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Take me to a leader


In his book, COLLAPSE, geographer Jared Diamond takes a historical tour of human societies that collapsed and disappeared under the weight of environmental crises (Greenlandic Norse, Easter Island Polynesians, the Anasazi culture, the Mayans), and those that successfully weathered the storm (Icelandic Norse, Highlanders of New Guinea).

Successful societies, says Diamond, have responsible elites, who put the long-term health of society over amassing still more short-term fortune for themselves.

Alas, our elites lack that quality.

The tragedy is even greater because we're fully aware of what climate-change horrors await us. We know that it's how we organize our industrial society that is causing the problem in the first place. And we even know what we need to do to avert disaster.

But our elites—our politicians, our media, our businesspeople—don't give a damn. They look after their narrow self-interests, condemning us all to history's waste bin. "Leadership" is just another two-bit marketing ploy, as empty in meaning as any other advertising jingle.

We saw the politicians in criminal inaction at last week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Australia, as George Bush, John Howard and Stephen Harper fell over themselves issuing meaningless "aspirational" targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

But there's plenty of blame to spread around, even here in Nova Scotia.

The province talks a good game. Next week, the departments of environment and economic development are hosting The Power of Green conference at the Marriott Harbourfront, featuring stars of the environmental movement: Gloria Flora, Judy Wicks and John Nyboer, among others. It's worth attending (if you can scavenge up the $650 admission), as these folks will say sensible things about how to deal with global warming.

They're here nominally to talk about the province's feel-good GHG-reduction initiative, the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, passed last spring.

But it's only talk, because, like the APEC announcements, the act named lofty targets but lacked legislation to achieve them.

In June, Brendan Haley, energy co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, held a press conference to announce the publication of "Pathways to Sustainable Energy Prosperity in Nova Scotia," a detailed explanation of how, exactly, the province could meet its announced environmental goals.

It explains how pursuing renewable energy production and GHG reduction policies would also help the economy of Nova Scotia. (Left unsaid was that elite institutions like Nova Scotia Power would have to face short-term losses in profits.)

Haley, in other words, is calling the provincial government on its two-bit sloganeering bullshit.

But none of the TV stations or local dailies bothered to send a reporter, and, so far as I can determine, none of the local media outlets have anyone assigned to follow the province's environment and energy policies. The official opposition is also indifferent, apparently. There's so little comment I'd have to look up who the NDP environmental critic is.

What this indifference gets us is business as usual: the provincial Utility and Review Board, which regulates utility planning, is in the process of approving Nova Scotia's long-range plans. The projected decrease in GHG emissions for the next 22 years? Zero. It's even more obvious that our current batch of "leaders" will do nothing about the crisis facing us. With elites like these, we're as doomed as >those Greenlandic Norse.

I've posted "Pathways", as well as other relevant documents, on my blog at, so readers can learn more about them. It's obvious none of the so-called "responsible media" will tell you about them.

It's even more obvious that our current batch of "leaders" will do nothing about the environmental crisis facing us. With elites like these, we're as doomed as those Greenlandic Norse.

Tim posted Pathways and other relevant documents at You can also email him at

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