Climate change? Well, for starters…

A friend of mine, who has recently taken a job on behalf of a political party on the left side of Canada’s political spectrum, asked me to write about the importance of a carbon tax. This tax, he believes, needs to be implemented in order to help Canada do its part to ward off human-induced climate change.

Meanwhile, this past week another friend published some reflections on a Fox News poll taken last December that shows climate change to rank near the bottom of a list of 11 areas of concern for Americans. (Note: This was a poll of the general American public, not of the Fox News audience.) While three-quarters of those polled were concerned about health care, political divisions in the United States, the opioid addiction crisis, and the economy, not even two-thirds were concerned about climate change.

Yet another friend helped produce the 2010 film “Cool It,” a documentary meant to rebut the alarmism of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” while recognizing that global climate change is a real problem. It offers a more realistic way to deal with the many problems that attend such a change than trying to curb the use of fossil fuels by taxes and command-and-control regulation. (Here is a recent op-ed by its charismatic hero, Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg. And here is a critique of Lomborg’s work.)

What in the world are we to do?

I’m not an expert on any of the issues involved—not one—so you won’t find any global policy recommendations from me. And organizations such as A Rocha Canada will have better suggestions than I will.

But how about starting with the obvious?

Recycling has been shown to be highly problematic. It doesn’t pay for itself, although we were promised it would. It often requires more from the environment than it saves—think of the ecological cost of trucks having to chase blue boxes from one prairie farmhouse to another. People who put the wrong item in the wrong box make the recyclers process it twice. And so on.

Still, shouldn’t we recycle what we can, where we can do it efficiently? Surely some benefit is better than no benefit.

Plastic is a wonderful material, and also a nightmare. So shouldn’t we be working harder on promoting sensible uses of plastic and getting rid of the environmentally stupid ones, while cleaning up the mistakes of the past?

Speaking of plastics and recycling, shouldn’t we go back to refillable glass bottles? (Pop tastes better from a glass bottle anyhow, as young people don’t know but we elderly folk do.) Shouldn’t we use cloth bags for shopping rather than one-time-only plastic ones? (And I say that as someone who much prefers the convenience of plastic bags.)

Shouldn’t we cooperate with hotels to launder towels and bedclothes as little as possible? Shouldn’t we think about whether our manhood really requires driving a large pickup truck when we don’t practice a trade that requires such a gas guzzler?

Shouldn’t our governments absolutely nail industrial polluters so that there will be no more cities like Flint, Michigan—or any one of dozens of Canadian First Nations communities—unable to drink their water? And by “nail” I mean “punish so hard that other companies will shudder to think of being caught doing such things.”

Shouldn’t our governments require every single company to clean up its mess and stop making more messes? Shouldn’t our governments have adequate numbers of adequately trained inspectors and prosecutors to make sure this happens?

Why would we not do all of these things, and more?

Again, I’m not an economist, an environmental scientist, or a politician. But as an ethicist, I modestly suggest that whatever you think about the massive questions surrounding climate change, taking care of the earth as best we can shouldn’t have to be forced upon us by doomsday scenarios.

There’s a federal election coming. Amid the platforms and promises, what is there on behalf of responsible earthkeeping?

Of course we need to be concerned about jobs and businesses. But why would we ever think the world has been created such that we have to choose between loving our human neighbours and loving the rest of our planetary neighbours?

Why not just do the right thing?

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).