To the Editor:
Many of the actions being taken today by environmentally conscientious people are more or less attempts to treat a symptom of the big problem. And perhaps a piecemeal process is the most effective way to get the majority to take part in the process. But I think that it is opportune to draw Canadians’ attention to a matter of grave concern and suggest to you that rallying to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and thereby prevent the almost certain spills of bitumen and solvent from the pipeline or the tankers carrying it to overseas markets is, more or less, treating a symptom.
Here is the prologue:
Our solar system was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and our sun is expected to expand into a red giant in another four billion years, thereby annihilating life on Earth. So we can plan ahead for four billion years. It took about 3.5 billion of the 4.5 billion years for astronomical, geological and some biological events and processes for substances like sodium, chlorine, phosphorus, potassium, nitrates, heavy and light metals, and carbon-based gasses, liquids and solids to be separated and concentrated, then sequestered in large deposits beneath the surface of our planet and, thereby, about one billion years ago, making our atmosphere, oceans and land suitable for the development of oxygen-breathing animals.
Here is the big problem:
Presently, we are mining, drilling, pumping and fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in order to unsequester these substances, use them to supply energy, grow food, manufacture machines and devices, and give us a better quality of life and great economy. However, in the language of economists, there is a significant negative externality, which is: in unsequestering these substances, we return them to the air, water and land where they were in the beginning, and if we release enough, our environment will no longer be suitable for oxygen breathing animals. That won’t give us a better quality of life for the remaining four billion years.
We need to get in balance with the nature of our planet, find the limit to our growth where we can recycle naturally, keep the air and water clean, use solar energy to its maximum potential, recognize everyone as equal and avoid having the four horsemen of the apocalypse make our decisions for us. That will give us a great economy without a negative externality.