Sunday, May 04, 2008

Alberta Tar Sands Project - Satellite View

Go right, go left, go straight ahead?©

By George Epp

Do you consider yourself a conservative or a liberal? I know those terms are fraught with more than meaning; they arouse fervour, anger, elation, all kinds of emotions that don’t have much to do with what was intended when they were coined. A good check on this can be found at numerous Conservative/conservative websites where the vitriol aimed at liberal thought borders on trespassing hate-mongering laws. Explore the contents of one or two of the US “conservative radio” websites and you’ll see what I mean (KRLA 870 at, for instance).

The PERSONAL FINANCE Section of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix featured an article called “Historic rivals share success” on April 28th, 2008. The gist of it was that the fertilizer, fuel and food industries are simultaneously enjoying windfall sales and profits. Well we all know about the cost of gasoline, but many of us are not aware that the potash mining industry in Saskatchewan is booming big time. Shares in PotashCorp have gone from around $30.00 less than a year ago to around $140.00 presently (according to Ray Turchansky’s article).

That fertilizer prices should climb alongside food prices is not surprising; neither is the rise in fuel prices, since food production is so dependent nowadays on fossil fuel, both for growing and transporting. The three industries will continue to extract higher and higher profits in tandem with each other, and the question for me is: while the shareholders are gleefully pocketing their increasing dividends and the CEO’s are enjoying massive raises, and the western farmer is finally enjoying some business success (if the cost of fertilizer and fuel don’t eat up the increases), what will be the NET effect on the human populations of the world?

Such escalations both in price and in quantity of resource exploitation are unsustainable; we all know that. In this, we are well advised to be conservative. So chocolate cake tastes good—that doesn’t mean that you can get away with eating it morning, noon and night. A breaking point has to come. Balance must be restored.

Conservative thinkers will cry, “Go back! Go back! It was better back there.” Liberal thinkers tend to realize that “You can’t go home again,” and either despair, or get to work turning the new reality into something workable.

I’m a conservative when I think that our best hope for a sustainable future is to reduce, reuse and recycle—particularly the reduce part. The West’s focus—food wise—is to find ways to curb people’s insatiable appetites or to develop means to prevent obesity while overeating regularly. That picture is obscene to most of the world, but it still serves as an apt metaphor for the resource gluttony that characterizes North America particularly.

I’m a liberal when I think that conserving won’t be enough; we’re going to have to picture the world as different in the future and begin devising technologies and practices that shape that future. Think outside the box, if you will.

There are people who are challenging the deeply-held conviction in the West that economic growth must be the yardstick for success in managing our communal affairs. I would urge my readers to check out the website, where filmmaker Dave Gardner seeks to do what he can to propose an alternate view of the how the future world will need to work.

However you view the future of the globe, whether conservatively or liberally, you may come to the conclusion—as I have—that the dialogue needs to leap the political barriers in order to meet the challenges of the future.

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