As the story goes, it is believed that Nero played the fiddle while watching Rome burn in 64 A.D. The meaning of this adage is that one occupies oneself with unimportant matters and neglects to pay attention to priorities during crisis.

The scientific community has long proven that climate change is due mainly to human activities. Yet, while agreeing with the science, politicians make cosmetic changes and choose to conduct a “business as usual” philosophy.

We are witnessing the control of corporations over our governments. We appear surprised that our governments support new pipelines and old ways of supplying energy. We keep hearing that the development of fossil energies can be done at the same time as respecting the environment and meeting our CO2 emissions target.

On the other hand, international researchers advise that the notion of increasing our development of fossil fuels is incompatible with reducing our CO2 targeted emissions. The continuation of growth under the current economic system and the protection of the environment will not work. Talking sustainable development while pursuing continued growth under the current way of thinking is simply not possible on a short and long-term basis. The challenge is how to take the right trajectory.

A first step on a clearer path forward would be to recognize that we are on the wrong trajectory. To seriously address the effects of climate change, we have to re-design our lifestyle for permanency on the planet. We also have to seriously consider a new economic system that is fair and equitable for all. We will not reach our desired goal by technology alone. Solving climate change requires a better distribution of wealth throughout our societies, and a belief that social justice is acceptable and reachable, and that that poverty and high unemployment are not acceptable.

Solving climate change requires a better distribution of wealth throughout our societies, and a belief that social justice is acceptable and reachable, and that that poverty and high unemployment are not acceptable.

Another step is to think in terms of impact on the future seven or more generations and of putting people at the centre of government’s policies and decisions. Right now, corporations and industries occupy that place of choice. Placing people first is to decide in a different way.

What are we going to tell future generations who ask us what we did to solve global warming? We should not answer that we had the technology, had the knowledge, the intellectual capacity, but that greed and arrogance were in the way. A new vision is needed quickly. This issue is too important to let politicians alone decide the outcomes. Let us also remember that politicians are a renewable resource.

We must aim at a society with no expansion of the tar sands and pipelines. Closer to home, Newfoundland and Labrador must establish a legislated ban on hydraulic fracturing and opt not to issue exploration licenses for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

We cannot be transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable energies, meet our CO2 emissions targets, develop the tar sands, tell the folks they have to change their lifestyle, keep letting corporations run governments, distribute subsidies to the oil industry and grow the economy with the same method of operation. We have to make up our minds and make sense. We ought to make some serious adjustments. Something has to change if we want to achieve our collective goal established in 2015 at the COP21 climate summit in Paris.

One push for change comes from the Smart Prosperity Initiative launched in 2016 by more than 100 Canadian leaders from business, think tanks, labour, Indigenous Peoples, youth, and NGO communities. In a letter to the prime minister and premiers they support a low-carbon economy, clean growth and bold action on climate change and are urging governments that “putting a price on carbon, to reflect the real environmental cost, is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, stimulate innovation and drive energy efficiency.”

We owe our current lifestyle to fossil fuels. The allowed us to have an industrial revolution and change the world is many positive ways. This worked for a while, providing us with all the material things we enjoy today. But now we realize that the costs of getting and using fossil fuels are too high for our societies.

Climate change is an outcome of the Industrial revolution. Let’s implement the new vision. We can show the new generations that we can, and will, seriously engage in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energies. After all, the reason we came out of the Stone Age is not because we ran out of rocks, it was because we had found a better option.

With a new vision, by embracing the new value-based economic system, we will not be watching Rome burn while we play the fiddle.

Raymond Cusson / Shoal Brook, Gros Morne