Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The new pollution

The Earth Day celebration spills over into today's morning paper.

Typically, the Vancouver Sun sends us a confusing message, from a reassuring "corporate embrace" of Earth Day in the United States to a grim, rub-our-noses-in-it reminder that we Canadians are the world's No. 3 polluter.

And what is the new pollution that earns us the Bronze Medal of shame? Carbon dioxide.

Who would have thought that CO2 would be called a "pollutant"?

The fact is, we have licked many of the conventional pollutants that worried us in the 19th and 20th Centuries. We solved those problems by exporting our industrial production.

It's someone else's community that suffers environmental and health impacts to produce the low-cost goods that we bring home and stuff in our garages and garbage cans.

Instead of supplying ourselves with daily necessities, we supply the world with fossil fuels. Most of our CO2 pollution, according to the StatsCan report cited in the Sun, comes from "the production of fossil fuels... for export." We are increasing our CO2 pollution this way faster than any other industrialized country.

And the rest of the world suffers twice: first from the direct impacts of supplying us with our daily necessities, and then from the global impacts of climate change caused by our supplying them with fossil energy.

The StatsCan report says we are each responsible for 23 tonnes of CO2 per year. I bet they didn't count "embodied carbon."

Embodied carbon is the CO2 pollution emitted on our behalf by those faraway factories that supply us with our daily necessities. Bill Rees calls it appropriated carrying capacity.

When we burn or bury our trash, we not only dump the physical carbon content of our waste directly into the atmosphere, we simultaneously stimulate those factories to stoke the furnaces to send in the next containerload, creating, of course, secure markets for our fossil fuel exports....and continuing the cycle of waste.

We can do better, but only if we do things differently.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Are you saying that the new pollution is all the stuff that we buy, but don't really need? The stuff that is clogging our landfills and (if we start incinerating) destroying our air.

Actually, I don't think you are, but it is another way to look at things.