David Suzuki: An energy plan must be about more than just energy

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      Feeding our energy appetite is top of mind for many people these days. Some argue we should get coal, oil and gas out of the ground as quickly as possible, build more pipelines and make as much money as we can selling it here and abroad. Their priorities are the economy and meeting short-term energy needs so we can live the lives to which we’ve become accustomed.

      Many others question those priorities. Do we gain comfort and happiness by driving inefficient automobiles, buying and scrapping and then buying more stuff that we must work harder to pay for, and selling resources to enrich the fossil fuel industry and to allow other countries to follow our unsustainable path?

      Some governments and industry favour the short-term view. But it’s a “false economy”—it will cost us more in the long run. What about our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren? Do we not want them to live healthy and happy lives? If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.

      While rushing to exploit our valuable and diminishing fossil fuels, Canada’s government is simultaneously “streamlining” environmental regulations and review processes, cutting scientific staff and departments and limiting public debate on projects that could irreparably damage our rich natural heritage. Some provinces are attempting to water down hard-won environmental laws, like endangered species legislation, that act as a critical hedge against environmental degradation.

      The federal government is also neglecting its legal obligations to protect species at risk. Ecojustice, on behalf of five conservation groups including the David Suzuki Foundation, recently launched a lawsuit to challenge the government’s multi-year delays in producing recovery strategies for species that would be affected by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

      If we don’t slow down and try to look at ways out of the mess, energy issues will continue to increase, like the Hydra of Greek mythology. With pipelines, the main issue is rapid tar sands expansion. But other massive energy projects are also coming down the pipe—from huge dams, like the Site C in northern B.C., to proposed drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Arctic. To what end?

      Not only are fossil fuel companies making record profits, they’re being subsidized by Canadian taxpayers to the tune of $1.4 billion a year. Instead of giving them money, shouldn’t we be compelling them to put at least a small portion of their enormous profits into reducing the massive greenhouse gas emissions they cause?

      A large part of the problem is that we are increasing our fossil-fuelled ambitions at breakneck speed in the absence of a national energy strategy. No one seems to know where we’re going, but the end of the road is looming, and it might lead to a steep drop. We’re already harming precious ecosystems and are ready to put even more at risk without having an idea of the often irreplaceable value they represent. With climate change and its impacts, along with deforestation, pollution and increasing urbanization, we’re condemning millions of people to lives of poor health, desperation and even death.

      Still, we’ve also created much that is good. We have political systems that encourage public debate and access to information. There are politicians and industry leaders who have joined countless citizens, First Nations, and environmental, labour and social-justice organizations to question current policies and actions. We have science, medicine and technology that have allowed many of us to live longer. We need to find ways to reconcile our existence with the limits of our finite planet.

      What Canada really needs in the short term is a national energy strategy—one that goes beyond fracking and tar sands and pipelines to take into account these many other factors, including wiser use of fossil fuels. It must help us make the transition from our wasteful addiction to polluting and ever-diminishing fossil fuels to conservation and renewable energy. Globally, we need to shift from the outdated 20th-century notion of measuring progress with gross domestic product to a development paradigm that takes into account well-being and happiness, and that accounts for nature’s valuable services.

      Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org. For more insights from David Suzuki, please read Everything Under the Sun (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, now available in bookstores and online.

      Comments

      7 Comments

      Astro

      Oct 9, 2012 at 6:43pm

      You are quite correct, we need a national energy plan.We should have had it years ago, even before Trudeau brought it up. For a country not to have an energy plan shows complete lack of foresight. Alberta's premier said we should have one but she just wants a vehicle to move tar sands crude. We need an honest plan that looks out for us in the future, not for the oil companies in the next few years.

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      Wallgrove

      Oct 10, 2012 at 12:15am

      When Suzuki left the board of his foundation did he join Tides? Sounds like he is talking up Tides Energy Vision, or worse yet, maybe he is the new spokesperson for EPIC, who has rolled out the Energy Strategy already, which we are following to a T. One thing we dont need is to end subsidies to the oil behemoths only to replace them and boost them even higher for alternatives. It should be clear that alternatives exist and there are alternate ways of doing things, but leaving it up to oily giants and giving them more of our money to do so is not only insane its suicide.

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      Dan Turner

      Oct 10, 2012 at 4:34am

      We need to get rid of old man David Suzuki and get some fresh people in there, I am sick of his old ideas from the past.

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      Kerosene Lantern

      Oct 12, 2012 at 10:34pm

      So few comments, hhhmmmm.. I wonder why?

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      Trapperjack

      Oct 13, 2012 at 4:41pm

      Danny boy, wow!!! You obviously don't think much of Mr. Suzuki. To each his/her own. But there are lots of younger voices speaking out. You just won't read them in the corporate media. And "old ideas from the past"? I hardly think so. His ideas are more relevant now then ever. You should mellow out. Maybe try to get laid or something. Or maybe that is why you're wound a little tight.

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      FedUpWithTraitors

      Oct 21, 2012 at 3:45pm

      Why don't we just copy Norway's example, oh yes forgot you don't actually want strong oil extraction based economy to fund real innovation and real solutions. Much preferable to make it about politics rather than just moving forward in thinking and action's. Instead our solution's are messy and knee jerk and often even counterproductive, Take super clean emissions requirements in vehicles. We have traded advances in fuel efficiency for cleaner air, So more fuel is burned and more C02 released making oil companies happy. Engines are more expensive and need replacing sooner making auto manufacturers happy, just to make the exhaust slightly cleaner. Incidentally turns out we need that pollution for its global dimming effect.
      Just trying to get across Canadians are fed up with the politics of energy and just want good value and smart reinvestment of what we have.
      Seems we have the choice between right wing traitors that want to sell Canada or deluded socialists that want to give Canada to the UN as a world park sanctuary. Canada belongs to "CANADIANS"!!!! not the UN or China or anybody else!!!!!!

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      More for Less

      Oct 23, 2012 at 11:56am

      It is the driving force that has gotten us in all this mess and now to turn it all about we must begin to see Less as More.

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