Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Signs and Portents

The first week of January witnessed many strange and oddly related events. Among the most notable:

- A man and his preteen daughter are seen checking out plasma televisions at a Best Buy store. On one screen, is a nature documentary about the ecological importance of Australia's threatened Great Barrier Reef, home to a variety of species, including the Great White Shark. The child, moved by what she is seeing, turns to her father and says, "I don't like sharks, but I feel badly that their home is being destroyed."

The father replies, "I don't give no flying shit about sharks, nor that big reef thing. That's up to yous."

- Advance reviews of the 2007 North American Auto Show, which opened on January 13th, state that automakers are desperate to green their images and buoy flagging sales. After killing the EV-1, the world first fully electric car, GM unveiled its new electric concept car, the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt, which is a plug-in hybrid, will supposedly get the equivalent of 150 miles to the gallon, three times that of the world's leading hybrid, the Toyota Prius.

Hybrid SUVs, (a great automotive oxymoron) are also center stage at the 2007 event, which marks the 100th anniversary of the auto show.

- Blue Mountain, Ontario's largest ski resort, lays off 1,300 full and part time employees during what should be its busiest time of year due to warm weather and lack of snow. The winter closure, the first in the 65th year history of the resort, is expected to have a devastating impact on the local economy.

- In Southern Ontario, residents enjoy double-digit temperatures and sunny skies. In many gardens, spring bulbs have already started to sprout.

- Foresters report that British Columbia's pre-Christmas storms have taken a much heavier toll than originally predicted in Stanley Park. The 400-hectare park, which is known around the world as an evergreen oasis, was devastated by the storms. At last estimate only one tree in a 1,000 - many of which were hundreds of years old - survived unscathed.

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper vows to get serious about climate change and replaces the much-maligned Rona Ambrose with John Baird as Canada's Environment Minister. Baird's first visit as Environment Minister is to review the devastation of Stanley Park.

- In Ontario's parks and recreation areas, beavers that traditionally hibernate over the winter months are active. This not only disturbs their reproductive cycle, but also decimates saplings and other vegetation that is a primary food source for Canada's voracious national mascot.

And so it goes, on and on.

When scientists first began predicting that increased carbon dioxide levels might dramatically alter the climate, they used the analogy of a frog in water. While the story is pure myth, it makes a dramatic point.

As the story goes, if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately hop to safety. Put the same frog in a pot of cold water, and then slowly heat the water, and the frog will stay put, even to the point of boiling to death.

Like it or not, we are all sitting in that pot of water and the heat is slowly rising. For some the attitude is, "Who cares if we lose a few trees?" Others are genuinely trying to change their energy consumption, but see the total lack of consideration by others as negating their efforts. Still others are enjoying the warmer temperatures, unwilling to even consider that we might all soon be in very hot water.

Which brings me back to the father in the Best Buy store. While I abhor his apparent lack of responsibility as a living, breathing citizen of the planet, what I find so profoundly disturbing is his lack of accountability toward his own child. We are all accountable.

2007 will long be remembered in the history books. What remains to be seen is whether it will be remembered as the year that we finally jumped out of the pot and tried to turn down the heat, or whether it was the year that we sat back and consciously made the decision to let the experiment run its course. Our children shall judge us.


For more information on how to reduce your energy consumption, visit The Office of Energy Efficiency. The site has information about appliances, windows, home building as well as transportation.

You can also check out the fuel efficiency of your car at the www.fueleconomy.gov (US site).


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