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It’s hard to change everything

in Labour Pains by

In the week following the release of her newest tome This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, I saw Naomi Klein’s face everywhere. Pontificating on the ills of the global petrochemical status quo, she filled our David Suzuki-inspired plates with refried beans. Methane abound! All hail to the queen of global justice.

And there she was, gone.

Subsumed by ISIS human decimation in Syria, rolling Russian tanks in the Ukraine and George Clooney’s Venetian wedding, Klein’s apocalyptic predictions—her supposed game-changing revelations of shock doctrining—have shuffled their way back down the rabbit hole.

The irony is not lost.

Environmental flavour of the day

Suzuki will tell you that environmentalism and climate change are not preferred flavours. He warned us about the perils of our petrol ways over 20 years ago. He told us then how our freight train could stop and be reversed. Alas, subsumption prevailed and climate change was buried once again.

Despite Rio and Kyoto, global greening seems like a pipe dream; a post-carbon existence appears unimaginable (although the academics are trying!) and collective anti-carbonism is, well, simply impossible. In fact, it’s unwelcome. Environmentalism is not cookie dough. Just ask Stephen Harper — he’s practically eliminated the blizzard and dismantled the drive-through to make way for the Keystone Pipeline.

But back to the book for a minute. Perhaps it is unjust of me to fling words about as though I read it myself. I have not.

Although, I am waiting to board the fuel-sucking jumbo jet that will take me to Ottawa so that I can (fingers crossed) buy a copy from the airport bookstore.

Then again, I could order it online. From a warehouse somewhere in Ontario, my book would board a truck and—yes—the jumbo jet, in order to reach me.

I could just buy an e-reader. But e-readers don’t just appear from the ether. That too would still have to reach me via the truck and the jet. Either way, I could then order the e-book. And, when the e-reader gives out (which it inevitably will), I can just toss it in the northern landfill or ship it out for disposal on a technological garbage barge headed for India.

But never mind, Naomi — it’s OK. I have options.

This irony is not lost on me either.

Motivation for change

As we sit back in the comfort of our heated middle class homes to flick through our offerings of HD satellite TV (swaddled in duvets made in Cambodia), let us pause for an extended moment to think about the motivation to change our course of environmental action in this, our smiling land.

"We need everyone". People's Climate March, St. John's. Sept. 21, 2014. Photo by Jenne Nolan.
“We need everyone”. People’s Climate March, St. John’s. Sept. 21, 2014. Photo by Jenne Nolan.

I would like to posit that here, as with many other places, our reliance upon—and the wealth generated from—oil and gas will trump any real efforts to eliminate its placeholder in the GDP.

Too many jobs are on the “OG” line. Whether it’s rotational work in Fort Mac or rigging in the middle of the Atlantic, our realities are now deeply tangled in carbon roots — the vehicles we drive and the money that put them in the driveway in the first place.

But it is not just economy. It is identity. We may think that the OG is a recent pot of black gold along the yellow brick road. It is not. For us, carbon’s real promise began with our beloved Trans-Canada Highway — Smallwood’s dearly planted seeds of progress. Over 900 kilometres of pressed asphalt from Port aux Basques to St. John’s, and all its tentacles along the way. Electricity, automobiles, mobility, ability. The little province that could — chugging its way toward success and away from reliance on employment insurance.

At the end of the day, that seems like the only indicator that counts. Jobs at any cost. It doesn’t matter if anything is left—pristine waters, Signaling Hills, crimson sunsets, breaching whales—as long as we have jobs.

But it should matter. And that should be the matter. Stop everything else and make this the priority. This is Klein’s point. Perhaps she has also charted a whole new employment regime for the new economy — National Occupational Codes for all the new jobs that will result in changing our minds about charting our futures.

I still have to get the book.


Editor’s note: If you would like to respond to this or any article on TheIndependent.ca, or if you would like to address an issue we haven’t yet covered, we welcome letters to the editor and consider each of them for publication in our Letters section. You can email yours to: justin at theindependent dot ca. Not all letters will be printed, but all will be read.

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