This changes everything rant

By Eric Lacina

Here is a rant:

I just came back from a showing of a new documentary that just premiered in February (don’t quote me on that) and the title of this documentary was This Changes Everything.  The premise of this particular documentary was that climate change is an issue first of all and how is the battle between climate change and the human race progressing. 

A lot of the focus of this documentary was on the effects of the oil industry (The oil sands of Alberta in particular) on our local and global environment.  My first thoughts was, oh boy another documentary attacking the merits of the oil industry and how they are devils on Earth.  Don’t get me wrong. I do think a lot of the business practices of the oil industry are based off of greed and growth and negligence.  However, there is a bigger picture and as environmentally conscious people we should be more concerned about the big picture than the specific problems.                 

Anyway, a bit of a tangent, this documentary was a spectacle of something I have been seeing lately.  The open mindedness to a greater problem.  The documentary looked at both sides, the documentary went to these people whom their entire families’ livelihood is based off of the oil industry and how they feel about their work.  Many of them, as shown in the film, frankly do not care, and that is what I expected.  At the end of the day, they have a large sum of money in their pocket and all the means to create whatever kind of life they want.  Some of them though have a different outlook, they see that their industry has a problem.  They see that their industry is having a huge effect on the world they live in, and they see that this industry needs to be held more accountable.  I am not talking about the discontinuing of all the work that is being done in the Alberta Tar Sands, because it is a big part of the Canadian economy.  I am talking about, and I am paraphrasing from the documentary throughout this, the change in the mindset.  The change in the way things are done, a way where each decision takes into account, not only the economic impact but the environmental and social impacts as well. 

That brings me further along into the documentary following the Beaver Lake First Nations community, this documentary shows how the tar sands have a huge social impact on the community around the area.  There are people that have lived on those lands for centuries and are now lost to industrialization.  Heritage and a Habitat are being destroyed without remorse for the ideal of progress. Of course I am now not talking about just the Tar Sands.  Around the world this can be seen.  Corporations are being allowed to infiltrate these lands with practices that are by no means sustainable.  India and other developing countries are experiencing these issues right now that in order to catch up with the western world they must utilize the same methods as the western world.  And this is a thin line I walk here because I see the need for both the growth and the need to grow in a sustainable manner. 

As an environmental student I need to see and understand both sides of the coin here.  With my knowledge as of right now here is how I see it.  With a developing country they are trying to become as advanced as a society like the U.K. or the U.S. or Canada.  And how did America and the U.K do it?  They did it with coal, smoke and sweat, steel and blood.  There is an overwhelming issue however.  Scientifically scientists have found that in order to maintain a global climate that is stable the amount of fossil fuels burned needs to be nearly halted.  However, the growth of these nations are using coal to fuel their industry and their nation.   On the other hand, if not coal, what do you use to build a nation?  That is a question that is trying to be answered. 

The overwhelming truth of it all is that in order to grow sustainably, right now, your country has to be already developed.  The cost to run vast solar fields and wind farms requires a huge input upfront for a small output.  I know, I know there are countries that do this today and have had great success with this.  But how does a country without these vast resources implement such a project?  Who is to say no to a country that they cannot grow in a manner that uses what all of the other countries used?  It is rather hypocritical of western society to turn to these countries and state that, no you cannot do this because it is not the right way. 

Here is the main point then.  If we are to have a global climate below 2oC increase, right now we are sitting around 0.8oC (there is a chart at below showing the trend, since everyone loves charts, here is a second one, on greenhouse gas).  There is not a lot of room left before we, “spiral out of control.”  We need to cooperate together.  And I know, this has been stated by many officials that are smarter and have more influence than me, but I want everyone to realize that we are all human beings and as humans we now have a responsibility to fix what we have done to the Earth, because ultimately this planet isn’t ours.  We share it with the millions of other species out there in the wild and among us.  If countries turn around and assist other countries in becoming better than there is a brighter future for all of us. 

I could go on forever with this stuff but I am going to leave this rant here.  And by all means I did not sum up this documentary to any degree what so ever, I highly recommend you watch it for yourself.  In future posts I will try and break down some of the topics I covered here further.  For whoever is interested I have a few links that people can check out.

For anyone interested in the film here is the website: it is based off a book that the creator of this documentary wrote.

For anyone checking my references:

Figure 1: NASA Earth Observatory

Figure 2: Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy, 2015

And a few other links:

Cool, climate change info graphic

Ontario's GHG emissions