COLUMN: When all is said and done…

Terrace Standard columnist Al Lehmann says it’s time for us to do more and talk less

Al Lehmann

On many occasions, when life leads us to imagine that we’ve reached a conclusion, we use the phrase “when all is said and done” to prepare us to denote the happy occasion. But really, whatever the subject at issue, if all has been said and done, do we really have any reason to continue banging on about it?

I think our preferred phrase should be the one some wit proposed: “When all is said and done, more is said than is done.” It points out critically that we talk a good game, but that when it comes down to the nub and rub of things, we don’t do much—or at least, probably not enough.

Many of us have had a lot to say about climate change, including its emergent and dangerous threats, but have not actually done much. I still live in a house with a gas furnace and hot water (although we also use an air-to-air heat pump). I drive a V-6. I’ve been known to fly places from time to time. In short, I’m one of the climate hypocrites of our society, the countless people who recognize that a climate emergency is bearing down upon us but that seem to be hypnotized by the pleasures and commonplace practices of contemporary daily life instead of focused on what (more, in some cases) we can do to ameliorate the problem.

(When asked to define “hypocrite,” one comic offered, “A hypocrite is someone who—[pause]—well, who isn’t?”)

Do we need further motivation than impending catastrophe to act? By our reluctance and general failure to ramp up needed efforts, apparently so.

Despite plenty of lip service, governments are loath to take essential action. There are votes at stake. Upset the status quo too much, and you lose the next election. Instead, they buy pipelines (TMX) and build overpriced dams to power LNG exports that will cumulatively raise emissions rather than lower them (Site C, LNG Canada). Such government decisions may be cowardly, and certainly hypocritical with regard to the climate pieties they espouse, but there’s a certain pragmatism at work in their decision-making that is hard to buck.

As individuals, we balk at actions that might be unfamiliar, or seem to be “needlessly” expensive, or limit what we’ve come to expect as our rights to do whatever the hell we like if it’s not currently against the law.

Yet there’s plenty we might do that could improve our lives almost immediately and help address the climate problem, as well.

Building retrofits may be costly up front, but they will lower heating and cooling costs (and associated GHG emissions) immediately, not to mention raise the resale value of our properties. BC Hydro offers cash rebates of up to $10,000 on insulation, windows, heat pumps, and other efficiency changes.

Have you seen a tv ad for an electric car? I haven’t. If transportation contributes 23% of Canada’s GHG emissions, why are manufacturers and dealers still dominantly assembling, advertising and selling petroleum burning vehicles? Climate-wise, it’s crazy. Banks are still investing in gas and oil companies, and governments are still subsidizing these industries, as if like fools threatened by a gunman, they feel obliged to help improve his aim. Why? It’s lunatic.

It’s time for us to do more and talk less, but look who’s talking.