Environmental politics over the long term

According to George Monbiot,

While prime ministers in Italy and eastern Europe are demanding a bonfire of environmental measures in order to save the economy, in the UK politicians from all the major parties have made the connection between environmental destruction and economic meltdown.

At any rate, both the UK and Europe are thinking longer-term than the disgracefully dawdling North America. The most disappointing result of the recent Canadian election was the public’s apparent distaste for the Liberals’ Green Shift, which would have introduced some policy foresight into the perennially myopic Canadian politics scene.

Monbiot proposes an interesting solution for overcoming the inherent tendency of politics to focus on problems that, however, trivial in the long term, affect the current electorate.

What can be done about political short-termism? With the environmental thinker Matthew Prescott, I’ve hatched what might be a partial solution. We propose a new parliamentary body – the 100-year committee – whose purpose would be to assess the likely impacts of current policy in 10, 20, 50 and 100 years’ time. Like any other select committee, it would gather evidence, publish reports and make recommendations to the government. It would differ only in that it had no interest in the current political cycle. Its maximum timeframe would be roughly the residence time of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Not a bad role for a senate-like body which, in Hannah Arendt’s analysis, has the role of maintaining the origins or foundations of a body politic. As a group that is at least formally outside the traditional, short-term political cycle, such a body would be suited to providing a longer-term vision that is increasingly necessary as societies broaden and deepen the extent to which they act on the environment.

Launch of ReallyNotALeader.ca

I began work on this site late last week, and am launching it today, with a bit less content than I had hoped, but with a decent start.

Stephen Harper is REALLY not a leader
Stephen Harper is REALLY not a leader

ReallyNotALeader aims to make plain the many ways in which Stephen Harper fails to live up to his own rhetoric: the central premise of this blog is that Canada deserves better a better leader than Stephen Harper. With this blog, I hope contribute to the efforts of many Canadians to raise the bar of professionalism for political debate and campaigning.

Reason 3 not to vote for the Conservatives: who cuts literacy funding?

We could be doing worse, but research does show that Canada has a literacy problem.

So, if that’s the case, why would the Conservatives cut $17.7 million CDN from adult and family literacy programs? This is old news, but it made no sense then, and it still doesn’t. Adult literacy has a very direct and measure impact on the economy. From ABC Canada:

A rise of one per cent in literacy scores relative to the international average is associated with an eventual 2.5-per-cent relative rise in labour productivity and a 1.5-per-cent rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person, according to Statistics Canada.

So as Canada is possibly heading into recession, might it not make sense to restore some of this funding to its previous level, if not increase it? Unfortunately, the Conservatives have been fairly consistent in their disregard for evidence-informed policy and common sense.

Reason 2 not to elect the Conservatives: stupid and destructive climate change policy

After they were done pointing the finger at Paul Martin’s LIberals for dropping the ball on Kyoto (which, though a reasonable accusation, is ridiculous coming from Stephen Harper or John Baird) and had finally caved to public pressure on addressing environmental issues and human-caused global warming, the Conservatives have come out with a set of policies and proposals to address climate change that can only be described as stupid, myopic and dangerous.

As the Sierra Club of Canada’s recently published Voter’s Guide to the Climate Crisis Election makes plain, the Conservatives are flying in the face of science. Ignoring the IPCC recommendation that “developed countries reduce their emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020”, the Conservatives instead aim to achieve 3% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Don’t bother looking for the science behind these numbers — there isn’t any. The Conservatives are wilfully ignoring the consensus of the world’s most qualified experts and playing fast and loose with the future of Canada and the planet at large. And, I have to ask, since when is it a strategy of a right-wing party to advocate for more regulation? I thought Government was supposed to let the markets sort things out for themselves, as would be more the case in, say, a carbon tax like that proposed by the Liberals and Greens.

McDonough and Braumgart write in Cradle to Cradle, “negligence starts tomorrow.” Well, for the federal Conservatives and Canada at large, negligence has already begun, and will continue on October 14th if we vote them in again.

Reason 1 not to elect the Conservatives: trashy campaigning

As this Reuters article notes, Stephen Harper today found himself apologizing for a Conservative attack-ad website (notaleader.ca – I’m not going to give it my link juice) on Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion in which a Puffin flies behind Dion and poops on his shoulder (in the revised version, the puffin just flies behind Dion).

Way to raise the professionalism bar, guys.

Seriously though, does the Conservative campaign against Dion not remind anyone else of the Republicans’ “flip-flop” attack campaign against John Kerry that (successfully) distracted the stupefied public from real issues? I can’t be the only one who’s worried by the Americanization of Canadian politics that is leaching in through the Conservative party.