Lately I have been seeing and hearing a lot about this Greta Thunberg. She has become a very polarizing figure in her relatively short 16 years. Some see her as a hero, a young spokeswoman brave enough to speak to any and every world leader to advocate for her generation. To them she should be lauded for her time and effort. But there is another side. There are those who see her as a patsy. An exploited teenage brat pushed on to the world stage in a desperate attempt to garner sympathy. Some have even accused her of being an actress, being paid by one environmental group or another to push their agenda.
I was a little skeptical myself. I actually kind of ignored most of the articles and social media posts I saw that had anything to do with Greta Thunberg. This past weekend that changed however, as I found myself surfing Facebook. I’m not sure why, but I decided I needed to watch a video my friend had posted featuring Greta and her friend, George Monbiot. The video starts out with some very dramatic phrases, “We are living in the beginning of a mass extinction.” I was still somewhat skeptical, but she definitely had my attention, so I kept watching. The more I watched, the more I realized that through all its dramatic effect, Greta Thunberg was saying something we all needed to hear: We are responsible.
Is Climate Change Real?
The climate change issue has risen to the point where it is at or very near the top of pretty much every social and political agenda. Is climate change for real? Most scientists who choose to weigh in will say yes. On the other hand, there is legitimate historical data that shows the earth’s climate has always been evolving, long before the industrial revolution. Regardless of which side you are on, it’s undeniable that all of us on this planet are consumers, and that we are making an impact.
If you believe the climate change pundits, I’m sure that you already feel a strong conviction that something has to be done to save our planet. But even if you disagree, if you consider climate change a hoax, or fearmongering, are you not still responsible, as stewards of this earth, to take care of it?
I care very much about this planet, and what will be left for my children, and their children. However, I chose to not argue about the severity of climate change, or whether or not it is real. In a way, I think we are past that point. Like it or not, public perception and social pressure have already made government, corporate and pretty much all of us take notice. We are currently in a time of transition. Money is being spent and intelligent ideas are being developed to move us away from our dependence on fossil fuels. For many, this transition is not happening fast enough. They feel more pressure needs to be put on government and corporate to do it faster. Unfortunately, it will not happen overnight.
We Are Not Done With Oil Yet
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Energy Disruptors: Unite 2019 conference in Calgary. It was quite an amazing experience. I listened to great speakers from all over the world talk on subjects such as electric cars and the future of our energy markets. For me, the most engaging speaker was Mark Little, president and CEO of Suncor. Listening to Mark speak, I almost felt sorry for him. I think so much of his job is one of defending his company. And what makes it even harder for him is that he knows something a lot of people don’t: we need his oil. You see, even though we are in a time of transition, we are not done with oil yet. A very interesting statistic I learned at the Energy Disruptors: Unite 2019 conference is that the number of automobiles on the planet will double from one billion to two billion in the next 10-20 years. Of that 2 billion, 700,000,000 to 800,000,000 will be electric. While that is a huge increase in electric cars, it also means there will be 200,000,000 to 300,000,000 more internal combustion engine cars on the planet in the next 20 years. There are probably many reasons why all of the new cars will not be electric, such as cost, production capacity, and electrical grid infrastructure. Regardless, the demand for oil powered cars is still increasing.
The Good Life
We all want a good life, and most want a better life for their children. My grandfather lived in Europe during World War 2, and for a time was detained by the German army. He left the Netherlands after the war to start a better life in Canada for his children. My parents started with nothing, but worked hard, 2 or 3 jobs at a time, to build a better life for their children. My wife and I have chosen to give our kids what we didn’t have, and prioritize things like a trip to Disneyland. My kids don’t need iPhones, but they all have one in part because it makes life easier for them and me.
We are all responsible for our choices. Our wants and desires have consequences, and we need to accept that. We shouldn’t blame previous governments or big businesses for ruining our planet. We are responsible.
If the ultimate goal is to reduce or even eliminate the use of fossil fuels, we absolutely will need government and corporate support. Support that is already happening, in ways such as Suncor’s plan to spend 1.4 billion dollars to replace coke-fired boilers with natural gas generators. As individuals, we also have to do our part.
Greta Thunberg may be controversial, but don’t focus on the delivery. Listen to her message: What you do counts.