Not intended to offend Americans, just a point of view...
I am putting this off-topic piece here, because the forum has a large audience, and because some here have expressed appreciation of my meanderings. Please stop reading now, if you would rather stay on-topic.
The earth's climate is warming. Since I was a child at the cusp of the nineteen-sixties, the society I live in has gone from small-scale farming and a nascent automobile industry to a very wasteful, very destructive, overly-industrial, overpopulated one.
In the late nineteen-sixties (since we started counting at a long-ago Christmas) headlines shouted about the problems of pollution, which were then becoming more obvious. Air quality had already been bad enough to kill, in the UK, where coal burning is more prevalent, but it had not attracted much attention here in my short memory. That problem was not directly caused by over-population. It was more a direct human response to the demographic bulge that I was a part of. Mothers did not want to spend time as my mother had, washing diapers. The disposable diaper was born.
People did not want to think about how they were being poisoned by car exhaust. The idea of 'disposal' of our used things, though we did not know it, was an extension of a universally held one. It was accepted, to put car exhaust in ever-increasing volume, along with any other substance we deemed as 'used' or 'waste', into some kind of hidden away place. For cars it was easy, because the waste is mostly invisible. But if that root idea is extended, it covers much more visible substances and man-made objects. Their 'disposal' now overflows 'landfill' sites all over.
It seems these problems come from outdated ideas: that humans have a 'right' to reproduce indefinitely, and that any and all growth is good.. Perhaps these notions come from natural inclinations towards survival, and from old cultural traditions of passing on 'family names' from one generation of male heirs to the next. The question of what any generation of humans can 'afford' to do, to buy, to harvest, to mine, to pursue, is not one I would like to address, because in my short years on Earth, I have seen too much of false economy, of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul', of 'penny wisdom' and 'pound foolishness'. Underlying it, the difficulty is that we humans do not have any way to evaluate the long-term costs, of things that so far, have had no price tag. They have been assumed to be free. Television watchers of my age remember the weekly scene of Jed Clampett, 'shootin' at some food', and finding oil spraying out of his land. The theme song of the show "Beverly Hillbillies' called it "black gold," and "Texas tea." If not free, it was incredibly cheap, coming unbidden out of the ground. Now we have 'carbon credits' and the like, in our latest attempt to cope.
When we think of sustainability, though it will not benefit any of my heirs that I can imagine, the time-frame we need to think about is of tens of thousands of years. The reason for that bit of wishful thinking is that it is of the right order: if we get problems fixed on that time-scale, we can't help but fix current ones. They are built-in for free, as it were. When we think of renew-ability, we should think of persistence into perpetuity.
People tend to use more and more energy, albeit in slightly more efficient ways, in a doomed attempt to prolong our 'motor-head' lifestyle. We travel wherever and whenever pleases us, using unrealistically low-priced gasoline. Consumption is a major force behind pollution. This wasting lifestyle has become the fabric of our society. If 'first-world' people had to pay the real cost, even of their travel to and from work, by train, bus, or car, they could not 'afford' to do it. Use of horses would make a quick resurgence.
I do not want to address the environmental costs or the economics of travel by horse. It has become glaringly clear that, in the early part of the twentieth century, humans began to use large amounts of carbon fuel, that, in singer Graham Nash's words, "took ten million years to form". We now use it in unimaginable quantities, unbelievably quickly. In a mere century, all of that energy, husbanded by life-forms much more primitive than ours, and having spent all those eons underground, will be gone. It came from the sun, over hundreds of thousands of centuries. Where did it go? Certainly, into the current warming trend we see on Earth. A very tiny amount of geological time has been taken to release it all. In modern life, the only things that have been relatively that quick, have been nuclear explosions, lightning strikes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions: things of that speed.
It does not look like we will slow down before it's really all gone. I do not want to meditate on what happens then.
All I want to do now is point out a very small, perhaps only symbolic, action that we can take today, we Canadians.
A couple of years ago, I bought all my Christmas presents by Internet purchasing. Leaving aside the problem that many were bad deals, and bad products, the exercise turned out to be an exceedingly wasteful way of doing my Christmas shopping. It was too expensive, by far, in many ways. I did it to prove I could, and also because I am a shut-in. This year, I will beg, borrow, or do without, if I cannot get presents another way.
We have been told we have something called "free trade", between ourselves and our major supplier, the US. It only seems to apply if you are a large firm with your own paid buyers, who can get good deals on transport, brokerage, and, yes, import duties. Also freedom of trade does not seem to apply to currency exchange. Products bought from Canadian branch-plants are more expensive than the same products, bought from the same parent companies across the border. The prices do not seem to follow the bank currency exchange rates very closely. The Canadian consumer usually pays more, once Canadian dollars are exchanged for American. When all is said and done, a ten dollar item can cost a Canadian Internet consumer over one hundred.
Leaving aside governments and brokers and currency exchanges, the real cost of these purchases is in the energy use they represent. Per item, cost is low, getting the average consumer product from its origin: most likely in China. The Pacific Ocean is plied by Chinese container ships the size of a city. Prices are dwarfed, microscopic compared to the per-crossing cost of such ships. These costs are built into the prices you and I pay. Imagine the corners which must be cut, in labour, land, and other North-American-style protections, so these items can stay competitively priced. Even when other costs of Internet purchasing are included: currency exchange, customs brokerage, overland or air transport, prices remain extremely unrealistic. A lot of energy is required, to get to you or me, mostly pumped out of the ground.
The huge waste, Christ could not approve of, in celebration of his birthday. We should not do it. Internet purchasing can be great, for things like software, books, songs, and movies, that can be delivered electronically. But don't buy a dishwasher that way. Buy locally. Give Canadians things from Canada this year. Your grandchildren may be grateful you did.
"Try - Just A Little Bit Harder" - Janis Joplin
CCSVI procedure Albany Aug 2010
'MS' is over - if you want it
Patients sans/without patience