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  • Frank Sterle Jr.
    commented 2019-07-18 15:44:36 -0700
    “IT’S harder to rally people around a threat to humanity than one that endangers their own backyard.” I spotted this profound yet disturbing truism, albeit perhaps logically Darwinian, in an essay published in The Walrus.
    Especially with so much of the planet literally as well as emotionally on fire, it highlights for me the apparently prevailing penny-wise-pound-foolish widespread human mentality when it comes to the serious man-made pollution, though immediately free from our societal view, that’s contaminating our life-sustaining natural environment and worsening an already dire global warming reality.
    Perhaps it helps explain the increase in per capita automobile ownership (including SUVs) in Canada last year, compared to 2016, especially in B.C.; it’s something that UBC’s Sauder School of Business economist Werner Antweiler describes as “a disconcerting picture”, considering serious global greenhouse gas concerns. “The number of vehicles has grown faster than the number of people in the country.”
    I often wonder whether that unfortunate aspect of our general nature that permits us our tunnel vision regarding environmental degradation, will be our eventual undoing?
    Perhaps due to (everyone’s sole spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general obliviousness in regards to our natural environment. It’s as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants emitted out of exhaust and drainage pipes, or spewed from very tall smoke stacks—or even the largest contamination events—can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, sea, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind); like we’re safely dispensing of that waste into a compressed-into-nothing black-hole singularity.
    For example, it’s largely believed that when released into gritty B.C. coastal waters, diluted bitumen crude oil (a.k.a. dilbit, the world’s dirtiest oil) will likely sink to the bottom, as with the 2010 Michigan spill in which dilbit is still being scraped off of the Kalamazoo River floor.
    I wonder, could that sinking characteristic perhaps appeal to some people who are usually apathetic towards the natural environment deep below the water surface: i.e. it will no longer be an eyesore after it sinks—i.e. out of sight, out of mind?
    It may be the nature of our ostrich-syndrome beast; however, just because some human behaviour is common or ‘normal’, doesn’t necessarily make it moral or ethical.
    Indeed, it’s safe to assume that, had the (central B.C., August 4, 2014) Mount Polley copper and gold mine massive tailings pond release of a slurry of years’ worth of waste into Polley Lake—yet for which there were no B.C.-environmental-law charges laid against Imperial Metals regardless of its clear recklessness—been located in plain sight just off of, say, Vancouver’s scenic attraction Stanley Park instead of in a region of natural wilderness, it would not have received the relatively minute mainstream news-media coverage it has to date.
    Yet, according to a (B.C. community newspaper) Peace Arch News editorial printed just before Earth Day 2017, titled “Earth Day in need of a facelift”, “some people would argue that [it] … is an anachronism”, that it should instead be a day of recognizing what we’ve accomplished. “And while it [has] served us well, in 2017, do we really need Earth Day anymore?”
    Right. We’re doing fine without Earth Day’s emphasis on our serious polluters.
    This notion was to me so absurd that I mused as to whether Black Press’s climate-change-doubter and fossil-fuel-supporter syndicated columnist Tom Fletcher had penned it.
    It all may be the same mentality that allows the immense amount of plastic waste, such as disposable straws, to eventually find its way into our life-filled oceans, where there are few, if any, caring souls to see it.
    Indeed, it’s quite fortunate that the plastic waste doesn’t entirely sink out of sight to the bottom, like dilbit, for then nothing may be done about it, regardless of divers’ reports of the awful existence of such plastic tangled messes.
    Could it be the same mentality that, when randomly asked by a Global News TV reporter (a few months back) what he thought of government restrictions on disposable plastic straws, compelled a young Vancouver man wearing sunglasses to retort, “It’s like we’re living in a nanny state, always telling me what I can’t do.”
    Astonished by his shortsighted little-boy selfishness, I wondered whether he’d be the same sort of individual who’d likely have a sufficiently grand sense of entitlement—i.e. “Like, don’t tell me what I can’t waste or do, dude!”—to permit himself to now, say, deliberately dump a whole box of unused straws into the Georgia Strait, just to stick it to the authorities who’d dare tell him that enough is enough with our gratuitous massive dumps of plastics into our oceans (which are of course unable to defend themselves against such guys seemingly asserting self-granted sovereignty over the natural environment), so he could figuratively middle-finger any new government rules with a closing, ‘There! How d’ya like that, pal!”
    And, of course, the condition is allowed to fester via a generally neo-liberal (some might say libertarian) mainstream news-media that seems to not have a problem with such infantile oh-well perspectives; the same narrow-mindedness that often makes me question whether we really have plausible hope in turning around our recklessness in time?
    Also, it must be quite convenient for Big Business—especially the fossil fuel industry—to have such a large portion of mainstream society simply too exhausted and preoccupied with just barely feeding and housing their families on a substandard, if not below the poverty line, income to criticize the former for the great damage it’s doing to our planet’s natural environment and therefore our health, particularly when that damage may not be immediately observable.
    After all, why worry about such things immediately unseen, regardless of their most immense importance, especially when there are various undesirable politicians and significant social issues over which to dispute—distractions our mainstream news-media sadly are willing to sell us?
    Undoubtedly, to have almost everyone addicted to driving their own fossil-fuel-powered single occupant vehicle helps keep their collective mouths shut about the planet’s greatest and very profitable polluter, lest they feel like and/or be publicly regarded as hypocrites.
    https://commonground.ca/the-big-stall-how-big-oil-and-think-tanks-have-blocked-climate-action-in-canada/ AND https://commonground.ca/climate-hypocrisy-and-the-citizen/ ANDhttps://commonground.ca/worsening-wildfire-smoke-causes-sensory-overload/ AND https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/01/16/opinion/what-real-crisis-canada?
    Although I have never (nor likely ever will) own and/or operate any form of motor vehicle, there are many green-minded people who rely upon their (probably very efficient) fossil-fuel powered cars since they haven’t had a monetarily feasible opportunity to acquire an electric vehicle. Also, I believe it’s no coincidence that the first thing upon his Progressive Conservative Party’s election into office after a campaign won in part with a large political donation from the fossil fuel industry, Premier Doug Ford canceled government rebate incentives for electric car buyers in Ontario. As for our allegedly environmentally concerned Canadian (neo-)Liberal government, besides pushing for the TRIPLING of dilbit-oil tanker flow, it recently gave the old and increasingly outdated dirty-energy Big Fossil Fuel sector 12 TIMES as much subsidization as they allocated towards clean renewable energy technology innovations.
    In summation, I see all of the above as somewhat analogous to a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely societally represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable traditionally marginalized person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line; and, furthermore, to whom amongst them should go the last piece of quality pie—all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined is burning and toxifying at locations rarely investigated.
    As a species, we really can be so heavily preoccupied with our own individual admittedly overwhelming little worlds, that we’ll miss the biggest of pictures.
    On this matter I see our collective selves, including the news-media, as essentially the fossil fuel industry’s Useful Idiots.