Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day's message: Our planet needs our help

Go to Montreal Gazette original
China and India have discovered the pleasures of the private car. Parts of the U.S. are running short on water. Brazilians continue to cut down their rain forests. The world grows desperate for more food production. Commodity prices are soaring. Here in Canada, acres of the water table are being drained to extract oil from Alberta's tar sands. The price of gasoline has passed $1.30 a litre.

Earth Day? We don't need one Earth Day, we need 365 of them. Wherever we look, we see the need for urgent, sustained action on many environmental fronts. No government anywhere is doing enough.

You can't listen to a speech or look at an advertisement without being told that our leaders, our would-be leaders, and our big companies are green and getting greener. But even if all those wonderful claims were true, China and India keep burning much more coal every year.

Developing countries say they'll be glad to worry about climate change, ocean pollution, deforestation, toxic waste, and all the rest - just as soon as their living standards match those of rich countries. It's a hard argument to refute around the water-coolers in our air-conditioned offices which we have reached in our SUVs. Soaring gasoline prices bring grumbling, rather than relief at the idea that more people might move to mass transit.

So what is the meaning of Earth Day? As a number of stories and features throughout today's Gazette demonstrate, the symbolism of Earth Day reminds us and exhorts us not to give up hope of a sustainable future.

Earth Day is a symbolic gesture. Why bother with symbols? Because we still need, we human beings, to come to a consensus about environmental problems, and anything that focuses the attention of us all on that need is a step in the right direction.
Solutions to reduce emissions that demand significant voluntary personal sacrifice are, shall we say, hard to sell, and will remain so. Our governments will have more success, we think, by encouraging new technology for energy efficiency, making mass transit more appealing and finding ways to let people control their tax bills by controlling their energy use, the approach British Columbia is trying.

Earth Day reminds us of the magnitude of the challenges, but also of the importance of the goal. This is no time to stop trying.


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