Spoiler alert: What follows is pure fantasy. Please do not share, re-post or publicize as no one will believe you. Can you imagine such words leaping from a politician’s mouth, especially in Alberta? And during a provincial election campaign? It’s hard to create this fiction, but I shall give it the old college try.
“I stand before you today, as fires threaten to engulf much of our beautiful province, a resource-rich land of opportunity, capable of providing a lifestyle the envy of most people around the world, I stand here (in Calgary, Lethbridge, High Level, Fort MacMurray?) to offer the following apology.
I apologize for the way my government and I have avoided speaking the hard truth about climate change and the climate crisis, as fires and at other times, floods continue to shatter our provincial economy, our landscape, and our hopes and our dreams.
We have not helped the voters and residents of our province to understand the clear connection between destructive environmental activity and the climate crisis which has claimed no lives (yet) but many livelihoods, and has eroded the sense of personal security and stability we all value.
We have allowed our lust for short-term economic gain to cloud our judgement around the consequences of a business-as-usual economic strategy without any concern for the environmental degradation such activity produces. In extracting, processing, upgrading, and transporting fossil fuels in increasing quantity to off-shore markets, we continue to deny any responsibility for the damage such processes create, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and global atmospheric chemistry is irreparably altered.
We have disparaged scientific reports such as the IPCC assessments and paid little attention to warnings from our own governmental agencies. We have copied the geopolitics increasingly influential in the US, which through nothing short of belligerence and fear-mongering seeks to insulate and protect the Fossil Fuel Industry from all criticism. We have continued to place the desires of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers ahead of the needs of other groups including the agricultural community–including ranchers, farmers and tourism operators. As we claim to engage in healing and reconciliation with First Nations we continue to devalue and ignore the voice of our First Peoples, those who have lied on and worked the land for centuries.
In the language of the (Anglican) Book of Common Prayer we have done those things we ought not to have done, and have not done the things we ought to have done.” And now, there is precious little health in us.
I can say with certainty there is no question of a direct connection between human-induced global warming and the wildfires. Of course, I cannot say that, not in public at least. Nor can any Alberta politician, even those who believe it to be true. Affordability and health care are what a predominately skeptical public will countenance. Alberta has a long history of energy policy anxiety. Some still remember the National Energy program of the early 1980s.
Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart says, “it is a sign of a lack of political leadership on all sides when climate change is the problem that dare not speak its name in Alberta politics.” Many think that we can engineer ourselves out of this problem. Well that’s not going so well is it, and is so very expensive. Many think there are more important matters which must be dealt with now. Well this is a “now” problem, not a “later” problem. Many people simply hope the problem will go away. Well, look around right now.
As for who will speak to power and people, imagine my delight in discovering the inimitable Dolly Parton, a performer with a keen activist voice speaking directly to the climate crisis. Her recent song World on Fire has, um, caught fire online.
Liar, liar, the world’s on fire
What you gonna do when it all burns down?
Fire, fire, burnin’ higher
Still got time to turn it all around
Sing it sister. What are we going to do when it all burns down. Don’t say “it’ll never happen.” Well it’s happening right now. And hey, did I mention how we are all part of the problem. Did I mention how much our provincial governments are subsidizing the Fossil Fuel industry. I give the last word to a survivor of the Lytton BC fires disaster.
“I would like to see our government stop supporting and subsidizing the gas and oil industry. Let them stand on their own feet and let them slowly die. Put their subsidy money into alternate energy and electric vehicles. We can blame all those guys, but they’re only there because we’re standing here buying all their stuff.”
Yes, I am sorry, for what we as governments at all levels have done, and what we have not done. I am sorry for all those things we continue to do, including myself. Step by step, we are consuming creation itself. The future is ours. Let’s do things better. And let’s do this now.
Great article! It’s refreshing to see someone speak out on the hard truth about climate change. My question is, how do you think we can encourage politicians to take a more active role in combating climate change, especially in provinces like Alberta where the economy is heavily based on the fossil fuel industry?