Environmental Toll cannot be put into figures. . .

“If you’re a Canadian taxpayer, you’re now the proud part owner of a failing automobile company, thanks to the federal and Ontario governments. They’re generously giving General Motors $10.5 billion of your money for an 11.7 per cent share in the company.”
Posted today on the David Suzuki facebook blog.

As a global citizen I’m equally riled up by the idea . . . Is this what it means to ‘move forward’ – I don’t think so. I guess an environmental toll cannot be put into figures. Jeff Rubin, former CIBC World Markets chief economist calls this move an “investment in obsolescence”. On a recent news website he explains “We should be investing in the future, not the past, making a huge capital investment to build buses and public transit.”

While filmmaker Michael Moore in due custom shoots straighter, “The only way to save GM is to kill GM.” In the U.S., General Motors is receiving $50 billion, from the government for a 60 per cent share of the company. Moore reveals it doesn’t mean killing the infrastructure.

He goes onto say, “If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need.. when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?”

Suzuki also wonders if the U.S./ Canadian governments can competently “turn this crisis into an opportunity” by means of a creative resolution, one which would entail imagination, will and foresight from governments and corporations. “We can no longer rely on diminishing fossil fuel supplies. Our very survival depends on developing more sustainable technologies, transportation, and products that don’t pollute the air, water, and soil.”

The future lies in green energy – in fuel-efficient cars and modes of public transport – arguing, isn’t “the idea of using of a tonne of metal and many litres of fossil fuel to get one person to the grocery store or work is more than a bit absurd” ? This little bird agrees entirely with Rubin, Moore, and Suzuki. “We don’t want GM to go back to “business as usual” – this is “a company that has fought every progressive move to improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of vehicles, from seat belts and air bags to fuel-efficiency standards.”

Why invest in obsolescence?..

Currently themed rhetoric says that any progressive move would make the prices of cars skyrocket, something noone can afford in the current economical climate, not in the least GM itself. But with impending global climate change, how can we afford not to?

Past GM executives have themselves argued that markets should dictate their actions, however Suzuki notes “they now seem to have made a u-turn when it comes to government involvement!” while philosophically adding, “Maybe if GM had spent more money on keeping up with the times than on lobbying and court challenges and building SUVS and Hummers, it wouldn’t be facing bankruptcy today.”

This conversation also puts to question our definition of democracy- shouldn’t part ownership entail a say over the future of GM?

Major shifts in the manufacturing base have actually enjoyed a positive track record, contrasting arguments of time and costliness, to bring about changes. In 1942, responding to the war needs at the time GM switched from car manufacturing to the production of planes, tanks, and weapons. Today’s situation marks a no less “severe” emergency, if not “more so”.. Given vastly improved technologies we are left wondering.. It simply boils down to questionable priorities.

Science Matters is a weekly publication running since 1999. Read past columns at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/science_matters/.

Learn about Suzuki’s Nature Challenge at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org.

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~ by Teena Davidson on June 15, 2009.

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