Writing to the Editor

Here in Kelowna, the two local newspapers are the Courier and the Capital News. For the last couple of months there has been a steady stream of letters to the editor kicking the whole climate change debate back and forth. Many of the arguments have centered around CO2, how much we contribute to the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and if this makes any difference to the climate of the planet.  While wanting to rebut these letters, I have so far refrained.  Instead, I thought maybe we should look at it a little differently. I therefore composed the letter I have posted below.  Hopefully it will be printed, but if not, it is still here for all to read.

So, what are your thoughts about this?  Is it a relevant analogy?  What does this have to do with photography??  Quite a lot really. I see my photography as a way to record the way we visualize the landscape we live in.  Therefore, our societal perception of things like climate change speak volumes about the way we see ourselves in that landscape.

Happy reading!

On reading recent letters to the editor, I have been tempted to wade into the climate change debate and add my two cents. However, I felt that a continual stream of counter points about carbon dioxide would not really advance things; we would simply continue to argue the point ad nauseam. So, to come from a different perspective, lets consider this analogy.

Imagine you are a shareholder in the world’s oldest and most successful corporation. The company, and your share value, has been steadily growing for as long as you can remember. The dividends from your stock provide a significant part of your livelihood, you live comfortably because of it and you think this company can do no wrong. One day, a document is leaked from the corporate headquarters that suggests the Board and CEO have been making some poor decisions. While the corporation has enormous cash reserves, they have been overspending on luxuries and operating at a deficit for some time. Not only that, the Board has been committing to long-term contracts that will continually increase the deficit, steadily driving the company into the ground.

When challenged on these issues, the CEO suggested the accusations were made up by the companies competitors, and then later tried to suggest that the math was wrong. As more supporting information came to light, the CEO agreed there was some truth to the points raised, but the company was so clever they would figure out a solution in the future. In the mean-time, they had enough money to keep on going as things were, so there was no need to worry. Some concerned shareholders hired outside experts to assess the state of the corporation. The experts mostly agreed that the company was in trouble and its future was in jeopardy. They suggested some radical solutions that included halving dividends paid to shareholders, buying out the long-term contracts, and reducing many of the side benefits the shareholders and employees enjoyed at the expense of the company. The experts suggested that if these steps were taken, the current generation of shareholders may suffer some discomfort, but the future of the company would be safe. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions were dismissed by the Board and shareholders as being unnecessary and generally dis-tasteful.

Our argument about climate change is similar to this corporation’s problem. As shareholders of this world, we are currently enjoying an unprecedented standard of living and, in-turn, consuming resources at an extraordinary rate. Few of these resources are being replenished and there must be a point were the planet is in a deficit (many believe we are already there). However, when we are faced with these realities we find the solution too uncomfortable to entertain. Instead, we try to discredit it, look for another way out, or ignore it totally.

In the last several hundred years the human population has grown exponentially across the planet. We have changed the landscape in such significant ways that the affects are visible from space. These changes continue to result in unprecedented extinction rates of plants and animals—species that are important parts in the web of life that makes our existence possible. In addition, significant portions of the planets minerals, that have taken millions of years to form, have been consumed in just a few centuries.

And yet, one argument from those that deny climate change is that humans do not make a significant impact on the planet. We seem to think that we can keep consuming our resources at an ever increasing rate, that this is sustainable, and our technology will forever come up with clever ways to save our bacon. As the reality of these issues become more apparent, we grasp for any reason to maintain our existing course and discredit anyone who suggests we may need to do things differently.

Instead of arguing small points about CO2, we need to take a look at the bigger picture. We need to ask ourselves if we are really treating our home with respect or are we soiling our own nests. Are the reasons we oppose climate action because we truly believe we have no impact on the earth and all the science is wrong, or is it because we don’t want to change the life we currently live and all its comforts? Do we believe we can go on consuming and exploiting our planet for our own benefit with no consequences? We need to answer these questions truthfully as our future depends on it.