Apathy threatens humanity, ex-Clinton aide says

Thomas Homer-Dixon (HO)

Thomas Homer-Dixon (HO)

Vanessa Gates, Canoe.ca

, Last Updated: 1:37 PM ET

Thomas Homer-Dixon says we still don’t get it.

And unless we change our energy-consuming, air-polluting ways, we’re in for a rude awakening in just 26 years.

“It’s not going to look good,” said the author of “The Ingenuity Gap,” and editor of the recent best-seller, “Carbon Shift” and former White House advisor to the Clinton administration.

By 2035, Homer-Dixon warns there will be a cataclysmic shift in weather patterns that will leave us reeling.

“There could be a lot of big storms,” he said in a recent interview at publisher Random House’s offices in Toronto. “There could be a lot of Katrina-like events. They would be evacuating people from the coastlines because of the effects of the storms. We’re probably going to start seeing large-scale forest fires and forests that have died because of climate change.”

According to the B.C. native, the problem is that we are using fossil fuels at an alarmingly high rate, and the world’s oil supply is depleting faster than we can find a alternative that is also less harmful.

Another major fear is that the amount of carbon emissions already produced have taken a toll on the environment and we’re already seeing the consequences – the melting of the polar ice caps, global warming and forest fires before our very eyes.

So how do we reduce our carbon footprint, while searching for a cleaner alternative to our depleting oil problem? This is what Homer-Dixon refers to as the “carbon shift”.

“Carbon Shift” is a compilation of essays written by various academics who discuss the issues of oil depletion, climate change and what the world may look like in the future.

“Part of this book is giving people the information so they can make their own decisions,” Homer-Dixon said.

Each writer addresses a different issue. Environmental scientist David Keith writes that climate change is a major problem, while Former chief economist of CIBC World Markets, Jeff Rubin feels that the oil depletion issue is much more important. Though the essayists in the book may not agree on which challenge is paramount, they make their positions clear; both problems are something that need to be brought to light.

With the need for the public to take swift action, Homer-Dixon admits he’s alarmed by the amount of public apathy especially amongst the youth. “I don’t understand why young people aren’t out there in the thousands on the streets saying, ‘This is our future.’

“I think part of the problem is that a lot of the public doesn’t understand how serious this is,” he continued. “And the real problem? There’s a certain lack of mobilization, there’s a lot of apathy, especially among young people. They’re not getting engaged, they’re not organized into a politically mobilized force.”

In efforts to get people to become more engaged, Homer-Dixon tries to raise awareness by talking to school boards and holding classes, as a way of engaging the apathetic.

“I talk to lots of groups across the country,” he said. “Sometimes there are a lot of young people and there are often two or three of them recognize the importance of this issue.”

Whether or not people start to pay attention to the problems he raises, Homer-Dixon tries to remain optimistic and is a firm believer in taking small steps.

“You don’t have to persuade everybody; you need to persuade a relatively small percentage of people,” he said. “Given that most people are apathetic, a relatively small percentage of people can do a huge amount.

“That’s what people have to keep in mind. Because it looks like all this little stuff we do -- organizing people, having meetings, writing letters and doing whatever -- might not be having much effect. But it’s building up under the surface, and then, all of a sudden, things can flip or switch.”

Small steps like recycling, reusing and repairing appliances, drinking tap water or flicking off your light switch may not make an immediate impact, but they are still very valuable energy-saving techniques.

But according to Homer-Dixon, the most crucial thing the public can do is to become more aware.

“Get informed. This is a really big thing. Everybody should be thinking about what they’re doing in their own lives. Hammer away at the companies; write letters to them about the practices they’re using, sometimes just an e-mail message,” he said.

“I’m not willing to give up. If we can’t get the young people to get involved in this stuff, then it’s really game over.”

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