02 April 2007

The heart of the problem

Majority in favour of pollution tax

More than three-quarters of Canadians believe the country's environmental regulations are too weak, while nearly 60% of the population would favour a new green tax on consumer and industrial products to crack down on pollution, a new government study has concluded. The statistics, included in an Environment Canada public opinion survey, come as the minority Conservative government and opposition parties face off over whether to beef up legislation on air pollution and climate change that was tabled last fall. The newly released survey of 2,000 Canadians was published in February, and found that 31% of Canadians strongly favoured a new tax, and 27% were somewhat in favour, for a total of 58%. Overall, 76% of Canadians who answered the survey said they believed the current environmental regulations were not strong enough. In more specific sectors, 52% of people were concerned about regulations on food products, while 51% were worried about environmental standards for consumer products. The Conservatives have insisted their original plan from the fall to introduce mandatory regulations to crack down on pollution from industry is sufficient. But the opposition parties have argued that the plan does not require any absolute reductions in emissions for about 15 years, and they have used their majority on a special Commons committee to introduce tougher targets into the government's legislation, along with new penalties or fines for companies that do not comply. Environment Minister John Baird has said the opposition measures are part of a Liberal plan to introduce a carbon tax that wouldn't actually work. But according to the survey, which was conducted in December, only one in five respondents said the federal government was doing a good (19%) or excellent (3%) job at preventing or controlling pollution. By comparison, 74% of respondents said the government's performance was either fair (39%) or poor (35%).
(Calgary Herald 070402)

Ten who think green

We are a greenhouse-gas spewing, Kyoto-snubbing, resource-based nation, a fact seemingly not lost on the politicians whose months of grappling with the federal Clean Air Act still has not produced any legislation that can knock down emissions without also busting the kneecaps of the economy. At the same time, images of melting polar ice caps and stranded polar bears are tugging at the heart strings of Canadians who hold little sympathy for the industries they blame for releasing a ceiling of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Those very same Canadians, however, are unwilling to pay for change. A recent poll in British Columbia, which recently committed itself to one of the greenest policies on the continent, found 84% of residents believe global warming is happening and have felt its impact. A full 46% called it the single greatest global threat (only 22% chose terrorism). But when asked whether they would spend even $100 more every year to green up the country, 50% said no. Clearly, we will only walk the path to a greener future if dragged along. Meanwhile, the environmental problems that confront us have drawn forth a remarkable current of ingenuity. Much of it comes from those who believe it is only by marshalling the soldiers of technological discovery we will fend off the disasters that loom from a warming planet and dwindling energy supplies. Today, the Financial Post profiles 10 of Canada's most promising green technology companies: Iogen; Paradigm Environmental Technologies; TIR Systems; VRB Power Systems; Sunarc of Canada; Enwave Energy; Railpower Technologies; Whale Power; HTEC; and Hydrogen Link.
(National Post 070402)

These two reports seem to be saying the opposite thing about the same issue. Or maybe they are saying the same thing, I'm not sure. People are willing to pay money to address the problem, just not too much. That's what I get out of it. The environment is important, but only to a certain point, I guess. What got me were the results of the survey. 50% say no to $100 a year? Are you kidding me? We're so disgustingly affluent here compared to 90% of the world and we are against coughing up a less than $10 a month for a cleanup program -- something that we caused collectively ourselves. Give up that second Starbucks Coffee a day and you've already made it up, losers. Yeesh. Is lip service all we're good at anymore?

As long as someone else makes the effort to address the problem, then I don't have to.

Our expectations are so high and our belief in the 'truth' of getting something for nothing so strong that we've absolved ourselves out of personal responsibility for the consequences of our actions. That's the heart of the problem, and I'm not so sure how we can address it quickly enough to save anything. Asking North Americans to consider pulling up their bootstraps and sacrificing for the common good is as reasonable today as asking them to grow a tail.

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