizona’s response to Obama’s Deferred Action Plan that allows young people without citizenship rights to stay in the USA. The Governor (illegally) took away driver’s licence privileges. Try having a job or getting to school in AZ (or most Canadian cities) without a car…Not impossible, but not easy.)


Where we raise (lower) the bar, in spades, is the oil-sands. We have this environmental curse in the north that makes us the laughing-(crying)-stock of the world. (that, and the way we get ridiculed for our need to put Canadian flags on every surface possible, esp. when travelling…)


And yet, we won’t admit we have a problem.


We walk around every day basking in our greatness. Our superiority as people; as a nation. And we have the nerve to constantly blame everyone else for our problems.



In the South Park movie, they satirized this Canadian trait of blaming our neighbors for all of our problems with their classic ‘Blame Canada’ song. Satire has become fact (if it wasn’t already.) We are to blame.


The new film ‘Revolution’ takes us to task. And rightfully so.


This is tricky territory for us. We rely on this oil sand bonanza to live the life we are accustomed to. Without it, unemployment is higher. Without this money in the system, we have less; might go hungry. I doubt our store would make it without the extra cash that is able to be tossed around as either a direct or indirect result of the oil sands economy. Carbon reduction hurts our lifestyle. To protest it, or fight against it is to protest against our own livelihood. This is perhaps noble and certainly idiotic.


But is there any other choice but carbon reduction? Is there any choice but cutting back pollution, chemicals, energy use? If we can put aside our immediate needs and think long term, probably not.


The death of the seas, (and the subsequent death of pretty much everything) is too great a consequence.


I know, climate is always changing. Has always been changing. Will always be changing. We have been lucky to live in a time of remarkable stability. One can make the argument that we have no control over this, so we can do, like, whatever…


One can also make the argument that levels of carbon in the atmosphere have spiked dramatically and measurably in the same time period as the petro-chemical burning frenzy of the past hundred years. Coincidence? Hey, you never know, right?


Some food for thought from ‘Revolution’:


  • Between 1000 and 10,000 species go extinct every year. Sure we remember the dodo and the passenger pigeon, but can you even name 1000 species? No big whoop? Those are big looking numbers to me.
  • 40 billion pounds of fish get thrown in the garbage every year because they weren’t the exact species a fishery was netting. (not cool…and also hard to imagine that this is a problem that can’t be figured out ie diversity…)
  • 12 – 15 million hectares of deforestation per year. A good percentage of this is burned, to make farmland, to feed hungry populations (another conundrum.) This does double duty, not only removing the forests ability to process carbon, but also releasing massive carbon stores.


It’s easy to come up with big, scary numbers. I’m the first to be skeptical of ‘statistics’ and ‘facts’. But, these days, it’s a bit too easy to come up with big, scary numbers. Let’s think about changing them. Not with statistical manipulation. In real life. This means changing real life.


Right now, our society is afflicted with an epidemic resistance to the idea that we might have to change something about the way we live.


The overwhelming mentality is that it’s nicer to life the good life, not worry about it, hope for a miracle, and pass the blame along to someone else (politicians, neighbors, governments, other people in other parts of the world) Can we work together to fix this mindset?


One of the concluding scenes in ‘Revolution’ is of a classroom of nine year olds successfully petitioning their government to shut down sharkfinning in their country. And they succeed!


Imagine what we can do! (just ask Sudden Clarity Clarence)


Revolution director Rob Stewart stopped by the sneak preview for a Q&A after the screening. I have to be honest, most of the questions irked me. He answered them well, but I left with smoke coming from my ears. (and am still venting through writing this series of blogs)


Here are a couple examples (maybe paraphrased):


Q: What about alternative energy?


Can’t we spend more money developing ‘alternative energy’? Etc. etc. This sentiment still runs rampant through even the most ‘earthy’ circles. This sentiment falls quite clearly into the ‘hoping for a miracle‘ mindset. It’s not that I have any problem with the idea of finding a cleaner way to have a bit power. I just can’t abide the idea that we will find a miraculous, easy way to keep living exactly as we are right now.


I recently wrote an article on Earth Hour suggesting that there might be some relative joy in powering down. Maybe this is wishful thinking. Maybe you disagree. I’m still convinced that a cleaner, simpler, less electrically stimulated life can no only be ok, but actually an improvement.


Rob Stewart answered this question politely. I would have had a hard time not rudely answering a question with a question. Like ‘What about turning your G#$%@&! lights off, and living in a place where you can walk to work and walk to the farmers market to pick up organically farmed food from your local farmer?’


Q: What about such and such 100 million Americans who want to end the world deliberately so that…?


Seriously dude? You just sat through 2 hours of a movie showing Canada as a top environmental offender, and this is what you got out of it? You can still pass the buck? You can still blame your neighbor?


Back to my headline… ‘Canadians are the worst.’ Too negative? Perhaps. But until we get over our denial, and admit that we can do better, we won’t do better. Sure, other countries may or may not be perfect. What can we do about other countries? Apathy is boring. Let’s fix things at home first.


If a class of nine year olds can start a movement that changes a country, imagine what an entire country can do for the world?


(for more inspiration, check out Bhutan going 100% organic)


Are we the worst?


Who knows. We certainly aren’t the best. And it’s not for lack of knowledge. I learned about global warming in elementary school. That was a long time ago.


What have I done about it? Not nearly enough.


Hopefully it’s not too late. I wan’t to be part of the Revolution.


Who’s in?