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Social Changes And Climate Change






     Without doubt, the world's natural resources are depleting at a very alarming rate in the face of explosive population increase. Natural gas, oil reserves, minerals and forests: with the exception of forests, these are nonrenewable resources. Accordingly, continued and uncontrolled exploitation will eventually contribute to the effects of global warming. This paper will examine the efforts made by the Canadian government in curbing climate change.

In 1972, a model was envisioned by the Rome Club and was referred to as the "Limits to Growth," which advocated for measures to control the rate of development and population growth to levels that can be supported by the natural ecosystem. The proponents argued that resources are fixed, while their demand and exploitation increase constantly. In their book Limits to Growth: A report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind, Donella and Dennis Meadows , Jergen Randers and William Behrens III observe that A population growing in a limited environment can approach the ultimate carrying capacity of that environment in several possible ways. It can adjust smoothly to an equilibrium below the environmental limit by means of a gradual decrease in growth rate…….or overshoot the limit and then die back again in either a smooth or an oscillatory way (Meadows, et al 1974, p.,23).

The Canadian government has already warned that if population continues to grow, the natural ecosystem will collapse and lead to serious human crisis. Indeed, the government has attempted to predict future scenarios using global indicators like rates of industrialization, population growth, environmental pollution and depletion of resources. The government is contended that economic and ecological stability can be achieved through effective management of these factors. Needless to say, therefore, the model is geared towards the same goals as those of sustainable development: "adequate sustained quality of life for all without exceeding environmental limits" (Barrow 2006, p., 143).

The depletion of natural resources such as land means that the government has to explore sustainable alternatives to avoid complete exhaustion. The government is trying to put measures which will balance between people's energy needs and the capacity of the existing natural resources to support those needs without getting exhausted. In major cities of the country, there is an increasing demand for more expressways. The government is, therefore, trying to expand existing ones to contain the increasing traffic. This is one pointer that the world is not moving towards an overshoot in energy needs or zero growth as predicted more than 30 years ago by the proponents of limits to growth, but rather gearing towards yet another phase of intensive energy use. As such, the existence of suburban lifestyles will continue, albeit at the expense of increasing exploitation of the world's energy resources. This will be necessary to sustain the high-energy dependence culture of living in neighborhood further away from people's places of work, and in tandem with a generation that depends on machines even for basic functions like doing laundry.

My argument here is that it is not possible to put a halt on the pace of technological revolution, or to change people's aspirations to lead comfortable lives. In fact, the country aggressive foreign policy reveals the country's over-consumption culture, which supersedes its natural resources capacity. This is true for most developed countries, including China, whose energy consumption exceeds their domestic output. However,the country has not placed a ceiling on its technological and industrial investments. In other words, it has not responded to the scarcity of resources in tandem with the principles of limits to growth. The United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome Document advocated for development policies that ensured environmental sustainability. The paper stated the 'economic development, social development and environmental protection are the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development" (Barrow, 2006, p., 39). This is the realty in the 21st century with regards to concerns for environmental conservation. That is keenly followed by the Canadian government.

This notwithstanding, however, the limits to growth model identifies the major factors that pose a danger to the environment. They include environmental pollution, population growth, industrialization and depletion of natural resources. The government is trying to advocate for birth control measures. Through its various programs, the government has alleged that high population growth rates could endanger the future generations, leading to calls for population controls through family planning programs and social education. However, the objective of population control is not to avoid the overexploitation of natural resources as an end in itself, but a measure aimed at achieving sustainable development in relation to available resources. It is evident, therefore, that the national goals of the country is not to control the rate of growth so as to avoid apocalyptic scenarios, but to expand their resources and explore alternative sources of energy to meet consumption needs while avoiding overreliance on nonrenewable sources (Nicholas 2007, p., 60).

The country is among the 160 countries that signed on the target of 5% in reducing carbon emissions by 2012. However, it is clear that this will not be met. With the scientific evidence showing the dire consequences of global warming, it goes without saying that governments have failed to act. Most governments tend to defend the profits of business organizations by representing their interests. This is a clear indication of capitalism's irresponsible, short-term outlook towards the environment. Under capitalism, it will be impossible for countries to cooperate in tackling global warming. The stiff competition between corporations is mirrored in the relations between different countries. In this case, major capitalists are engaged in a struggle over resources, markets and spheres of influence. Major organizations see the surrounding environment as a source to be used for making profits. The government believes that it can afford to mitigate carbon emissions, and this will be partially offset by the economic benefits and other gains. To mitigate the rising global temperatures and greenhouse gases, the government aims at expanding the existing policies, which can help in reducing carbon emissions, such as carbon taxes and fuel. On the other hand, the government is trying to explore technological advances and increased research for renewable sources of energy. The measures are aimed at increasing the use of nuclear power, wind, and solar (Joseph, 2004, p.,44).

Another environmental challenge consistent with suburban lifestyles is air pollution. Commuting to and from work is a common feature of suburban living, whose overdependence on nonrenewable resources like oil makes it an unstable development. Millions of people drive themselves in fuel guzzling personal cars daily to and from work, which contributes to the mass wastage of energy. The convenience of driving to work compares dismally with the cost in terms of resource wastage and air pollution through carbon emissions. As a result, the government is trying to compact residential homes through re-urbanization, as this is likely to reduce energy consumption. In this case, people will be advised to use economical means of transportation e.g. public transport, and reduce expenditure on social services such as water and sewerage infrastructure. Similarly, the cost of accessing basic necessities will reduce greatly as a result of locating shopping malls near residential areas. These advantages of re-urbanization over suburbia make the pursuit of sustainable development models a better solution to environmental challenges than the limits to growth model.

In this regard, the major challenge to make sustainable development possible is awakening to the reality of environmental pollution and depletion of natural resources. These realities point to the un-sustainability of energy intensive lifestyles such as suburbia, hence the need to adopt sustainable models like re-urbanization. Ecologically, decreasing land resources cannot accommodate more single homes and expansive lawns. Economically, the suburbia system exploits more resources such as oil-energy, land space and infrastructure investment to serve few people. Economist James Kunstler terms the creation of suburbia as "the greatest misallocation of resources in world history (Kunstler 2006, p., 143). It points to relevance of sustainable development in addressing the problem of high-energy consumption that could eclipse the earth's capacity to produce nonrenewable resources to satisfy increasing human and industrial needs.

In conclusion, sustainable development is the most suitable approach to understanding contemporary environmental challenges. Unlike the limits to growth model, it does not portend the restriction of human needs, but explores ways of satisfying those needs in a sustainable manner. It offers a practical approach to solving environmental challenges posed by intensive-energy cultures such as suburban lifestyles. Sustainable development takes into account the depletion of non-renewable resources such as oil and land, as well as the dangers of environmental pollution. Thus, it explores alternatives that are energy efficient without compromising social, economic and industrial development. An example of sustainable development is the transformation of suburban settlements into more economical and energy- efficient lifestyles in order to survive in the face of decreasing resources and increasing demand.

Copyright (c) 2012 Morgan D






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Posted on 2012-12-14, By: *

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