The world is experiencing a climate catastrophe, and humanity is at risk of bursting under all the pressure. What was already known about our planetary crisis is becoming more significant, and what was once overlooked is now at the fore. From using more oil per year than the amount of oil discovered per year since the 1980s, to rapid food and water shortages, excessive energy consumption, overpopulation, pollution, and the pervasive conundrum of climate change, the route to collapse appears to be a one-way trip. Industrialization and environmental consequences have rocketed in tandem, and the future of our species—and our home—is at stake.
Yet, in the wake of countless warnings about the inevitable demise of our planet, environmental concerns and actions have been of increasing salience. Concern for the planet has seemingly risen from its grave and found a new home on the political agenda. Leaders from around the world have taken steps to tackling the issues that threaten Earth’s habitability. Take our very own Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for instance, who recently vowed to “put a price on pollution” and ban single-use plastics as early as 2021 (Coletta, 2019), or the European Union climate action plan which oaths that 20% of total energy consumption will come from renewable energy sources (“EU Climate Action,” 2019). Better yet, the ubiquitous Paris Agreement—which pledges to “bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt its effects” (“The Paris Agreement,” 2018).
It is certainly comforting to read about the global steps being taken to combat these complex issues. But the question lies therein: What happens when power and money get into bed with environmentalism?
An impressive example of political perplexity showcased itself when the Trudeau Cabinet approved the expansion of TransCanada Pipeline less than a week after declaring a climate state of emergency (“Trudeau and Pipeline,” 2019). The proposed pipeline is designed to transport millions of barrels of oil from Alberta oil patch to the British Columbia coastline every day and “while the pipeline has the potential to damage the environment and marine life, it’s in the national interest and could contribute tens of billions of dollars to government coffers and create and sustain thousands of jobs” (“Trudeau and Pipeline,” 2019). Or you get the Trump Administration, which swore to withdraw from the Paris Agreement altogether (should Trump be elected because of the belief that it offered no real benefit to the nation (Wallach, 2019)) after predecessor Barack Obama drove it into compromise in the first place.
At what point do we prioritize the economy over the planet? What good is the economy if there is no planet? Let us discuss a similar Catch-22 in all its glory: If we keep using oil, the planet will collapse; but, if we stop using oil, the economy (and thus the planet) will still collapse. Powerful corporate lobbying always seems to find politicians’ ears. In any case, the argument that money is not what makes the world go around would be a fantastically difficult one to defend. The question of how we negotiate politics and environmentalism is essential because clearly, they are not mutually exclusive. Widespread international cooperation is crucial, but when will the public outcry drown out the economic issues? We cannot keep teeter-tottering between saving our money and saving ourselves.
EU: Anonymous. (2017, February 16). EU climate action. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/clima/citizens/eu_en
The Paris Agreement. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
Trudeau and pipeline: Trudeau cabinet approves Trans Mountain expansion project | CBC News. (2019, June 19). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tasker-trans-mountain-trudeau-cabinet-decision-1.5180269
Trudeau: Coletta, A. (2019, June 10). Trudeau announces Canadian ban on 'harmful' single-use plastics. Retrieved from https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/trudeau-announces-canadian-ban-on-harmful-single-use-plastics/2019/06/10/54000420-8bb6-11e9-adf3-f70f78c156e8_story.html
Wallach, P. A. (2019, March 29). Where does US climate policy stand in 2019? Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/2019/03/22/where-does-u-s-climate-policy-stand-in-2019/