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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Turple

Could it be the end is not so near?

The term yoga practitioner seems to be synonymous with environmentalist. I grew up being taught to recycle, and wash Ziploc bags for reuse; to use cloth bags instead of plastic and to not litter. I do love this planet and do what I can to not be too wasteful. Lately, however, with the deluge of "climate crisis" headlines and apocalyptic terminology describing all things related to climate and the planet, and most disturbingly, the dogma that's built up around the question of the environment, I got to wondering: are we really teetering on armageddon or is this a much more complex question being simplified to create more click-bait, and on a more sinister note, to create more money, power and influence for those who are profiting from our fear. "Going green" is big business.

These days, challenging the status quo and asking questions about the true state of the environment and how to effectively address climate change is tantamount to being a climate-change denier. There's an important difference between debate (possible solutions should be discussed robustly, and may contradict each other) and delusion (there is no climate change). It seems that asking for debate is stepping over the line and announcing yourself as an enemy of the environment.

A sample of questions which, in light of the current climate dogma may be perceived as incendiary or contrarian: Are only electric cars the way to go? Where will all the electricity come from? Where will we store used batteries? Don't the extraction of their materials and construction of their components leave a larger carbon footprint than fossil-fuel cars? Why can't we have a mix of electric, fossil-fuel and hydrogen-cell based cars? What about nuclear power? Why are we shutting down existing reactors and preventing new ones from being built when it's currently the safest, cleanest (zero emissions), most abundant source of energy we have? (Click here for an interesting article on that.) Don't wind and solar energy create a large footprint on the natural environment, like the destruction of desert ecosystems and the killing of wild birds like owls and eagles? And why isn't anyone mentioning that renewables don't and will probably never produce enough energy to meet our needs, and when they come up short, we use fossil fuels to produce the rest. Is the planet nearing an inevitable apocalypse or is that a hyped-up claim meant to scare us so certain people, governments and corporations can profit from our fear?

It's clear we have legitimate climate-related issues that need our attention. But between acknowledging that and telling the public the end is near, save your souls! lies a large chasm. If all we're doing is panicking, how will wise heads prevail to make long-term, forward-thinking, sound policy decisions regarding how to address climate change? Panic-induced decision-making is usually short-term and not fully thought through, sometimes with disastrous consequences. And frankly, scaring the shit out of everybody really isn't changing our behaviour. It's mostly causing anxiety in children and adolescents which seems cruel and unnecessary.

I decided that, as a lay person, I would do some research of my own, consisting mainly of reading books to educate myself on this question of climate change, and step away from the doomsday tale I'm constantly hearing about. Unsurprisingly, as it turns out, this is a much more complex issue than portrayed by politicians, the media or Greta Thunberg, for that matter. One book I highly recommend simply to reset our perspective on the meaning of progress, climate change and "natural is better" vs "synthetic is bad", is Michael Shellenberger's Apocalypse Never. It's written by a dogged journalist who was on the inside of the environmental movement for decades. It's a truly enlightening and informative read, and may make you doubt the end is near.

Shellenberger's book, as well as Konstantin Kisin's unforgettable speech at an Oxford debate, also point out that solving climate change is primarily a rich country's concern. Poor and developing nations have much more immediate problems such as simply surviving. The state of the environment is low on their list, way behind health care, education, a stable food supply and infrastructure. They must be given the opportunity to develop, which could entail an increase in carbon emissions for a time, but would also mean, with more infrastructure and wealth, that these nations would have a much higher quality of life, and would be more resilient to weather-related disasters. We certainly can't expect entire populations to stay poor, leading inarguably grueling lives to address environmental concerns. What we can do as rich nations, as Kisin points out, is invest in research and innovation to provide poorer nations (and ourselves) with abundant, cheap, clean sources of energy so they can develop with minimal impact on the environment.

Adaptation to climate change is something we don't often hear about, perhaps because it doesn't fit into the attention-grabbing apocalypse narrative or it feels like we're giving up on "saving the planet". As George Carlin so aptly pointed out, the planet doesn't need saving, we do. We are the ones who may ultimately go extinct. The planet will be fine. However, us humans are experts at adapting to changing circumstances so why wouldn't we be able to adapt to a changing climate? Is our resilience as a species taken into account in forecasting models? Why would we simply choose to be victims of climate change when we have an instinctual drive to survive and big brains to innovate?

A couple other reads that could be of interest, if only to broaden our horizons on this important question and shake off the dogma that surrounds it: False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg and Unsettled by Steven E. Koonin. A healthy democracy is one that can debate opposing points of view without anyone being publicly shamed. The truth is usually found somewhere in the middle. An informed public can then put pressure on its law and policy makers to take measured and judicious actions to either address or adapt to climate change. We shouldn't tolerate being bullied into a state of fear, guilt and panic, and frankly, couldn't we all use a bit of hope?

I also suggest doing an internet search using this question: "How much coal does Canada export to China?" Given our current government's often-touted environmental priorities, the answer may shock you.

Konstantin Kisin's epic speech:

George Carlin's humbling take on "saving the planet":

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