Green vision in short supply at all levels of government

Piles of plastic bags in dumpsite in the Ngong Hills (Nairobi, Kenya) with Roman Catholic cathedral, wind farm and new development in the background

(March 29, 2017)

March 2017 will go into the record books as the month when the only environmental action that took place was turning the lights out for Earth Hour. The rest of the month felt like Throwback Thursday, as governments at all levels seemed in competition to see who could turn back the clock the most.

Starting closest to home, Winnipeg city council set aside its own resolutions on organic waste collection and opted to remain one of the few large cities in North America where composting is a mystery too hard to solve. The composting outcome was effectively determined when the only option was a surcharge for curbside collection — Winnipeggers for some reason don’t like paying extra for something that should be included in the city’s waste management plan.

At the same time, Mayor Brian Bowman made “Winnipeg is the city of the future” comments that were hard not to dismiss as trash talk, because visionary decision-making is notably absent from city hall these days on any file. If city council salaries depended on an extra levy per homeowner, I suspect councillors and mayor would be working for free.

Widening the circle, the provincial government declared a victory over red tape by reducing water regulations, just as overland flood season is about to start. I could have suggested other places to cut, but that wasn’t one of the options on the government’s online survey about a “made-in-Manitoba” climate plan.

Fortunately, the slogan “Make Manitoba Green Again” was not used to pitch that plan, because those cuts to water quality regulations made me think of the colour of our lakes after spring nutrient runoffs have refuelled the algae for another year.

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Home is what we make of it

(January 6, 2017)

The news in 2016 was again dominated by the plight of refugees, people forced by circumstances not of their choosing to look for a new home.

When Hospitality House Refugee Ministries decided this past fall to open the gates for private refugee sponsorships for Winnipeg, they got more than 30,000 applications in six weeks — not skilled immigrants, just people looking to join their families, who want a new home here in Manitoba.

The news was perhaps more dominated by weather, however — the real and projected effects of the Earth’s changing geology, not just its climate. Geologists have conceded the existence of a new age of the Earth, the Anthropocene, because evidence of human interactions with the planet itself will be found in the distant future by whoever digs through to find our level in the dirt, just as we dug up the dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs did not wipe themselves out, however — as a species, we are the first on Earth to potentially have such a dubious distinction.

So this year, concern for the Earth as our home was paired with the desire for people to find a new home.

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Carbon Tax Won’t Drive Change

(December 15, 2016)

We live between two basic truths about the choices we make: the society that lives for today at the expense of tomorrow has no future, but the society that lives for tomorrow at the expense of today will not survive to enjoy it.

Clearly, if we want both to survive and have a sustainable future, we need to find a third option, but it is not the one picked by the Trudeau government. You can’t have your pipeline and cancel it, too.

For example, take the proposed carbon tax. By itself, it will not move our society far enough or fast enough toward a sustainable future, but it helps. In addition to somewhat increasing costs for everyone, if it is spent only on reducing greenhouse gas emissions it will generate a new government revenue stream and encourage opportunities for green investment, both of which are needed to leverage the kind of changes we must make.

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