When fossils run out.
Environment is the hot topic of the day. And the debate is getting hotter. The UN special General Assembly the week before last, G 20 this last week, leading to the UN Conference on climate in Copenhagen to come to some kind of international agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol. The talk is all about reducing the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and subsequent climate change. Finding a renewable source of energy as an alternative to fossil fuel is the main concern in everybody’s mind, it seems. I sincerely hope that all these hot air will produce a forceful and positive result. Happily the climate-change deniers seem to be in retreat. Even Mr. Stephen Harper, who used to call the climate change scare as a “socialist conspiracy” or some such designation, is on the environment band-wagon albeit reluctantly. However, it is curious that few people are worried about depletion of fossils and subsequent loss of petro-chemical materials.
I think it is more worrisome to think about the result of burning all the fossils and a possible future without them. We can find other sources of energy. But there will be no more plastic. Imagine that? The person who drew my attention to this worrisome future is my step-brother, a son of an United Church minister who founded Japanese United Church in Lethbridge during the WW II. I met him in 1974 through my mother’s second marriage. He is a PhD in biochemistry specializing petrochemicals. He told me already then that burning fossils as a source of energy is absolutely insane. Plastic is flexible: can be made as hard as steel and can be as soft and elastic as rubber band, and can replace a lot of building materials (with such thing as vinyl) and many other things we use everyday. For example, 90% of what we wear is all or part plastic. Just look around and see how much of what we take for granted are petrochemical products. And it can be recycled like metal. He said, we could stop a lot of mining operations, and never have to cut trees. And we are burning this precious irreplaceable resource. He had worked for many major petrochemical companies; Dow, Du Pont, etc. He didn’t last long in any of them probably for saying crazy things like that. I asked Andrew Nikiforuk, a journalist and the author of “Tar Sand,” when he was in Lethbridge, if my step-brother’s argument had any legitimacy. His answer: “He is right.”
My step-brother spoke like a prophet. And like many prophets before him, nobody listens to Abraham Kabayama – your hockey coach’s uncle. I have, and I’m worried.