Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: procrastination, politics, and the environment

Reading historiography, particularly postmodern historiography, warps your mind.  So yesterday--a beautiful day in Regina, warm by winter standards and nearly windless--I went for one of those woolgathering walks my daughter recommends.  Of course, I spent much time reading the traces in the snow, which is not a bad metaphor for the historical project generally.  Besides the ubiquitous dog footprints, I could see that the neighbourhood hares have been out and about, and noticed one tiny thread-like track that I suspect belonged to a mouse or vole.  The light was extraordinary.  While I understand that some of the words we humans argue the most about are the words for colour, snow in prairie light creates a particular challenge.  Is it blue?  Mauve-blue?  Are the shadows grey or silver?   

Standing here in the windless light meditating on the colour of snow, it's hard to take in the fact that in 2010 nature was deadly.  Natural disasters like heat waves, floods, blizzards and droughts killed over 260,000 people.  At the same time, a brief article in The Globe and Mail reports that only 115,000 people have been killed by terrorists between 1968 and 2009.   So why do North American governments spend so much money and ingenuity on protecting its citizens from terrorists and so little creativity and money on providing leadership that will address the human practices that lead to climate change?

John Allemang, in an excellent article on procrastination, may provide the answer.  We're procrastinators.  We've all done it:  check out Facebook status updates or visit Ravelry again rather than write that difficult essay or harranging blog post. Similarly, our governments prefer the immediate, measurable results of holding up thousands of travellers while their waistbands are checked for hidden explosives rather than drafting difficult legislation that will begin to address the environmental costs of the carbon dioxide we spew into the air.  Allemang writes that procrastinators lack impulse control, tending to focus on what's immediately before us, even though putting off dealing with "retirement planning, transit infrastructure, and climate change can have dire social consequences."  He goes on to comment that "if environmental degradation is a slippery slope of small procrastinations, then you craft regulatory solutions where success is tied to specific plans rather than the vague idealization of better air quality."

Canadian politics at the current moment seems to consists of the art of procrastination.  Don't do anything today that might put off a single voter tomorrow.  Because tomorrow might come with the next budget.  This really translates into not having any vision, into a politics of not offending anyone.  It's as if we no longer ask our politicians for leadership. But if somebody doesn't get creative, if somebody doesn't take some risks, will we be able to meditate on the colour of snow in 20 years, or to consider the miracle of mouse tracks?

Here's the link to John Allemang's essay on procrastination

Here's the link to the Globe and Mail stats on deaths from weather and terrorist attacks:

1 comment:

  1. Mouse tracks indeed . . . two cats and a squirrel as company might squeeze the wee mouse! Enjoy a wonderful New Year. - BU