Stasis and Change in Left-Wing Politics and the Environment

Politics Blog Nosh Magazine Originally Published on Dr. J and Mr. K
first appeared on Blog Nosh Magazine on June 30, 2008

The discussion in my last post about how the political left advocates change of every sort yet appears terrified of any change in the environment – or has adopted such a pose, at any rate – left the environmental portion for another day.
The quick and easy hit about refusing to “embrace change” in this one important area struck me as pointing to an important idea. Why do certain people think the environment should remain exactly as it was, when nature continually provides evidence of its (or, as another era would have put it, “her”) ability to produce unpredictable events and inflict cataclysm at every turn?

Some conservatives attempt to explain the fundamental weirdness of so many liberal or progressive policy prescriptions – especially on the environment – as flowing from the increasing disconnect of urban residents from the natural world. That seems to have merit. But this view is undermined by two things: first is the ubiquity of information media that bring nature’s acts – tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes killing tens of thousands – into the home or office, second is the burgeoning popularity of recreation out in the natural world, made possible by the very mass prosperity and personal mobility the left opposes. Nature’s real nature is on display before you, if you’re willing to look. Many appear unwilling.

One example in this vein would be the manic environmental controls imposed on mining or other resource companies when conducting previously innocuous activities such as bridging a stream. Nowadays such supporting projects often impose years of study and regulatory process over fears of erosion and the allegedly ruinous effects on fish and their habitat. Imperial Oil’s Kearl oil sands project was recently thrown off the rails over a water-related issue of this sort. Meanwhile a few days of spring rains send our local rivers to 10 or 20 times their normal flows. Raging above their banks, the waters strip away thousands (perhaps millions) of tons of topsoil and snap stands of trees like so much matchwood. But hey, at least that’s natural.

(As an aside, funnily enough a few years ago I witnessed fish take up residence among the rip-rap boulders literally as they were being placed to line the banks of my favourite southeast B.C. stream, amid much noise and fury as heavy equipment installed bridge piles.)

The climate is another area where the left fears rather than embraces change. In its attempt to portray past climate as essentially stable, the global warming movement even attempted to write the Little Ice Age out of history, and nearly succeeded.

Conceptually, doesn’t it strike you as strange that a system capable of temperature variations of 30 degrees C within a single day, and 70 degrees C over the course of a year, should be regarded as stable from year to year and century to century?

A global warming believer might reply that diurnal behaviour and intense seasonality are merely a function of the Earth’s rotation, the tilt of its axis and the fact of its elliptical orbit. They don’t rule out a stable overall climate.

Great! A discussion based briefly on actual scientific principles.  So then what about the facts that the Earth wobbles on its axis and glides along a slightly uneven orbit? And that the sun, far from being an undifferentiated blob of superhot plasma, itself produces variations in the forms and intensity of its output. Don’t these things suggest a system that not only is forever changing, but that ought to be regarded as being in flux rather than stasis? The evidence of past climates vastly different from our own is profound. Indeed, if there’s a scientific “consensus” about anything, it’s that the Ice Ages actually took place, and that dinosaurs once walked the High Arctic. But no.  Wherever he or she looks, the postmodern progressive or leftist sees evidence of a harmonious natural world that would remain forever pristine in its unchanging perfection, but for the baleful effects of humanity. Still to come: why this is so.

Liz from Three Bright Stars chose this article from George Koch (Mr. K), a freelance writer who has a B.A. in philosophy and history (University of Alberta), and an M.A. in journalism (University of Western Ontario). His main areas of interest are politics, business/economics and alpine skiing. Dr. J and Mr. K is a great political blog to add to your reading list because it features cogent writing on current politics – and other topics. Also, the bloggers are Albertans – an Liz can’t resist a great Albertan!

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One Comment to “Stasis and Change in Left-Wing Politics and the Environment”

  1. hoho smurf says:

    This article is very poorly written. I could barely make out what the point was the author was trying to make. Please don’t publish them again on Blog Nosh. It’s awful.