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Have Our Servants Become Our Masters?

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by Larry Powell
There was a time when coal, oil and natural gas served us well; powering our vehicles, heating and cooling our homes, generating our electricity and keeping our industries going.

While they may still be doing all of those things, there's been a huge, even sinister shift over the generations since the industrial revolution of the 19th century.

World populations have skyrocketed, along with our expectations. Our lust for more and more of the things these fossil fuels can give us - electronic gadgets, power boats and quads - has turned into a life-threatening addiction. 
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Conservation and moderation are now dirty words. Consumption is the new religion -- with no thought for tomorrow.  Sadly, even our schools and churches are doing little to counter this kind of mindset! Parents  are even drilling it into their children, at home. 

Make no mistake. Fossil fuels, which once served us well, are no longer our friends.   

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The more of them we burn, the more heat-trapping emissions are produced. These greenhouse gases are rapidly changing the very makeup of the biosphere -- the air upon which we and all other creatures on earth depend, for life itself.

It's been said that, if Earth were the size of a soccer ball, that biosphere would be about the thickness of tissue paper! Yet we treat it as if it is indestructible, relentlessly spewing our filth into it like an open sewer.

As a result, our planet is heating up, spawning terrible storms, wildfires, droughts, flash-floods and rising sea levels due to melting ice-caps and glaciers.

It's gotten so bad, hardly a day goes by any more without news of another terrible event occurring somewhere in the world which can be laid directly at the feet of our addiction to oil and its treacherous cousins, natural gas and coal.

In Canada alone, the awful flooding in Alberta and the tragic and deadly train accident in Quebec recently, are painfully fresh in the minds of many. Surely both are examples of our "fossil fuel demons" coming back to bite us in different ways.

Reliable experts in the field are saying that climate change caused by humans, likely contributed to the flooding.

And it was crude oil, now being moved in increasingly massive amounts around the globe, that ignited when a runaway train rolled into that quiet little Quebec town on a fateful night this summer, bringing with it such terrible loss of innocent life and human misery.

Despite all of this, our leaders, whether they be politicians, journalists or industry moguls, are now all a-flutter over a proposal for a new, west-to-east pipeline. Apparently spawned during a corporate wet dream in the boardrooms of the energy giant, Trans-Canada Pipelines, the line (if approved) would move sludgy, sticky, corrosive, climate-destroying tar from Alberta to Atlantic Canada.

In so doing, it would travel much of the way through existing pipe which now carries natural gas. (Natural gas destroys the climate, too, just not quite as well.) 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Harper, Canada's premiere "fossil fool," is four-square behind this reckless, misguided project. "It's safer to move oil by pipe than by rail," he pontificates, shamelessly using the recent Quebec tragedy to his own political ends.

Which mode of travel is safer, of course, is not the point. It is, rather, how can we stop being the fossil fuel junkies we have become and find new energy sources which don't destroy us all?
Sadly, Mr. Harper displayed his willful ignorance of the basic science of climate change when commenting on this year's  terrible flooding in Alberta.

"I never imagined we could have a flood of this magnitude in this part of the country," he declared, preposterously!

Apparently you can be the leader of a   great nation and still be oblivious to the warnings which top climate scientists from around the world have been sounding for decades. On second thought , it was not surprising coming as it did from one who thinks climate change is a "socialist plot!"  And not surprising either, given that this is a Prime Minister actively muzzling climate scientists if they speak the truth on the matter.

Meanwhile, Trans-Canada's slick bigwigs are promising that "environmental" concerns will be taken into consideration in the new pipeline project, as if they had a clue as to what that word even means, let alone cared. And "environmentalists" are once again being treated as quaint creatures who need to be patted on the head, then dismissed.  What fails to get mentioned is, it is the environmental movement which has science on its side, not the vested, profit-driven interests of Big Oil.

It was James Hansen of NASA, the world's foremost climatologist, who warned a year or two ago, it would be "game over for the climate" if the XL pipeline is built to carry tar from Alberta to the Texas coast.   So, are we to somehow believe that this latest brainwave (the west-east pipeline) will somehow be less harmful if it as aligned across Canada, rather than south into the 'States? Give me a break!  

Even I am not suggesting we can go "cold turkey" on fossil fuels. Junkies, of course, need time to "taper off" from their habits. But surely we need to be seeking alternatives like wind and solar way more aggressively than we are. (And, don't forget,  despite earlier promises to remove them,  the Harperites have kept those disgraceful subsidies to the "poor, impoverished" oil industry in place, costing hard-working Canadians well over a billion a year in tax dollars!)

Trouble is, zealots like Mr. Harper, other members of his "team" like my own MP, Robert Sopuck and their friends in Big Oil, don't want that. They want it all. And, i f that means the degradation or even destruction of Canada's precious wild places which so many of us hold dear -- not to mention the planet itself - then, so be it!


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Larry is a journalist, blogger and activist concerned about the state of the planet.

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