On being green

By 
  • February 2, 2007
It’s fascinating to watch how we’ve all become so busy being green. Blame it on our weird winter, or the ever-increasing traffic gridlock in our cities, but Canadians are finally beginning to join the world in their concern about environmental destruction.
A Globe and Mail survey released late last month suggests Canadians have put the environment at the top of the list of those issues causing them the most anxiety. Some 26 per cent of those surveyed said the environment was number one, up from only four per cent a year ago. Health care was next at 18 per cent, terrorism was chosen by six per cent and crime by three per cent.

According to pollster Allan Gregg, whose firm Strategic Counsel conducted the survey, this represents a dramatically quick sea change in the attitudes of Canadians. It was less than a year ago that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was crowing Canada was an energy super power because of its oil. Now people are asking: “But at what price?”

This is as it should be. Christians, or at least most Christians, took a while to wake up to their biblical responsibility as stewards of all creation, but for some years now, church leaders have increasingly been ringing alarm bells about our hyper-consumption and its damage to air, water and the earth. And as recently as Jan. 1, Pope Benedict XVI, in his annual World Day of Peace message, also drew links between proper ecological stewardship and our responsibility to each other.

“Experience shows that disregard for the environment always harms human co-existence, and vice versa,” the Pope wrote. “It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men. Both of these presuppose peace with God. The poem-prayer of St. Francis, known as the Canticle of Brother Sun, is a wonderful and ever timely example of this multifaceted ecology of peace.”

But Benedict becomes even more pointed, challenging the world to curb its appetite for energy resources or reap the whirlwind. “The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth’s resources cause grievances, conflicts and wars, precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development.”

Awareness is the first step to action. To that end, political parties are each trying to out-green the other in offering strategies for stemming pollution. But few are willing to be frank with Canadians about the fact that real reduction of greenhouse gases and other pollutants will only result from real constraints on mass consumption.

Interestingly, 63 per cent of those surveyed by Strategic Counsel say the country should live up to its commitments to the Kyoto International Protocol. Even if current federal remedies on reducing greenhouse gases actually reach their potential, it is impossible for us to meet out international obligations. Are we truly ready to connect the dots drawn by the Pope?

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