Monday, May 05, 2008


I was at a student leadership conference on the weekend. You may know the drill. The "leaders" of the student bodies at their respective schools are sent away for a two- or three-day retreat, where they deprive themselves of sleep, do stupid chants, and get their hormones worked up in a way that this type of student rarely has an opportunity for, because they are all a little bit nerdy. The population was chiefly female, which made me wish at times that I was fifteen years younger. Then I felt like a dirty old man, which I am.

I was there at the behest of a young Liberal, who saw me on the campaign (I ran Green), and who was impressed (though not impressed enough to change his vote or party affiliation, apparently, which makes me wonder about the youth of today) with my handling of complex environmental issues in the context of soundbites and meaningless statistics.

I apologise for the length of those sentences. Though technically sound, they're still cumbersome.

At any rate, I had the distinct pleasure of giving about 120 young Canadians extremely bad news:

  1. We rely very heavily on petroleum for everything, and we're running out.

  2. Water is becoming increasingly scarce, and we live in Southern Ontario, surrounded by three of five Great Lakes. We can expect water wars in the next thirty years or so, fought right here.

  3. Climate change is really fucking things up.

  4. Environmental activists are running into roadblocks of all kinds: political, social, technological, and religious. In short, we're all right fucked. (Might I suggest a subscription to The Trumpet? It's chock full of religious nuttery, bigotry and political analysis that is shallow and tedious at the same time! It's mostly useful for figuring out how the wackjobs think.

  5. There's not a great they can do as individuals, except to unplug as much from the grid as possible, learn to garden, shoot, can and make small repairs. Time spent learning a skilled trade like darning, cobbling, animal husbandry or carpentry wouldn't be wasted.

  6. The environment is only one of the crippling crises that they will face in their lives.

I was very cheery, in all.

I know what I look like: a dude on the corner with the sandwich board and the bell and the Bible verses. It's troubling, but no matter where I turn, no matter what I'm talking about, watching, listening to, or witnessing, I'm seeing our blind headlong ruch into oblivion.

And when I'm asked for my opinion on such matters, or when I get angry and give it (which is more and more often), I've never got anything good to say.

I riff on commercials (everything from makeup to cars, to weight loss, to cleaning products, to new "green" bags or whatever), I riff on politics (which is easy with the asshats we have in charge), I riff on consumer culture, I riff on movies (I like watching Rambo III and listening to him say how determined, brave and immovable the muhajideen are. The ironing is delicious.), I riff on the news, I riff on the magazines I read, I riff on prescription drugs, I riff on the suburbs, I riff on my relatives and their blind faith in technology.

I want to be more positive. I know that humanity is going to make it. I just don't know what society is going to look like in 50 years. I'm scared. I'm scared for me, and I'm scared for my daughter.

But mostly I'm angry. I know it's going to be hard. I know we have to sacrifice. I know that changes are coming. But I'm furious at all of us for our short-term thinking. We do it ALL the fucking time, and I want it to stop. We're building more suburbs, throwing more money at car manufacturers, and we're counting on god to bail us out.

We have no one to blame but ourselves, and it's time we took responsibility. Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote a book called The Ingenuity Gap. It debates the question as to whether or not we're smart enough to get ourselves out of the corner we've painted ourselves into.

I'm too skeptical. This is one area in which I wish I had a little more faith.

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