The Village Green

A blog about how Canadians can achieve energy independence by powering down and then powering up the right way.

My duties as a blogger have suffered as late as the realities and exigencies of running a small, post start-up green building company have run face first into the ongoing recession, a recession which the financial services industry, the very people who burned down the joint in the first place, tells us is over.  

Some things have jolted me back to life however because, after all, life does go on.  

A Canadian Press Harris Decima poll published in today’s Globe and Mail finds that the Harper Conservative government is increasingly off-side with the majority of Canadians regarding their climate change policies.  

Heading into the Copenhagen round of climate change talks, widely viewed as the last real chance to gain some kind of consensus on a global climate change strategy, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice has clearly signaled the federal government intends on doing absolutely nothing to contribute to a positive outcome for the talks.  According to the poll, 56% of Canadians disagree with his approach.  2/3rds of Canadians feel Canada and the United States have a responsibility to provide leadership on this front regardless of what the Chinese (who are now building entire net zero energy cities) and India do.  

A different momentum is carrying forward in the US where this week, Barack Obama said the US must win the global energy race.  He was referring, not to hydrocarbons and buying up the tar sands, but rather to an energy independence earned through development and ownership of world leading efficiency strategies and technologies.

Funny enough, the Chinese are saying the same thing.  So are the Germans.  And the Koreans.  To a lesser extent, so are the Japanese.  Increasingly, so too in Australia which is seeing its interior incinerated by drought. 

I was on the phone with week with some American colleagues, discussing some of their clients and their client’s buildings.  Even in rural Pennsylvania - coal-cracker country as they call it - they get it.  In fact, they really get it because they’ve seen first hand what happens when the world passes you by.  

The other night I finished John Ralston Saul’s latest book, A Fair Country, an incredibly satisfying read.  In the historical context painted by Ralston Saul, the remarkableness of the Canadian experiment is seen in full light.  How much we have to teach the world and how large we once thought and imagined.  And now we no longer do.  Saul places this failure to imagine and lead solely at the feet of our elite, who in his view and increasingly in mine, have failed us with their smallness.  

Canadians are clearly coming to the same conclusion on the climate change front.  

What gives me hope is that I see leadership coming from low places, not from on high. As with the old saying, if the people lead, the leaders will follow.  

Where are Canadians getting this leadership?  It is coming from people like First Nations leader Sheila Watt-Cloutier who, as an Inuit woman understands that the traditional teachings of her people are more relevant than ever before. 

I see this leadership coming from the non-profit housing organizations, the NGOs, the neighbourhood groups and the social entrepreneurs (often retired executives) I work with.  It is coming from people with the least access to the resources required to enact change and who are instead building social capital at a local level.  The result is a meme which is now going viral by virtue of its integrity and sincerity in a massively insincere world.  

Meanwhile our paralyzed elite stand by and watch as the world passes them by. 

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p.s. I have not forgotten that I have a whole bunch of writing to do regarding my upcoming Solar 101 series.  Stay tuned! 

Gabriel Draven 

October 2009