Canada and petroleum: between perversion and regression
In psychoanalysis we speak of perversion when a biological function is deviated from its beneficial role to the species to serve aberrant ends. Regression is a passage from a well-developed behavior from the species repertory towards a more primitive behavior less successful in regard to adaptation. Unfortunately we can use those concepts to describe the behavior of the members of the Federation Council who met last week in St.John’s (Newfoundland-Labrador) to define the Canadian energy strategy.
Perversion there is, since the development of a transport network by pipelines of the filthy bituminous oil sands petroleum is advocated as a national interest project aiming at providing energetic security for the country. But we all know that these infrastructures to transport petroleum are destined foremost for exportation and will not contribute to diminish train transport, far from it. They will contribute to expand what is already the greatest ecological disaster in the world. The oil sands industry contributes to the irreversible degradation of the life ecosystems of Canadians all across the country. Since air and water know no frontiers, the toxic byproducts and greenhouse gas emissions generated by the exploitation of this non-conventional petroleum threatens directly, and dramatically, climate stability, human health, agricultural productivity, forestry, fisheries and the global economy(1). In the context of the environmental and climatic crisis that we know, it is a perversion to perpetuate the behaviors that lead to our destruction. No royalties, nor taxes, nor petroleum jobs constitute a viable and secure economic perspective since the hydrocarbons are directly tied to a risk of collapse of our civilization and all biodiversity in a very short term(2,3).
Perversion there is, when the prime ministers manipulate the information to try to give to the population the impression that they are working efficiently for the protection of the climate and the energetic transition when it is not the case(4). The experts cannot be more explicit: if we want to have one chance to escape an irreversible loss of control over climate which could lead to our own extinction as a species, at least 80% of the known hydrocarbon reserves must remain underground(5). The pipeline projects aiming to open up the Western gas and petroleum production are incompatible with this objective(6).
Julie Guicheteau(7), environmental engineer, establishes a parallel between the human greenhouse gas emissions and those of a prehistoric micro-organism that secreted oxygen. These primitive organisms capable of photosynthesis used CO₂ and water to grow while producing oxygen, a toxic waste for them. It was about 2,3 billion years ago. The oxygen finally invaded the atmosphere and the oceans, killing the micro-organism that had produced it. Now that the humanity is arriving at a critical turning point of the Anthropocene, it is still not sure that we will know how to use our superior capacities of cooperation and creativity to do better than these primitive creatures and succeed in eliminating rapidly enough our greenhouse gas emissions during the short decade that is left us to act.
While continuing to ignore the scientists’ advice, in constantly pushing back the implementation of known solutions to rapidly and efficiently decarbonize our economy, in staying adamantly in short sighted policies, our governments are showing a capacity for regression that seems without limits.
1 Bill McKibben. Earth to Humans: Enough Already. Boulder, Colorado, April 27, 2012. Lecture avalable at www.alternativeradio.org.
2 Conway, E.M, Oreskes, N. (2014). L’effondrement de la civilisation occidentale (transl. F. et P. Chemla). Paris : Éditions Les liens qui libèrent.
3 Flannery, T. (2009). Agissons pour sauver la planète (transl. R. Clarinard). Paris : Héloïse d’Ormesson.
4 Alexandre Shields. Une volonté contraire aux gestes. Le Devoir. 9 juillet 2015.
5 Klein, N. (2015). Tout peut changer. Capitalisme et changement climatique.(transl. G. Boulanger et N. Calvé). Montréal, Paris : Lux, Actes Sud, p. 176.
6 Des scientifiques demandent un moratoire sur l’expansion des sables bitumineux. www.oilsandsmoratorium.org
7 Guicheteau, J. (2015). Gaz à effet de serre et changements climatiques. Dans I. Marcil (dir. de publ.), Sortir le Québec du pétrole. Montréal : Somme Toute, p. 53-59.