Roger writing the LAWmag
Apr 2008

End of the World Law

smoke_pollutionThe end of the world is in view.

Well, actually, scientists predict that our sun will burn out in about 5 billion years so unless we have built condominiums, greenhouses, office towers and shopping malls that can survive in the -273 degrees C of outer space, the end of the world is a certainty.

So don’t chase down two psychiatrists to sign a committal warrant in regards to the opening sentence.

But many scientists view the growing incidence of freak weather as a symptom of environmental abuse and its result, climate rage; an irreversible slippery slope that may cause a premature, quick and dramatic end to some, if not most life on Earth, humans not excepted. The least of our troubles would be the reclassification of some Hollywood disaster movies (such as The Day After Tomorrow, image below).

We do not know exactly what changes will occur, as we continue to bellow black smoke into the air - from vehicles and smokestacks.

We do know that a meltdown of polar ice on Greenland alone would cause seawater to rise by 20 feet. This, in turn, would cause massive flooding particularly of populace oceanside cities. The devastation would necessitate such a significant economic adjustment that it would bring a huge recession with it.

Scientists are unsure about the other consequences of environmental abuse.

One of the most important, yet least spoken of, is the surface temperature/air quality equilibrium. These two are already so delicately balanced such as to have produced life on this planet in the first place that any change in either direction could mean death to many of the world's seven billion people.

Law is slow to change; typically reactive rather than proactive. This cautious approach has done wonders in growing the rule of law through man-made tumult.

But with environmental abuse everywhere - in every room, vehicle, piece of land - and the frequent conduct of every single person on this earth, hesitation may have dire consequences.

Everybody likes to point the finger.

Everybody would feel good if the laws were changed ... just not in their own backyard.

Quadrupling the price of gas; prohibiting fuel-powered recreational vehicles; outlawing the transportation of large sports equipment on flights; limiting childbirth if only for one "wait and see" generation; standardizing automobile parts; etcetera. {Busted! After this was written, the author had to replace a broken bathroom fan unit designed, on breakdown, to be thrown out, carted to a landfill dump, where it will break down over about 5,000 years, as the old is replaced with a new plastic/metal unit - which has a five year guarantee! Then, it's off for a workout on a carbon-emitting scooter, where the gym provides members with disposable plastic/metal shavers and non-refillable canisters of shaving cream.}

Without strong political leadership, any one of these initiatives would raise the population to riot, bearing weather-proof plastic protest signs - and a hot lunch - provided free of charge by corporate shareholders.

The law can focus on industry but clamping down on domestic industry immediately puts the host country at a significant disadvantage in world trade. The production cost of their goods, because of the additional "cost" of being environmental friendly, would be much greater than, say, goods produced in China, where the coal factories can bellow out as much black smoke as they'd like.

In the result, this gives all national governments a convenient "out", as with fairly basic explanations, such as those above, they can defer to international law.

International law works at the speed of the turtle. In no instance has international law ever responded diligently, efficiently, effectively and expeditiously to an international crisis. You cannot get 192 countries together and expect them to agree on an emergency approach.

The buzzword of international law is consensus which by definition means compromising. In many lawmaking situations, compromise is not a solution. It's barely a bandaid.

Effective law and being "politically correct" are usually - but not always - like water and oil.

Once "political correctness" is applied to a time-sensitive lawmaking process, the result is ineffective legislation; legislation that ultimately fails because it does not effectively address whatever behavior or conduct it seeks to control or prohibit.

There is no time for this on issues environmental. Scientists around the world are warning us that the time to act is not only upon us, but may already be slipping behind us. Even for the ostriches with their heads in the sand who feel that these are kooks, given what is at stake, we ought to be inclined to err on the side of caution.

The law is the tool to fix the environment.

There is no other tool available.

It is the only real red-caped avenger we have.

There has never been another effective, long-term solution to societal errors or omissions although, if we continue along this path, we may get to see just how motivational the sudden deaths of a large proportion of our population would be in terms of achieving the desired result.The Day After Tomorrow

Maybe we do need a crisis.

Maybe we do need to go on SlimFast, backyard garden corn and toilet water for a few years; endure, for a few weeks, abscesses in our teeth because there are no dentist offices open, or medication.

Imagine the hunger and starvation of those people that live in less organized countries.

One would think that in such a context, there would be no difficulty in enacting real environmental laws and creating a society where using throw-away Duracell batteries or, conversely, the landfill disposal of recyclable materials, the carbon dioxide emissions of recreational vehicles, to name but a few examples, would be universally condemned. Tar and feathers applied by fellow citizens are often a far more effective deterrent then judgment by court of law.

All revolutions are difficult to start. They thrust society on the brink of anarchy.

But unless effective leadership emerges very soon, the vacuum of appropriate law will either cause disaster or revolution.

Here is the solution and it can all be done under the guise of law reform:

  • Some major country – Canada, the European Union or one of their members, the USA, Australia – it does not matter which one - has to get the ball-rolling on effective and real, study and consultation. For example, it is high noon for Canada to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the environment. That commission would include a limited number of members – no more than three - and would take two years to travel the country and come up with recommendations for a made-in-Canada solution.
  • That process alone would cause copycat processes in other countries, would bring the issue home to the people and give them a voice.
  • The recommendations would not be law – yet - but would scratch the writing on the wall.
  • By the time the report issues, it will be of the moment as the environment crisis will be worse and the world will have moved closer to taking action dramatically changing the conduct of individual and corporate persons everywhere.

This process has the very real prospect of snowballing into the international law required, as one major country begins the difficult and painful process of acting, as a whole, as the world's first true and fully environmental-friendly state.

This process – that process - another process ... whatever!

The jolt of law is required.

It is far better than it be struck by the matchstick of man than by the random but fiery lightning bolt of God.

Just ask Noah.

Posted in Environmental Law