Eco-Policy Must Balance Two Realities

(October 18, 2016)

The flurry of activity around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of a federal carbon tax last Monday was followed the next day by the release of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. The FSDS received much less attention, because it was not greeted with the provincial petulance about federal decisions that tends to generate headlines.

To be fair, there isn’t a lot of drama surrounding this document. Intended as an open working framework covering the next three years (to 2019), it identifies 13 strategic areas for Canada to focus on in relation to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

I was glad to see the ongoing intention to revise and extend it — much wiser than attempting a strategy that tried to paper over its inevitable flaws — and there are some interesting tidbits buried in among the some of the unfortunate efforts to encourage sustainable consumption (like suggestions to unplug appliances and not let taps run).

For example, for Manitoba, there is a promise to continue funding the Experimental Lakes Area; another to contribute toward the reduction of phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg; money to fix the Lake St. Martin watershed problem; money for municipalities to fund infrastructure improvements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and so on. There was also the welcome intention to sign on again, as soon as possible, with the global initiative to combat desertification that Canada shamefully abandoned a couple of years ago.

But this strategy, however initial its steps, just does not go far enough. Nor does the $10-a-tonne federal carbon tax do much to save the planet, as critics have complained.

So why bother? Who cares about carbon?


Read More

The Flash Mob for Freedom

Flashback to 2011 — five and a half years ago, long before the current downturn in US presidential politics:

(March 27, 2011)

The events in Tunisia and Egypt, and now Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, demonstrate the resurgence of oral culture and the power of social narrative in the digital age. Fuelled by cellphone video and Internet access, and abetted by Facebook and Twitter, social narratives are changing the nature of global society. In countries where illiteracy makes the spread of conventional liberal ideas impossible, tweets do what books could not.

Create the story where the dictator’s government is evil and corrupt, and where the desired outcome is the overthrow of tyranny and the celebration of freedom. Spread such a narrative by word of mouth as much as by electronic means, and the flash mob for freedom becomes both virtual and real.

Digital communication in the 21st century allows ideas to spread at the speed of light, unconstrained by the conventions and barriers inherent in literate culture. Sights, sounds and images unfold in the palm of the receiver’s hand regardless of whether he (or she) has any education, the right social background, or an understanding of the politics involved.

Read More

Incremental Choices Can Make Manitoba Green

(October 5, 2016)

The early morning bus had 20 people on it, with room for many more, as vehicles with solo drivers whizzed past in herds. I walked from my stop a few blocks to the Legislature, dodging lines of heavy morning traffic.

It set the stage for the workshop last week on a carbon tax for Manitoba, demonstrating both the problem and what to do about it.

Of course, my taking the bus and walking is not the answer to global warming. Neither is a carbon tax.

But both are places to start, which is how I approached the government’s offer to sit down with an eclectic group of stakeholders and discuss our options for a Made-in-Manitoba solution.carbon

Read more