Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ontario's Hopeful Future?

Steve Aplin has written one of his better posts:
Trends vs Snapshots: Does Ontario Need More or Less Electricity.

Naturally, it is really about the future. Canadians have a rare opportunity among nations: we have a huge stake in shaping the future of the world itself. There are few nations as educated, industrialized, and democratized as Canada. It is a privilege, but also a responsibility we cannot set aside out of fear, disinterest or a desire to disengage.

Ontario, like everywhere else on Earth, is, hopefully, going to need more electricity.
a) More electric cars and rails.
b) Increased reprocessing of worn out goods and waste, to recover scarce elements and reduce our reliance on over-burdened natural systems to deal with garbage and pollution, and nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon cycles.
c) Increased mining, as the future portends coming scarcity and increased demand.
d) Carbon capture and storage (if the federal government is being serious when it says it will happen): it takes huge amounts of energy to compress, ship and sequester carbon.
e) Moving further away from combustion based space heating to electricity.
f) Increase in manufacturing. Because society will want to advance in its well-being, and the systems of the future which would allow advancement of human well-being, without unduly harming the environment, will be highly engineered and energy intensive.

We will want more integration and influence with the rest of the world. I am sure Canadians think their shared values of democracy, environmental protection, respect for science and logic, education, a large degree of economic equality, and compassion are worthwhile gifts to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, were not on a path right now that leads to a hopeful future. There is no political champion for it.

Our current path (one being paralleled by many advanced industrial countries) is unmistakenly one of retrenchment and disingagement with the rest of the world, especially in the hardest problems: environment, climate, scientific and cultural engagement, social development and health, and workers' rights. Instead we are seen (maybe rightly) to have the overaching economic goal of selling more oil to the world, with much of the rest of our engagement being driven by petty domestic politics.

Greenpeace, among other similar groups, has their own vision of the future. I guess it might work, but few people in this country, let alone a vast majority, let alone the rest of the world, would willingly give up the comforts and necessities (or even many of the indulgent stupidities!) supplied by our present society to live in a soft-path-energy society. The good, idealized world of the 1760's, with a few useful pieces of the subsequent scientific enlightenment tacked on. A soft-path world will be a parochial world, by design. What it offers will not much interest anyone outside Canada, especially in the developing world, who yearn for our present standard of living. A standard of living which requires levels of energy and consumption of resources, from all over the world, that too many people simply do not wish to consider in formulating "domestic" energy policies, or understand as inextricably linked to our other cultural values I mentioned above - values by which we wish to be known and to spread through the world.

Aside from Greenpeace - who despite my criticisms, do have their hearts in the right place, and at least publicly engage in some thought towards the future - do the Conservatives and Liberals have a vision of the future? It is unarticulated: enough said: you're living in it now.

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