I want to start this week’s post with a story. It’s about a Christmas event but it is not about Christmas. It is about our children and grandchildren to whom we owe an inheritance of a healthy planet—an inheritance WE are failing miserably to provide.
On the weekend before Christmas this year, I attended, with my wife and friends, a most delightful Christmas carol sing-along put on by Courtenay’s St. George’s United Church.
The huge seating capacity of St George’s was nearly full. The songs were selected to be the delightfully playful Christmas songs celebrating winter fun, peace and goodwill among peoples (a quality sadly running on near empty these days). The enthusiasm of the enchanting choir engaged almost everyone in singing cheerfully along. Even an old curmudgeon, like myself, felt drawn–however reluctantly–into the festive spirit of the afternoon.
But what intrigued me was not the beautiful voices of the choir and congregation, nor the incredible skill of the choir director, nor even the melodious music coming from an assortment of musical instrumentalists. What warmed my heart, piqued my interest, stirred my soul with curiosity and even joy was the kids. There was a whole bevy of them(more than a dozen) down front of the hall between the choir and the congregation. They were scurrying back and forth some picking up a card from around the tree, others picking up some small icon or toy and examining it carefully before inquisitively taking it to a parent sitting in the front pew, or with a look of bewildered joy presenting it to another of the children before passing it off and running with joyful abandon back and forth in the space between the congregation and choir—then running up to one of their cohort and stopping short with a look that seemed to say “HI, who are you? I like this running back and forth; do you?” And the two would run back and forth, sometimes skipping. Eventually an adult would call them over with what appeared to be a request to tone down the exuberance. So they would tone down the exuberance—for a short time before skipping off to some new/delightful adventure set to the tune of the singing adults.
Yikes, my heart jumped in my chest like the reformed Scrooge on his first Christmas after the visits of his enlightening ghosts.
These kids were so delightful and innocently happy and so intrigued by all these singing adults and kids running back and forth and discovering the joy of life in shared community.
And then…this disturbing voice crept into my thoughts—like Jacob Marley showing up at Scrooge’s door on Christmas eve with his disturbing message ″‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!‘” But the message that my 2019 ghost brought to consciousness while attending the United Church Christmas sing-a-long was “What kind of a world are you leaving to these beautiful, charming, innocent children?”
Yikes, this disturbing thought about the world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren just came clawing into my consciousness like Jacob Marely’s ghost with his chains busting through Scrooge’s door carrying his haunting message about ″It is required of every man, that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”
I thought of the massively destructive fires sweeping across Australia, and the unprecedented melting of the polar ice, and the rapidly advancing ocean and land temperatures, and the presaging dying off of insects, fish, birds. I thought of the plastic that is turning our oceans into polluted swamps of garbage. Woe (and shame) on us. We inherited this beautiful, life supporting planet and all we can think to do with it is to turn all the resources and healthy living life forms into vast mountains of life destroying garbage! Yikes! What the hell happened? Is not the most fundamental principle of life to nurture and care for one’s young? But we would trade the future of these beautiful children for a chance to leave behind mountains of toxic garbage. Can there be a more poignant assessment of the civilization we have created than the portentous condemnation of teenage climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg—“Shame on you (us).”
I have for sometime told myself that what we need is a few survivable catastrophes so we will all wake up to what we are doing to our Earth (and to our children)and change our ways to live in peace with a healthy planet. But I was wrong. I was way off the mark. Australia is burning up and Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia doesn’t need to do more to limit its production of coal to bring down its contributions to the greenhouse gas which are fueling the fires that rage across the country. It’s only half way through the fire season and an estimated 18.6 million hectares have already gone up in smoke. One billion animals have died in the fires that have consumed 6,000 buildings and taken the lives of 29 citizens. And still Morrison doesn’t see any reason to cut back on the mining of coal for the world’s dirtiest fuel for powering electrical generators.
The intransigence reminds me of the poll in the last Canadian federal election that found Canadians are in favor of a carbon tax – as long as it doesn’t cost them more than $100; and all of that refunded in a tax credit to be spent on other consumer items!
My gosh, can we really look our children in their eyes and tell them we care about their future as long as it doesn’t cost us more than a refunded $100 a year? Can we watch the ocean’s heat and rise leading to massive die offs fish and birds and do nothing to save our planet and ourselves—just because there is a economic gain to be made in fueling vehicles and generating electricity with fossil fuels?
Chuck the carbon tax! It is designed to fail. You can’t tell people you are taking away their ability to pay for fuel without telling them—upfront—what they are getting in return. Clearly economic allocation is the most effective way of getting policy, including healthy planet policy, enacted. In place of a carbon tax we need a Healthy Planet tax that is promoted as essential to a healthy/survivable planet. It shouldn’t be refundable. We need a clear message that a life supporting planet is more valuable than a bunch of plastic stuff. We/citizens/ need to hear that our government’s priority/our economic goal is a healthy planet—a place where our children can thrive; not die out. A Healthy Planet Tax needs to apply to, not just fossil fuel, but to all goods based on their cost to our planet (and their relevance to the well being of our children). To actually contribute to remaking our economy into serving to grow healthy people on a healthy planet, revenue collected from a Healthy Planet Tax would go to energy efficient/planet friendly transportation; it would go to health care; it would go to restoring ecosystems to their life supporting functions; it would fund ways to generate electricity without cooking our atmosphere; our schools would be supported in teaching how to love and care for our planet rather than use it up and poison what we don’t consume. There would be so little money spent on fossil fuels, corporations would have to convert their mandates to serving healthy people on a healthy planet instead of polluting the Earth’s atmosphere, and poisoning the Earth’s peoples while manufacturing mountains of garbage.
Under a Healthy Planet Tax I could smile warmly and assuringly back at the beautiful faces at the front of the church that assume so innocently that we adults really to care about the future we will be leaving to them.