Share | | More

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's the economy, stupid

Today's blog post comes from Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society.

The demands of this job keep me too much in Vancouver...but today, I will celebrate Oceans Day with the community of Sointula (“Harmony”) on Malcolm Island.  Maybe today, the orcas will finally let me see them again.

This is the picture I wish I'd taken...
After over eighteen years on BC's coast, much of it spent in boats and float planes visiting places where whales are usually to be found, I have logged but a single orca sighting.  That one, though, was spectacular:  you can only imagine how wide my eyes were when I saw the first fin rising directly behind our sailboat, off Robson Bight in Johnstone Strait. And my delight when, seconds later, I discovered we were in the midst of a passing pod and the air was filled with the sound of them blowing. The single, wobbly fin photo I managed to snap is a poor tribute to the moment but it doesn't matter:  I'm sure I'll never forget it.

I've been trying for over an hour now to write something full of the kind of hope and joy and wonder that an encounter with an orca can engender.  Something really positive about the future of the oceans (herring return to Squamish!), the critical role oceans play in maintaining the health of the planet ('every second breath you take', etc.) or maybe about the mystery of the depths and the wonders yet to be discovered.  But something keeps stalling me mid-paragraph: a voice in the back of my head, saying, "It's the economy, stupid."

It is, purportedly, for the good of the economy that the BC coastline is to be put at unprecedented risk from oil pollution and tanker traffic.  Figuring out how to resist that fate has absorbed a lot of my time of late. What's to become of the Canadian economy, what with the EU in meltdown and the US floundering and China buying us wholesale?  Isn't it just prudent to grab what we can while we can--sell off those tarsands while China's appetite for carbon is still huge and their pockets deep?

What is giving me hope today is the number of economists, both here and abroad, who are saying, "No" to that proposition.  If the Harper Conservatives hopes to cement their majority position by delivering sound economic performance, this is not the route to follow.  Deliberately inflating the price of oil by selling tarsands at a premium is already costing jobs in the manufacturing sector and it's easy to see how hard it will be for Canadian industry and agriculture to remain competitive with the US if our oil prices and inflation continue to rise.

Canada's curse--to be ever the 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'-- does not lead to a stable economy, particularly when the price of the commodity to which you've hitched your wagon fluctuates as dramatically and unpredictably as the price of oil.

I also find hope in the fact that the words, “Dutch disease” seem to be on everyone’s lips these day.  When I was a kid that was something elm trees got.  Today, most people on the street could at least identify it as an economic disease and probably know that Canada is suffering its early symptoms:  inflation, declines in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, job loss.  Alberta booms, the rest of us bust.  Payback for the National Energy Policy.  The word is out:  no matter how good the tarsands deal may seem to be for Alberta right now, it’s not doing the rest of us a particle of good.

I doubt that there is anything that could reduce the federal Conservatives to a regional rump faster than blowing it on the economy.

Re-enter joy, hope and wonder:  could Mr. Harper’s government really hoist itself on its own petard?

This week is Oceans Week! Be a SeaHugger! Show your love for the oceans simply by supporting Living Oceans Society's work – Donate today!

1 comment:

  1. Hey,
    I’m impressed!! Really informative blog post here my friend I just wanted to comment & say keep up the quality work.