This year could well be the year of the environment. Effective actions will be few, but we will all be more aware and concerned by the end of the next 12 months.
Most of us are beginning to realize that we are having an impact on our environment. We know something should be done to mitigate the problems but we are not sure what we should do. The reality is that if we don’t take action quickly, nature will take it for us.
Less than a decade ago, global warming was viewed by the average person as interesting. We did not think of it as having any impact on our lives. The reality is that global warming will affect everything, from the weather to what we pay for food.
The weather always seems to be strange but there is a clear pattern that winters are milder. The pine beetle is one impact of warmer winters that we see every day. The economic cost of the infestation will be in the billions. That should concern us. As the forest industry declines it will reduce the government revenue and leave many people jobless.
Fuel prices will rise as governments increase fuel taxes. It may be labelled as an environmental levy, but it still comes out of the pockets of individuals. Even if you don’t drive a car and are one of those rare people in our city who walks, bikes or uses public transit, you will still feel the bite. Virtually everything we use in our day-to-day lives, arrived by some mode of transport. Higher fuel costs equal higher prices when you shop at your local supermarket. It is unlikely any government can resist the opportunity to add to our tax burden.
We are slow to react, because it will inconvenience us. We are part of that small fraction of the world’s six billion plus people, who enjoy a lifestyle unprecedented in history. Cheap consumer goods, from toys to clothes to electronics, are manufactured in Third World countries with low wages and often very poor working conditions. We accept that with few pangs of guilt, because we enjoy our stuff and we want it cheap. Can you imagine what we would have to pay for many items if they were manufactured here by people making fair wages in safe workplaces? Every household would have a patch kit and a button box.
We are trying to make some progress but it is painfully slow. Inconvenience is not a good political platform. If we have less and pay more, our first reaction is to strike out at the government of the day. That is why governments react cautiously. They want to get re-elected.
In our city, everyone has known for years that we have lousy air. All the way from the bad old days, when it was referred to as the “smell of money,” to the present we move slowly. We prefer to ignore it, even when our children end up with lifetime breathing problems. The issue has been studied; some action has been taken, but not enough. The group of citizens concerned about our air quality has grown rapidly in the last few years. They join that small group who has been raising the alarm. Perhaps we are arriving at a point of some honest political decisions and actions. It won’t be easy and it won’t be nice. Air quality is just one of the many challenges facing us.
We are all part of the problem, so we are all part of the solution.
Victor Bowman was born in Prince George and raised in Vanderhoof. He returned to Prince George 32 years ago and currently operates a consulting business. Please direct comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org