Monday was quite the day.
Just as the Yukon’s Kitchen-Kuiack family was picking up the keys to a 2012 Toyota Prius, the grand prize for winning the Shell Canadian Geographic Energy Diet Challenge, Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent – fresh back from climate change talks in Durban – was pulling the plug on the Kyoto Protocol.
What should have been a most fitting day for crowning the country’s energy diet champs was sideswiped by the guy who is supposed to be leading the charge in a better energy policy.
Talk about a mixed message.
But in many ways it epitomizes the gaping chasm between individual Canadians and our political leaders when it comes to this pressing issue.
People across the country, like the Kitchen-Kuiacks, are doing what they can to tackle climate change, even in a small way, and providing an inspiration to us all.
For the past three months Brian Kitchen, Marguerite Kuiack and teenage daughters Marika and Simone have busted their butts trying to trim their energy use.
Competing against five other Canadian families in the energy- diet challenge, they concocted all kinds of way to reduce, reuse and recycle.
They turned off the lights and stopped watching TV. They shortened their shower time and re-used their gray water to flush the toilet.
They paid more attention to how they burned wood and they built a solar oven to cut cooking-fuel use.
They learned how to drive smarter and plan their travel to use less gas.
And they shared their trials and tribulations along the way, reaching out through the media and the web so that others could learn from their experiences.
“People really want to make the change that they want to see in this world,” wrote Brian Kitchen in his closing blog entry. “I’m confident that our future holds exciting possibilities in this area … this challenge has opened my eyes about what my family can do to contribute to the conservation of energy.”
To their surprise, it wasn’t that hard. No big sacrifices. Just a matter of being diligent and making small changes that quickly became new habits.
Unfortunately, this good-news story was promptly sidelined by the K-bomb announcement.
“Kyoto for Canada is in the past,” Kent told the media in Ottawa, just a day after returning from a meeting of world leaders on climate change.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada was committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.
But that never happened. Not even close. Instead, the country’s emissions have risen by 30 per cent.
Countries around the world are now condemning Canada for the move, and many proud Canadians are hanging their heads in shame.
It’s hard to know what the organizers of the Shell Canadian Geographic Energy Diet Challenge thought of the embarrassing juxtaposition.
But with any luck, they’ll sign up Peter Kent, et al, for the next energy diet challenge.
A few days of flushing with their old shower water may be the only hope for political change.