I am concerned by opinions posted in two recent Friday editions of the Penticton Western News. Both Mischa Popoff’s letter (“A painless death for Kyoto”) and Mark Walker’s column (“Other people’s money in short supply”) reveal a malicious attitude towards greens or environmentalists. Both pieces quite bluntly accuse those who express their concern for our planet’s health to have “socialist” or “communist” motives. For example, Popoff accuses people like Maurice Strong of being “social relativists” and of deciding “to just destroy Western economies to make everyone equal”. Walker claims that the greens were taken over by the “communist peaceniks”, and that “the green veil has been revealed as red”.
I identify with the green movement, but do not consider myself a socialist or communist. To me, it seems that the difference between greens, including myself, and the likes of Popoff and Walker is better described as long-term views versus short/middle-term views. Long-term viewers stress the health of our ecosystems upon which all people ultimately depend for our prosperity. Short/middle-term viewers stress the health of our current economic system upon which we rely for our personal and social well-being. Long-term viewers warn that the economic system that their political opponents want to protect creates social and ecological degradation and thus threatens the very foundations of our civilization. Short/middle-term viewers warn that subsidies and enviro-taxes meant to decrease our collective ecological impact threaten our Western economies and thus our prosperity.
Of course, both views are valuable as well as incomplete. We need short- and middle-term stability to effect long-term change. On the other hand, we have to accept the reality of ecological degradation. Even if you choose to doubt human-caused climate change, can anyone really deny that humans are slowly-but-surely spending Earth’s natural capital? Does anyone believe that there are no limits to what our Earth can supply? Does anyone doubt that some fish stocks have collapsed, that we are losing forests, that some aquifers and other freshwater sources are being depleted, that we are reaching the limits of agricultural productivity? These trends concern me, not because my neighbour drives a bigger car than I do, not because I like to hug trees or polar bears, but because I value my family’s health and prosperity, and Canada’s social and political stability. I propose that we try to agree on a course of action rather than vilify each other.