December 04, 2011
For those interested in a comprehensive, legally binding, and effective international post-Kyoto protocol emanating from the UN climate summit meetings in Durban, South Africa, deflation is the operative word.
Canada, as has become its custom under Conservative leadership, is signalling its disdain for Kyoto and any post-Kyoto accord, and the U.S. is now allegedly threatening to stiff-arm the Green Climate Fund, which in part would help poorer nations of the South preserve their ecologically vital rainforests and natural areas.
It’s not as if delegates from Canada and the U.S. are denying the science and scope of climate change — these are sophisticated people who are able to digest and distill complicated sets of data. In fact, researchers at the Pentagon have been tracking climate change for years, perceiving it as a severe security threat, as reported by Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars and Michael Nash’s recent documentary Climate Refugees.
Recent data from Scandinavia provide just another striking example of significant climate change. Weather experts indicate this fall is on track to become one of the warmest on record in the northern part of Scandinavia. The lack of snow prompted the shift of World Cup alpine ski races from Levi, Finland, to Austria.
The stance of Canada and the U.S. suggests not a denial of the effects of climate change, but rather an attempt to arrange a climate-changed world to their own advantage. In this sense, they are erecting the model of an exclusive “gated community” that has arisen in their own residential landscapes.
Gated communities, as opposed to public spaces or non-gated neighbourhoods, share a number of characteristics.
First, they assume it is possible to step into a separate space, a place where you are not only geographically, but psychically and spiritually, separated and removed from the rest of your society.Second, a gated community assumes that you can erect walls, checkpoints and guardhouses to keep others with whom you share geographical space out of your living area. The U.S. project to construct a multi-layered wall along its 3,141-kilometre border with Mexico is an odious example of an attempted gated community on the grandest of scales.
Third, the idea of a gated community suggests that as long as you can keep misery, poverty and destitution out of your sightlines, you can be happy. As the recent spill of “happiness” research of the past two decades indicates, however, such an idea is as psychologically fallacious as it is morally disquieting. It proposes a moral abandonment of both the public sphere and our ecological connectedness.
Fourth, when you live in a gated community, security becomes an omnipresent concern. You begin to screen who can enter all facets of your life. You enter and build a culture of gatedness. The spontaneity of human discovery and serendipity of unscripted human interaction are terminated in the security guardhouse.
Finally, the ethos of a gated community coalesces into the bizarre belief that your living space somehow hovers above the welter of social, political, cultural, economic and ecological realities that shape our world. You perhaps buy into the myth you a can survive the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in plush consumer comfort. Such an attitude is reflected in the highly misguided notion of “climate prosperity” that has been floated in Canada and elsewhere, suggesting that in a world whipsawed by climate change, some, especially in northern climes, will be able to prosper.
By refusing to embrace the Kyoto accord, and deal boldly with the fact that nations of the South are experiencing the effects of climate change most dramatically through coastal flooding, desertification and massive crop losses, Canada and the U.S. are in effect proposing a “gated ecology.” There is a suggestion that they can somewhat enjoy the status quo of their “climate prosperity” while millions in nations of the South continue to suffer the effects of our overabundant fossil fuel emissions.
As German social theorist Ulrich Beck has pointed out in his groundbreaking work on the “risk society,” it is impossible to gate the globe, ecologically speaking. Beck speaks of the “boomerang effect,” showing that, in terms of ecology, there is no “away.” No amount of security personnel will be able to bar the effects of global climate change from our collective lives.
If world leaders from wealthy nations believe they can live in a gated globe, their best-laid plans may become unhinged.