A rocker’s roll

Re: Neil Young says political leadership ‘trashed’ Canada

I share Neil Young’s criticism of a political leadership that has been directly and indirectly responsible for diminishing our environment and neglecting good governance.

I also agree with David Suzuki’s comments about how absurd it is that the environment was not an integral part of the economic debate in the campaign.

The economy and ecology are intimately related, but it is the economy that is a subset of ecology – not the other way around.

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Note: This appeared as a letter to the editor in The Globe & Mail.

Baring All: Mandatory Public Disclosure of Building Performance

Mandatory public disclosure of building performance is gaining momentum around the globe. It has now been adopted in parts of Europe and Australia and by over a dozen U.S. jurisdictions, including Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and California.

While no Canadian jurisdiction has yet introduced public disclosure laws, such a move can’t be too far down the road. Reports from those regions that do have mandatory disclosure laws suggest that implementing such programs leads to energy savings and resultant financial rewards. Mandatory public disclosure also raises public awareness and serves as a catalyst for meaningful action on climate change.   Continue reading

Consistency is not a virtue

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is often praised for supposedly being “far more consistent on world affairs than Barack Obama”. Setting aside for a moment the validity of such a claim, why on earth is this presented as some kind of virtue?

Maintaining consistency in the face of changing circumstances is often the sign of stubbornness, dogmatism, and arrogance. On the other hand, the ability to change one’s mind or adjust one’s opinion based on new evidence and changing circumstances is often the sign of maturity, intellectual honesty, and integrity.

I know which traits I would prefer to see in a leader.

Oil and typewriters

Re: Will we ever be proud of our oil sands?

Konrad Yakabuski’s appeal for Canada to spend billions of dollars innovating in the 19th-century fossil fuel industry (with “a singularity of purpose and a sense of urgency”) rather than the 21st-century renewable energy and clean-tech industry reminds me of the U.S. Republicans’ rallying cry of “drill, baby, drill!” in 2008.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argued at the time, absurdity of this kind is akin to someone on the eve of the Internet revolution calling for more typewriters and carbon paper. Similarly, all I could think about while reading Mr. Yakabuski’s column was “typewriters, baby, typewriters!”

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Note: This appeared as a letter to the editor in The Globe & Mail.

Talking Point – The North

Fossil fuels are burned that spew carbon into the atmosphere, which accelerates the melting of polar ice caps, which opens up the Northwest Passage as a shipping route, which allows for quicker shipment and subsequent burning of fossil fuels which, in turn, accelerates the amount of carbon being spewed into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, companies and individuals who seek to profit most from this positive feedback loop are the very ones who obscure the fact that there’s any issue at all. Has there ever been a greater confluence of hubris and ecological ignorance?

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Note: This appeared as a letter to the editor in The Globe & Mail.

Storms’ aftermath

While massive rainstorms and subsequent flooding are regular events, our concrete and asphalt urban environment exacerbates their effects. For far too long, cities have been built in a way that ignores or is in direct opposition to the realities of natural systems.

Recent events highlight two facts: 1) our infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle the consequences of urbanization in a changing climate, and 2) cities need to be designed and retrofitted so they work more like natural systems, rather than against them. The sustainability of our built environment depends on it.

Note: This appeared as Letter to the Editor in the Globe & Mail.

Joe Oliver: disingenuous or ignorant?

Joe Nocera of the New York Times, in conversation with Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, claims that the primary reason why the Keystone XL pipeline needs to be developed is because the International Energy Agency projects that global energy demand will grow by at least 35 per cent over the next 20 years. 

I find it rather telling, however, that they both chose to ignore mentioning the findings of a recent IEA report, which cogently states that we need a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies and that we must also accelerate the shift away from dirtier fossil fuels if we are to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet.

So, while global energy demand will undoubtedly continue to grow over the next 20 years, how we choose to meet this demand will have enormous consequences for our planet’s economic and ecological support systems far longer than that.