LETTER: Tunnel vision regarding environmental degradation

‘It’s like we’re living in a nanny state, always telling me what I can’t do.’

To the editor:

“It’s harder to rally people around a threat to humanity than one that endangers their own backyard.”

I spotted this profound yet disturbing truism, albeit perhaps logically Darwinian, in an essay in the July/August issue of The Walrus.

Especially with so much of B.C. burning, it highlights for me the apparently prevailing penny-wise-pound-foolish widespread human mentality when it comes to the serious man-made pollution, though immediately free from our societal view, that’s toxifying our life-sustaining natural environment and worsening an already dire global warming reality.

Perhaps it helps explain the increase in per capita automobile ownership (including SUVs) in Canada last year, compared to 2016, especially in B.C.; it’s something that UBC’s Sauder School of Business economist Werner Antweiler describes as “a disconcerting picture,” considering serious global greenhouse gas concerns. “The number of vehicles has grown faster than the number of people in the country.”

I often wonder whether that unfortunate aspect of our general nature that permits us our tunnel vision regarding environmental degradation, will be our eventual undoing?

Maybe due to (Spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general oblivious mentality as though even the largest contamination event can somehow be safely absorbed into the environment—air, sea, and land.

Indeed, it’s safe to assume that, had the (central B.C., Aug. 4, 2014) Mount Polley copper and gold mine massive tailings pond release of a slurry of years’ worth of waste into Polley Lake—yet for which there were no B.C.-environmental-law charges laid against Imperial Metals regardless of its clear recklessness—been located in plain sight just off of, say, Vancouver’s scenic attraction Stanley Park instead of in a region of natural wilderness, it would not have received the relatively minute mainstream news-media coverage it has to date.

Could it be the same mentality that, when randomly asked by a Global News TV reporter (a few months back) what he thought of government restrictions on disposable plastic straws, compelled a young male Vancouverite wearing sunglasses to retort, “It’s like we’re living in a nanny state, always telling me what I can’t do.”

Astonished by his utter shortsightedness, I recall wondering whether he was the same sort of individual who had a sufficiently grand sense of material entitlement—a.k.a. the “Don’t tell me what I can’t waste or do, dude!” attitude—to permit himself to now deliberately dump a whole box of unused straws into the Georgia Strait, just to stick it to the authorities who’d dare tell him that enough is enough with our gratuitous massive dumps of plastics into our oceans.

And, of course, the condition is allowed to fester via a mainstream news-media, being socially liberal and/or economically libertarian, that seems to not have a problem with such childish oh-well perspectives being published.

As a species—one largely with highly-stressed debt-burdened labourers unable to sustain the energy to worry about such things immediately unseen—we really can be so heavily preoccupied with our own individual admittedly overwhelming little worlds, that we’ll miss the biggest of pictures.

Frank Sterle Jr

White Rock

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