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Faith Meets Life: Our economy or the environment?

Michael Veenema | Interrobang | Opinion | February 4th, 2008

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
Small towns in Atlantic Canada are shrinking.

The young are heading towards Alberta. Even the not-so-young. Sinclair Stewart, writing in the Globe and Mail (January 29), tells the tale of a 53-year-old father who spent six weeks in the oil sands and came home to New Waterford, Nova Scotia, with $9,200 in his pocket.

Stewart goes on to say that New Waterford's fire department is having a hard time recruiting volunteers, and sports teams can't find enough coaches. A plumber is impossible to find, and children are being raised by their mothers (which, of course, is nothing against the mothers themselves). Many Atlantic Canadians are seeing their towns “hollowed-out.”

Such is the cost of progress, some will say. We've always lived with shifts in populations as economies change. Hollowed-out towns are a fact of life and they have been for millennia.

If we only had to contend with a few hollowed-out towns now and then, I don't think many of us would grieve. But the dying towns of rural Canada are only one aspect of what we are sacrificing to sustain an economy of affluence.

Consider the oil sands themselves. It is reported in this country the area of land that will be destroyed by oil extraction in Alberta will be roughly equal to the area of Florida. We are talking about massive open pit operations hundreds of feet deep.

In the meantime, the planet continues to drown in its own CO2 waste. And Alberta's oil extraction will contribute enormously to that.

Jeffrey Simpson, also in the Globe (January 26), focuses on statements made by Alberta Premier, Ed Stelmach. I don't have space here, so please check out the details on line. But the gist of the matter is that Alberta's leaders are permitting greenhouse gas emissions to soar for years to come in the name of economic prosperity.

This may be good for those of us whose stock portfolios include investments in oil. It will be good for those who work for oil companies. And there will be many economic spin-offs.

But what good, in the long run, is a booming economy when Northern Alberta will turn into a huge scar, and half the planet turns into a frying pan?

We need to change our economy or else the planet will destroy it for us. We can bite the bullet now, or we can chew on a warhead later. Why do we accept, not just hollowed out towns, but the hollowing out of the planet?

Why do we take sitting down the comments of the Alberta Premier? Or the attitude of say, John Baird, Canada's Minister of the Environment, who is always telling us what we can't do to help the environment and seems insensitive to the way he chills enthusiasm for more and faster change?

I feel repulsed by the kind of leadership that says to me. Yes the planet will become a lethal place for billions of people, but we can't do anything about it because one quarter of the world's people (and rising) demand cars, processed food, huge wardrobes, and trips to Disney World.

I often think about the view of the world offered in the Christian Bible. The world is God's creation. We need to have reverence for it and take care of it. Besides, it is our home. All people are of value to God. So we need to manage our economies in ways that do not condemn third world people (and our own children perhaps) to death by starvation and thirst.

Maybe this touches the heart of the problem. It is religion after all? Is our economy a result of making a religion of economic prosperity? If that's the case, the Bible is a subversive book, claiming that our fundamental allegiance belongs elsewhere, and we must put the well-being of all people ahead of our own. Or at least on par.
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