I like to wax eloquent about how great it is to live in Canada, and like everybody else in the civilized world I’ve been known to look pityingly at the godawful mess that is the United States these days. I’ll moan in my superior way about the pig-ignorant sociopath that the poor benighted bastards installed as their Chief Executive, apparently in the belief that a corrupt clown who defrauded his way to fame and fortune, all the while building crass monuments to his own monstrous ego with his own name plastered across them in 20-foot-high letters, was somehow in it for the little guy, and would – get this – drain the swamp.
What sort of idiots would fall for such a line of bull from such a transparently fraudulent and manifestly idiotic carnival barker? He asked, smugly.
Well, we would.
There’s no getting around it. This guy is the Premier of Canada’s biggest province, and we elected him even though his ridiculous human dumpster fire of a brother had already given us an object lesson in the perils of being governed by a moron, back when he was somehow voted in as mayor of Toronto. Doug Ford, famously, was just Rob Ford redux with a couple of tweaks, and everybody knew it, but still, we invited him to shoehorn his great big backside right into the head honcho’s chair at Queen’s Park. By a landslide. Wasn’t even close.
That was about a year ago, and since then things have gone pretty much like everybody should have expected. As the very model of a modern populist conservative, Doug despises the expenditure of public money on things like education, health care, protecting the environment, helping the needy and afflicted, and all that other libtard crapola that requires businessmen like him to pay taxes. So, when he isn’t busy appointing unqualified cronies to plum civil service jobs and promoting alcohol consumption – a buck a beer, he promised on the campaign trail, apparently forgetting that profit-oriented breweries wouldn’t actually give you beer for a dollar just because he made it legal to sell the stuff at a loss – Doug spends most of his legislative energy taking a jackhammer to the foundations of civil society. Libraries? Fuck libraries. Teachers? There’s too damned many. You’ve got an autistic kid who needs special care? Geez that’s tough, maybe you should have thought of that before you went and had kids. Green initiatives? Green initiatives? What, like that cap and trade bullshit that the Liberals brought in? Subsidies for renewable energy and electric cars and other such shit? Yeah, that’ll be quite enough of that. Funding for the arts? You mean like frilly ballet, and tedious symphonies? You’re kidding, right? Oh, and cut out that sex education nonsense. Schools are supposed to teach you how to add and subtract, not how to get it on, am I right?
Of course I saw all of this coming (is it really possible anyone didn’t?), which is why I fatalistically cast my one pathetic ballot trying to stop it, and in the wake of Doug’s inevitable victory I steeled myself to just roll with it. Doug, I figured, would eventually get his when all those rubes who voted for him never got their beers for a buck, and instead saw all sorts of useful public services, things they’d long taken for granted, getting the unceremonious chop. There was even a sort of qualified satisfaction in listening to everybody squealing like stuck pigs as their own favourite government programs were slashed out of existence – if they voted for the dum-dum, served ’em right. Maybe they’d think for a change before they voted next time. No, Doug wasn’t going to upset me with his ham-fisted assaults on everybody’s general well-being and quality of life.
Then this happened.
Now, you might well ask, why was this the thing that finally got my goat? You might well ask. Sure, it’s a typically stupid manifestation of Doug’s public policy vandalism, and betrays the usual conservative indifference to the environment and the coming global climate apocalypse, but what else is new? The thing is, I didn’t notice he’d done it until after I’d absorbed this amazing news item that circulated last week:
The story detailed the startling findings of a climate change study funded by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which concluded that there’s actually a conceptually simple, relatively cheap, and virtually fool-proof method to fend off the end of days – simply plant an enormous crapload of trees. Trees, of course, are good in all sorts of ways; they manufacture breathable air, cool their environs, protect the landscape against soil erosion, and so on. But their best feature for present purposes, sadly under-appreciated by policymakers, is that every tree of every species extant may as well come affixed with a label that says This Machine Eats Carbon. This is from the story on the CBC website:
“This is by far — by thousands of times — the cheapest climate change solution” and the most effective, said study co-author Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The study calculated that over the decades, those new trees could suck up nearly 750 billion tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — about as much carbon pollution as humans have spewed in the past 25 years.
Reading this, I was equal parts dumbstruck and elated. Was it really possible? Could there really be an obvious and feasible way to fend off planetary catastrophe? Might the world’s nations actually have the sense to cooperate in pulling off such a scheme? A trillion trees is, let’s just be honest with ourselves, a dauntingly huge number of trees – the entire present global stock is estimated at only three times that – and what the scientists were talking about was re-foresting a total land area roughly as big as the continental United States. That would take years of continuous, strenuous, coordinated international effort on an unprecedented scale, but yes, the study claimed, there was ample room on the planet for all those extra trees, and if we had the will, there was a way.
Holy shit. Salvation was at hand.
The prospect really got my gears spinning. I thought about how it might tie in with a fabulous idea floated by Pete Buttigieg, “Mayor Pete”, one of the 20+ hopefuls now running for the Democratic nomination for President. He’s advocating that the U.S. federal government should expand on an old idea, JFK’s Peace Corps, and create a program to enlist millions of youths in public service, which could consist of anything from assisting the elderly, to teaching immigrants English, to helping repair worn out infrastructure. In return for such service, kids could learn job skills, earn certifications, be granted student debt forgiveness, all sorts of things that would make it eminently worthwhile to sign up. In time, “how did you serve?” could become the most important question asked of first time job applicants, supplanting “what were your grades?”. Think of what might be achieved!
This was a proposal so obviously brilliant that even conservative curmudgeons like Charlie Sykes were tweeting their enthusiastic approval. There would be no end to the good works that might be undertaken. Young adults in huge numbers could be lending their brains and muscles to myriad worthy projects, from working in soup kitchens to cleaning up national parks. They could enlist in Habitat for Humanity, or volunteer as Big Brothers and Sisters. They could train to become paramedics, or other first responders. They could join foreign aid efforts abroad.
They could plant trees.
Oh boy. Think of it. What a wonderful way to rehabilitate America’s image in the (please God) post-Trump era to come! The U.S. Government could fund an army of enthusiastic young people to plant trees all over the planet – if you’ve got the land, the trees are on Uncle Sam. A legion of kids with Stars and Stripes shoulder patches could spread out across the globe to be seen bending every sinew not to blow things up, but to save the world. We could all get in on it! The E.U. could have a contingent, and so could Canada. Surely Canadian youth would get behind something so patently beneficial, especially if they worked off their student loans while they were at it! Why sure they would! In droves! It could all be organized under the auspices of the U.N., or some new multinational organization created for the purpose – it wouldn’t even cost that much! Unlike the clumsy machines we humans cobble together, trees build themselves, no extra charge. In the process, they just devour carbon, sequestering it for decades, until, when they finally die, it’s absorbed by new trees, because trees, left to their own devices, also run off copies of themselves. Trees aren’t just trees, the slogan might go, they’re self-replicating carbon sequestration systems! Jesus, it was brilliant!
You can sense that I was really warming to the idea. I was all excited.
Then I saw that Doug had cancelled a huge tree-planting program right here at home, and I was brought back down to the tortured earth in just the worst way. Oh, right. I forgot for a second there. Big, worthwhile things don’t happen like that any more. We don’t do moonshots. We don’t build great societies. We don’t do great things. Governments don’t sponsor programs for the common good of humanity. We know nothing any longer of enlightened self interest. We don’t listen to scientists or other subject matter experts. That was before. What we do these days is elect brainless articles like Doug Ford and Donald Trump, again and again, who’ll see to it that the world soon collapses down around our ears, just so we can avoid paying taxes. They’ll keep shovelling it, and we’ll keep eating it up, until it’s too damned late. Hell, it’s probably already too late.
It was such a happy little fantasy, while it lasted. How wonderful to imagine, if only for a little while, that we weren’t necessarily doomed. How unlike me. See what you get? I should better heed my own mantra: it’s the hope that kills you. I should translate that into Latin and incorporate it into my new family crest, right under an image of a mushroom cloud emanating from the beached, bloated corpse of a dead Humpback Whale.
Maybe some scholar out there can check my Google Translate solution: Est spes, qui interficit vos.