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OPINION: The problem is that I'm no better than Doug

We do this in defiance of self-preservation.
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michael_atkins
Michael Atkins, president, Northern Ontario Business

I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, an environmentalist.

I'm probably like you. I see what is going on around us and believe we need to act decisively on the environment, but not necessarily in my backyard. 

Although I've owned a hybrid SUV for many years, I recently bought a van with no such environmental pedigree. I committed to buying the hybrid in the class but ended up getting a more traditional van for reasons peculiar to my aging body which had difficulty opening and closing the doors of the hybrid. As it happened, I gave up a substantial government subsidy in Ontario for the hybrid (no longer available in Ontario) and therefore paid a premium to pollute. I hated doing it but not so much that it stopped me from buying the van. I clearly loved my lifestyle more.

It's a long story. I bought a three-wheel recumbent bike, and the only way to store it and move it around was in a van. Nothing was going to get in the way of me getting the bike or the vehicle to make it transportable. 

I justified all of this environmental terrorism on my part because in recent years I've stopped playing squash, skiing or sailing, and the bike is the last way for me to break a sweat or go too fast down a hill and pretend I'm still at least immature.

I have another shocking admission. 

I love Evian water. It just tastes better to me than almost any other drink now that I limit the Glenmorangie, Canadian Club, Cabernet, Maker’s Mark, and Stoli. But I digress.

The crime in the latter is the plastic. This is a topic my daughter Jackie never tires of lecturing me about. The truth is that plastic is invading and degrading our environment worldwide. We should be limiting it urgently. It is choking our oceans. If Evian water doesn't come in a glass bottle soon, I will have to go back to distilled products. This would not be good for me but a plus for the ocean.

I do belong to a reasonably earnest environmental investment group. Our goal has been to help make things better and if we can make a little money along the way that would be great as well. I've always looked at it as my personal cap-and-trade program. 

I'm not sure it buys me absolution for the Evian water, but it has at least served as a little personal greenwashing. We have invested in sustainable food products, a solar power network in Ontario, innovation in the oil industry limiting the amount of water required in certain processes in the oilsands, and an environmentally friendly coffee cup which eliminates the plastic tops you find in places like Tim Hortons. 

We haven't made any money, but overall we haven't lost any either, and the cup could be a homerun for the environment and us, although it remains a longshot.

Our only hope to avoid an environmental catastrophe is technology and regulation, including pricing. 

The complete and absolute abdication of our new provincial government from any kind of environmental stewardship is startling even in these dystopian times. The fact that they are so militant on the matter of eliminating moderately impactful environmental policies (cap and trade) is breathtaking. 

They are now in charge of an almost bankrupt jurisdiction (no fault of theirs), and they are prepared to risk billions of dollars in penalties and potential revenues to stamp out the slightest entrails of environmental leadership. It is soul-destroying. 

And so we careen from a well-intentioned incompetent alternative energy strategy to nothing. Zero. Worse than zero. We are going to lower gas prices to encourage larger gas-guzzling (say pickups and vans) vehicles. We are marching defiantly in the opposite direction of more than 150 countries around the world who acknowledge the calamity in front of us.

We do this in defiance of self-preservation. We see the weather changes, the hurricanes, the storm bursts like the one that ripped through Sudbury in early July, the extraordinary hundred-year flooding events, and the rising oceans. 

It is basically insane. I claim no moral superiority, just panic for the people. The truth is unavoidable.




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