It was a wintry walk along the shore, cold and monochromatic. I spotted a couple of seals cavorting and despite the sub-zero temperature I thought once again how lucky we are to live on the Pacific west-coast , on the edge of the rain forest. The winter so far had been mild, except for the Nordic blast the past few days, which pales in comparison to the deep freeze back east and the mid-west. Minus 40 degrees is just no temperature for any living thing and neither is +40 degrees on the other side of the world where roads are melting and animals and people are dying in the furnace of Australia.
“Did you hear about that rock slide in Bondo, Switzerland, I asked Campbell as soon as I sat down. “Three million tons of rock swept down the mountain.”
“I heard about it on the radio. They blamed climate change for it I think.,” Camp said.
“Yeah, melting of the permafrost and the resulting water pressure. Glaciers are receding at an alarming rate. Extreme weather and record breaking disaster statistics everywhere. Just look at Texas and hurricane Harvey, the mother of all hurricanes. Or close to home the 150 active forest fires in B.C. I think we’re doomed as a species,” I said glumly, depressed by the overwhelming evidence of our foolish, short-sighted mismanagement of our planet. “And Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement is just symptomatic of our self-destructive behaviour,” I added.
Camp, one of five councillors for our small town, owner of ‘Coast Books’ which he calls a ‘public service enterprise’, and purveyor of all topics known to average people, gave me a worried look. “I think Clare is right, you carry the world’s problems on your small shoulders and neither you nor anybody else can carry all that weight alone. You need to lighten up, step back, observe from a safe distance.
You’re right, we’re doomed in the long run but not just yet. Even if the world spins off its axis, some life, maybe even some of us, might survive and adapt but we’re not helpless, we can still fight this self-destructive trend. We are the smartest carbon units we know about.”
“Too smart for out own self probably. What do you suggest? Control carbon emissions, replace fossil fuels with renewables and reduce our personal foot print,” I said, feeling a tad cynical.
“Well yes,” Camp said and embarked on one of his diatribes just as Vicky plunked down a couple of frosty pints in front of us. “The technology is here to switch to 100% renewable energy. Germany has already achieved several days of supplying all the country’s electricity needs with solar, wind and hydro. As of today, in southern countries from Chile to Abu Dhabi to India solar power costs less to produce than any other form of energy and in the US and Canada the costs for wind turbines are coming down. Electric cars are here to stay and coal needs to stay in the ground. Trump’s reactionary withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has galvanized cities, states and millions of people in the US who have vowed to uphold the agreed on targets. But the time for words or paper agreements is over. It is now time for action if we want to curtail the heating up to our fragile atmosphere, otherwise we’ll end up like planet Venus. We have the technology here but the political will is missing.”
“You’re talking radical behaviour change,” I said, taking a sip from my beer.
“Oppose all new pipe lines, stop oil exploration, prohibit fracking and withdraw all fossil fuel subsidies. You’re suggesting an energy revolution.”
“Well, as you pointed out, we don’t have much time to change our behaviour. We were able to stop acid rain, we eliminated fluorocarbon emissions, we conquered diseases, we split and fuse atoms and we figured out how to communicate instantly around the world, why the hell can’t we change our dependence on hydro carbons?”
“Maybe it’s the fossil fuel industry and lobby that still controls much of our economy and politics. I guess we should only elect politicians that are committed to radical change,” I suggested. “Good luck on that. 50 million people just elected a president that represents the exact opposite. He even promised to open up the coal mines again and calls climate change a Chinese hoax.”
“You have a point, but maybe he is the catalyst that we need to turn the fossil behemoth around,” Camp suggested.
“What about natural gas or LNG as has been touted by the previous government as the holy grail for British Columbia.”
“Two problems that spring to mind,” Camp said. “First off, all the new gas finds under American soil has to be fracked, meaning explode the subsurface geology resulting in all kinds of problems, particularly with aquifers and groundwater. Secondly the process of producing gas releases so much methane into the atmosphere that the net result of natural gas is equal to burning coal.”
“Which brings us back to renewables,” I said.
“Yes, use fossil carbons for plastics, bitumen, and for now, the airline industry, ocean liners and cargo ships which by the way burn bunker fuel or ‘navy special’, the crap that’s left over after the refining process. “
“Which leaves atomic energy,” I said.
“There are about 450 reactors worldwide with 60 new ones under construction. All together they provide about 10% of the worlds electricity. They are very efficient energy producers but the disposal of burned out fuel is a problem and so are the potential catastrophic consequences of a melt down.”
“You’re just a walking encyclopaedia Camp,” I said.
“Dr. Google and Wikipedia are my helpers,” Camp said “but common sense and responsible behaviour would solve most of the world’s problems. On a more positive note, we’re lucky here because we now have three breweries in this small town. We better step up to the plate and do our share.” Camp held up two fingers for Vicky to see and within the blink of an eye two new frosty brews arrived.
“Isn’t life a crazy thing?” I said, “We live like kings in paradise and yet we feel doomed. Is it better to know and feel helpless or is it better to be helpless and not know?”
“All I know is that we should not ignore the basic facts my friend. Cheers.”
Check out this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZDYhQ4UAnA