People who know of my long-standing interest in Green Building often ask me whether there’s much uptake on sustainable building strategies these days. My answer is, frankly, no; beyond a few courageous early adopters, there’s not much uptake. To explain why, allow me to briefly detour to a recent article in the Globe and Mail…
In 2007, five experts did a study of the Kyoto protocol at the request of the Harper government. They concluded that trying to meet the commitments set out in the agreement would crash our economy. Needless to say, the other political parties – and many other Canadian citizens – weren’t happy. The Harper government then replaced Kyoto with its own – less ambitious – plan. One of the experts, Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University, analyzed this one too (not at Harper’s invitation this time around). He concluded that trying to meet Harper’s 2020 targets now would also crash the economy. There’s a link to his article below.
The problem, Jaccard says, isn’t necessarily the content of these plans; rather, it’s the failure of both the Chretien and Harper governments to implement meaningful policies in a timely way. Each year of delay has meant we now need to do more, faster, squandering public support for real action on sustainability and making both plans unrealizable without real economic pain. Much could have been achieved during those years of inaction. While other countries are going solar in a big way and Passive House standards are becoming a given in Europe, here at home we’re still mostly just talking about it. Even though our knowledge of sustainable living and building has grown, most people are still consuming like there’s no tomorrow, making the latter eventuality more and more likely.
This is why I think there’s been little uptake: a massive failure of leadership that continues to sow confusion about whether change is possible or even necessary. As a result, the wind has pretty much gone out of the sails of the movement.
So what do R-values have to do with voting? Undertaking the immense project of creating a sustainable society won’t happen via top-down change – but nor will it happen in the absence of coherent leadership and a sense that we are all in this together. I’d argue that our current electoral system no longer serves the interests of most Canadians. It has allowed people to take over the running of our country who are not much interested in representing values other than consumerism, scaled–up exploitation of our environment and neo-liberal globalization. A lot of people are advocating for Proportional Representation as a key issue in the next election. If, as Jaccard says, the leadership continues to let us down, then we’ve lost our collective voice, and it’s time to get it back.
For the article cited above, see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/canadians-deserve-honest-climate-talk/article19911352/