Opinion » Maxed Out

Whistler, enemy No. 1?

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I can't remember whether I heard it on radio or television or read it somewhere but by far the best description of Canada's major political parties' climate action strategies was summed up neatly as this: The Liberals have a plan that, depending on how you look at such things, is either a glass half empty or a glass half full. The Conservative plan amounts to emptying the Liberals' glass.

Such is the state of what many Canadians say is their single biggest issue in election 2019.

The Green Party's climate plan could be said to be several glasses overflowing but, not to put too fine a point on it, so what? The Green plan would set a timetable for shutting down Alberta's tarsands pillage. The carrot on the end of that big stick would be increasing the refinery capacity in Alberta so Canadians could burn the gas alchemized from the tarsands instead of protesting it moving through a pipeline that may never be built. Of course, with Ms. May intemperately tossing out impossible demands for any party who may wish her support to cobble together a minority government, it seems she is destined to remain a voice in the wilderness.

The Liberal plan seems to be based on three initiatives: Build the pipeline they now own, impose carbon taxes on reluctant provinces and support the retrofitting of Canadian homes. Regardless of whether their glass is half empty or half full, it is a very small glass. With a leak.

The NDP plan is irrelevant. The amount of spending Mr. Singh has promised for a smorgasbord of initiatives will have bankrupted the country long before he's able to get around to any of his climate plan promises.

The PPC plan pretty much amounts to a bargain: You bring the gas; they'll bring the matches.

The point of all these plans is this. We will go merrily whistling past the graveyard to a full-blown climate meltdown. It's only a question of when, not if.

If that seems harsh, well, it is. It's time to stop fooling ourselves. Time to stop believing banning so-called single-use plastics is going to mean, as the popular saying from the 1960s went, "shit to a tree." Time to stop believing bringing your own coffee cup, reusable straw, shopping bag along on your public transport trip to town is going to have any effect.

If Canada's wannabe leaders, Canada being a first-world, relatively well off country, can't come up with anything better than what they have we're doomed. If the U.S. continues down the ruinous path the Don has led them on—let's hear it for "clean" coal—we're doomed. If the largest polluters in the world can't do better than barter the good times today for a liveable tomorrow, we're doomed.

We're doomed.

Ironically, the plan put forward by the Green Party, roundly denounced as overreaching and economically suicidal, doesn't even come close to hinting at the kind of personal sacrifice that would be necessary to break even with climate change in the time we may have left to act.

So what would?

A lifestyle change so drastic no politician would even mumble it behind closed doors. A retrenchment of everything we might consider progress, albeit sybaritic progress, that none of us except the most ascetically committed would buy in to.

For example ... Let's start with what many of us would think of as low-hanging fruit. On a recent trip to the Yukon, for the whimsical purpose of following the path of the Klondikers along the Yukon River in a canoe, somewhere upwards of three-quarters of the traffic I saw on the Cassiar and Alaska highway consisted of very large pickup trucks, three-quarter and one tonne, pulling even larger trailers, fifth-wheel RVs, boats, quads, horse trailers and assorted smaller vehicles. In many cases, the smaller vehicles were the size of the Tacoma I was driving!

They were so encumbered because they belong to the cohort who can't think of leaving home without dragging home behind them. Many were hunters out for the kill. It was pretty clear from the hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment they were hauling theirs was not a question of subsistence hunting. The rest simply consider this the best way to travel.

Serious about climate change? Pleasure cruising at eight miles or less to a gallon—whatever that might be metrically—gone. When RVs are outlawed only outlaws will have RVs.

The same large trucks with snowmobiles on them for no better reason than tearing up the backcountry or poaching fresh pow? Gone.

Jetting off to the Cinque Terra because you still have fantasy dreams about that incredible fresh pasta you enjoyed the last time you were in Italy? Gone, carbon offset or not.

Whistler? Gone.

What?

Yeah, gone. Whistler is a poster child for headlong climate change. I'm surprised when Happy Jack wrote demanding oil companies pay up to help fight the effects of burning their products they didn't respond by demanding Whistler go out of business.

Whistler is an anachronism. A lovely anachronism but an anachronism nonetheless. It was created in an era of cheap gas, no consequences and the most nascent of environmental consciousness, just a few short years after Silent Spring. It was an Olympic wet dream and it made all the sense in the world, the world being what it was.

That was then, this is now. Whistler exists solely for pleasure. It exists to lure holiday seekers from around the world to board a fuel-sucking plane and fly here, hop on a bus or rent a car to drive up, play a round of golf on former wetlands—Chateau course notwithstanding—ride an electric or diesel powered chairlift to the top of a mountain for the goofy pleasure of sliding down its snowy slopes so they can do it all over again, relive their exploits sipping adult beverages on patios heated by propane, trundle off to the hot tub wherever they're staying and dream about doing it again tomorrow.

We create nothing but good times and happy memories and they come, each and every one of them, at a large environmental cost.

And we are no more willing to even contemplate dismantling all of this any more than Alberta is willing to shut down their tarsands.

Watching this election play out is like watching a bad sci-fi movie where the people in charge whisper, "We can't let the public know how bad this situation is. There'll be panic." And so, we hold out faint hope, recycle, think green and whistler past the graveyard.

Screw it. Ski season is just around the corner.

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