By Matt Palmer
There was an article in the Globe and Mail last week by Jennifer Ditchburn about Prime Minister Harper‘s tactics to seize control of the pipleine debate. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/how-harper-seized-control-of-pipeline-and-health-care-debates/article2309141/ )His tactics include branding those opposed to the pipeline as radicals, and then accusing them of being pawns of foreign interests. The problem with both of these tactics is that they are inherently flawed for a number of reasons. It is a form of cynical politics that has great risk of failing. First of all it doesn’t disarm or dishearten the opponents, but instead stokes the fires of discontent, and increases the polarization. I’ve seen some very nasty attacks against the government and industry’s tactics on social media. Secondly, it will only temporarily divert the argument coming from the opposing forces, see my earlier post of the debate between Ethical Oil and Sierra Club. Issues like this have a short news span. Thirdly, it would be foolish to forget how First Nations groups in BC, together with supporters changed the face of logging in Clayoquot Sound. The Northern Gateway has the potential to make that look like a picnic. This time the opposing forces are better funded, better organized, and extremely motivated after their percieved victory against Keystone XL.
The reason why I have been working so hard to get my film made is precisely because I believe we’re not talking about the right things. When I see the diversionary political tactics being used, I get more frustrated. There is a lack of undertsanding of how the global energy system works, how it is all interconnected, and how, for example, electricity production is separate from how we use oil. 95% of global transpotation runs on oil or fossil fuels. Now that mix will need to change over time, and how fast we can actually do that will help in our quest to reduce CO2 emissions. But, there are huge challenges with transitioning fuel systems from fossil fuels to say electric. Battery systems are a big holdback, but even in solving that problem we will still face a decades long project of replacing gasoline engines, and fueling stations. We need to do these things, but understanding the scale of the issue is important. It is important to think about the impacts and the amount of natural resources required to make the change from gasoline engines to electric. for example But, how do we help society understand when there is a lack of desire to even talk realistically, and pragamatically about the problems from our leadership?
Prime Minister Harper’s tactics give great fodder to the other side to attack. The other problem is that people see through the diversion, and they will begin to ask – if this project is in our interests, why are you diverting us from talking about the potential risks? Oil sands development and pipelines should be decided on their merits and on our current reality. We should not be afraid to face the positive and negative consequences or risks of our decisions. I apply this critique not only to the tactics of the government, and energy industry, but also to the environmental organizations and other groups that are against these projects.
Here is a great satical response, from the great Rick Mercer, to the stance taken by the government.