As I have read through a stack of books in the last two years about the on-rushing convergence of crises threatening Earth and all complex life forms, I kept bumping into half-remembered discussions from forty to fifty years years ago. Discussions fogged at the time by alcohol and smoke and dimmed over the years by the hectic pace of life, a plethora of perceived priorities and a subconscious wish to forget. Discussions birthed from ideas in books like Silent Spring, The Population Bomb and The Limits to Growth.
Similar discussions among those a few years younger may have compelled them to settle in the West Kootenays area around Nelson, on Lasquiti Island and in resource-based villages in BC that had used up their resources. They essentially dropped out of the up-tight world of careers, corporations and country clubs to live a simple, organic, back-to-the-land lifestyle. Many young Americans, angered by their country’s growing imperialist ambitions and dysfunctional political system opted to escape by coming north and adding to the bucolic landscape of the youthful, “hippy” counter-culture movement of these areas.
Predictably, the warnings about using up Earth’s resources and the dangers of chemical contamination were vigorously fought against by the corporations who were carrying out the destruction and discounted by government and the mainstream media. Forty years later, much has changed, but not for the better. Governments in the so-called ‘developed’ world are, to all intents and certainly all purposes, now owned and controlled by corporations who can afford to buy whatever it takes to get them elected. Corporations, which exist for the sole purpose of generating profits for their shareholders, get whatever legislation they need to maximize those profits enacted by their puppet legislators. Corporations are even insisting they be treated as human beings with equal rights and protections against anything that might harm their well-being (profits).
These factors allow corporations to operate at will, defying environmental protections, funneling public money that should be providing social services into private bank accounts and demanding cutback of any regulation, or even monitoring, of their operations. Any semblance of democracy has long since been abandoned as the resulting governments gut environmental protection, cut regulatory staff, silence their own scientists and spend the citizens’ tax monies on advertising to assure us that they will create enough minimum wage jobs for each family to have the three that are necessary for survival.
All the while, the Global Climate Change Elephant, first discovered and described in the mid-ninteenth century, sat in on these discussions, corporate board meetings and legislative sessions, patiently waiting to be brought into the conversation. Now it has lost that patience and, with a parting “Thank you, thank you very much”, left the room and is making its presence felt by melting arctic sea ice, releasing methane and carbon dioxide by thawing permafrost, warming and acidifying the oceans, strengthening hurricanes and tornados, and intensifying both droughts and flooding. Still the denial and obfuscation continues by corporations, governments, pseudo-scientists and mainline news media. Still we sit idly by and watch the consumer culture show, clapping and hoping for yet another encore.
“Well folks, the show is over and Elephant has left the building . . . goodnight”.