Our planet, our time

Last week, a cob of freshly picked Quebec sweet corn following a dip in a clear Laurentian lake told me that the golden days of summer had arrived for sure.

Last week, a cob of freshly picked Quebec sweet corn following a dip in a clear Laurentian lake told me that the golden days of summer had arrived for sure. The two-week Quebec construction holiday, when most major job sites shut down, also signals the height of the summer season. The lakes and tourist attractions now are at their busiest, even with the cool, cloudy conditions lately.

The arrival of the first truckload of Taber corn in Whitehorse after the long drive up the Alaska Highway from Alberta comes as close as we can get in the Yukon to that longed for taste of summer. We have our own treats, though, like our berries. Other signs of a northern summer at its best, like a stroll through the Thursday Fireweed Community Market in Shipyards Park, should not be missed. Everyone knows these summer days are few and fleeting.

Just how fleeting are they? The answer to that question depends on who you listen to. If you had read Al Gore’s recent work, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, you might be putting on a flak jacket, looking over your shoulder right now and be preparing to hunker down for a very long winter of rising discontent and instability. A co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Gore addresses a series of factors that he believes are radically reshaping our world, whether we like it or not.

In chapters such as “Earth Inc.” Gore details his take on the current crisis of capitalism. Grossly misaligned goals mark an unregulated global economic system which has co-opted any semblance of government control to its own ends. This has sparked sharply growing inequality and a disconnect between technological change and job generation, rupturing the social contract long a hallmark of the Western political system.

Another key variable for Gore is the emergence of the “Global Mind” through the communication revolution. We can now hear and understand each other in previously unimaginable ways. He describes a world system breaking free from an old pattern in place since the foundation of the nation-state in the mid-17th century. While the Global Mind offers hope for developing the planetary will to confront current challenges now beyond the capacity of individual or even small groups of nations to resolve, the international structures needed to do so remain far from realization.

Al Gore, a name synonymous with global warming and climate change, obviously includes an analysis of the complex environmental crisis before us. Deforestation, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and population stress are among the factors he considers. With the dominant influence of the corporate Earth Inc. over government policy, will the Global Mind be able to find a way to rein in the destructive course of profit-before-people-or-the-environment we are on in time?

Gore leaves us a choice of paths. “Human civilization has reached a fork in the road we have long travelled. One of two paths must be chosen. Both lead us into the unknown. But one leads toward the destruction of the climate balance on which we depend, the depletion of irreplaceable resources that sustain us, the degradation of uniquely human values, and the possibility that civilization as we know it would come to an end. The other leads to the future.”

Clearly Gore and many other scientists and thinkers like him believe that the illusory Golden Age of the last three centuries is coming to an end. Will our children’s children know summers like this one? It is our planet and our time now to decide what direction to go. Possibly the talk by Robert Kennedy Jr. at the Yukon Arts Centre on Monday, August 5 at 8 p.m. will offer some more thoughts on possible ways forward.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.

Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste notes

Saturday, August 3 – Lailat ul-Qadr or the Islamic Night of Destiny marks the first revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Mohammed.

Sunday, August 4 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Luke 12: 13-21.

Sunday, August 4 – Anita Garibaldi, heroine in 19th century liberation struggles in Brazil, Uruguay and Italy dies in 1849 uprising against the Papal States.

Tuesday, August 6 – The atomic bomb is dropped on the primarily civilian target of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

Thursday, August 8 – Eid ul Fitr (‘Id al-Fitr) begins the Islamic festival of thanksgiving to Allah for the experience of the month of Ramadan.