George and me

Chris and Mardi Tindal with George Monbiot in Toronto. To the left of the frame, John Ralston Saul and R.H. Thompson may have gotten a bit shoved out of the way.
Chris Tindal and Mardi Tindal with George Monbiot in Toronto. To the left of the frame, John Ralston Saul and R.H. Thompson may have gotten a bit shoved out of the way.

I went to hear George Monbiot speak on Saturday in Toronto, and was excited to see that he was there in person. Monbiot is one of the best (and best-known) climate change journalists in the world. A few years ago he swore off flying because of its impact on our planet, and since then has made most of his appearances via video conference. He is physically in Canada this week, however, because our “government’s behaviour in the (UN climate) talks is so destructive and the development of the oil sands is so damaging to global efforts to prevent climate breakdown” that he felt compelled to pay us a visit.

Monbiot’s message for us is blunt. He emphasizes that he really likes the Canadians he’s met and that he finds us to be very sensible, but that “the distance between ordinary Canadians and those who define your reputation on an international stage is an enormous gulf.” Our government’s actions are causing so much “shock and revulsion” internationally that “Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice threaten to do as much damage to your international standing as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did to that of the United States.”

His concern is both regarding our behaviour at UN climate talks and our increasing production of dirty oil. The “oil curse” is not only bad for our ecology, he says, but our democracy. International examples show that dependence on oil “brutalizes a nation…it creates a political class that owes its existence to a primitive and destructive industry.” The process has already started, Monbiot says. “No one can quite believe that this prosperous country is treating its aboriginal peoples like Nigeria treats the Ogoni of the Niger Delta.”

Read his plea to Canadians in today’s Globe and Mail: Please, Canada, clean up your act

ps. I will add that all of this has a flip side. If we do clean up our act and provide leadership, we can, as Stephen Lewis says, quickly restore our reputation on the international stage while simultaneously strengthening our domestic economy by becoming more efficient and competitive. That’s our choice: lead of follow, help or hurt, become renowned or repudiated.

3 thoughts on “George and me

  1. [minor typo in last line, feel free to remove this parenthetical remark after correction]

    But how did he get here, by boat? When one of our sons went off to England to study, a boat he did take. We have not been in a plane since the 70s, since cluing in. Upper atmospheric emissions are far graver than down here below the clouds. There was even some US study about continental temperatures the short period after Sept. 11/01 that suggested the drastic underestimation of the effect of such emissions. Although the historical record is hazy or only by traditional tellings (but never to be discounted as such!), history-changing effects flowed from other upper atmospheric disturbances in the past. In any case, just where is all that carbon to be absorbed up there? In other words, particularly for most air travel is the notion of offsets preposterous.

    I credit Monbiot, too, for a lot of his topical work. But on one closely related matter he fell down terribly: Did anyone notice the barely passable but still notable recent CBC teevee piece on Sept. 11? The evil and shame associated with those events — including as it is connected with what Monbiot et al would like to see curtailed by the unlikely Harper and Prentice –; the evil and shame were it properly dealt with by journalists such as he and politicians Green, would do more to dislodge the recalcitrant nexus around the petroleum industry than flying around to meetings and writing columns. I see from the column that he felt it appropriate to fly — fine. He writes of ugly political repercussion — just so. But what keeps him from joining the dots all the way, by adding the deepest politically manipulative dimension of all, as it ties in $ & oil & hegemony and, as exemplary Christian David Ray Griffin would have it, satanic forces (Jewish tradition has more subtle names for it, but that’ll do; the UCC Moderator must know of Griffin as major process theologian, no?), such as were all wrapped up in the Sept. 11 story Monbiot failed terribly on?

    For some serious stuff in a Green Party venue, see my contributions throughout webpages and (esp. later comments there). The CBC thing was youtubed and can be seen probably from The Fifth Estate site itself but I saw it here, . As usual, partly why I almost never watch teevee, the video added next to nothing to the audio, other than possibly useful glances at participants’ faces. And it isn’t bad to see Tindals smiling with Monbiot.

  2. Oh, isn’t that cute!

    (I could say more re: Wesley-Knox United Church, London, Ont. – Elizabeth May- Nazis-George Monbiot)…

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