It’s not easy be­ing green, but it’s needed

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Syd Baumel

YOU’VE prob­a­bly heard the story be­fore. A frog leaps into a pot of wa­ter that’s sit­ting on a stove. Be­ing cold­blooded, he lazes away, obliv­i­ous as the tem­per­a­ture creeps up from cold to warm to hot. Only as the wa­ter nears the boil­ing point does he reg­is­ter dan­ger, but by then his mus­cles are par­a­lyzed by the heat. The wa­ter boils, and the frog dies in agony. End of story. That’s the grue­some metaphor that frames Cana­dian au­thor Tom Rand’s anal­y­sis of the pot we’re stew­ing in as a civ­i­liza­tion thanks to cli­mate dis­rup­tion — the re­sult of an­thro­pogenic (we did it) global warm­ing — and the frog-like fal­li­bil­ity of hu­man psy­chol­ogy, our reck­lessly “free” mar­kets and our in­ef­fec­tual po­lit­i­cal sys­tems. Rand (and oth­ers ded­i­cated to shak­ing the frog free of com­pla­cency) uses the term “cli­mate dis­rup­tion” in favour of “cli­mate change” be­cause it “helps cir­cum­vent the non­sense that this warm­ing is part of a nat­u­ral cy­cle and em­pha­sizes our con­tri­bu­tion to the com­ing changes and the speed at which they are ap­proach­ing.” As a writer and ac­tivist, Rand brings a ver­sa­tile skill set to a sub­ject usu­ally tack­led by spe­cial­ists. He’s smart (hold­ing a PhD in phi­los­o­phy from the Univer­sity of Toronto) and he’s also a good writer — di­dac­tic yet en­gag­ing. A sea­soned en­tre­pre­neur and clean­tech ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, Rand has an in­sider’s grasp of free-mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism. As a re­sult, his cri­tique of this ru­n­away train — and those who fetishize it to the point of cli­mate-change/ dis­rup­tion de­nial — is bright, not glib; con­struc­tive, not dis­mis­sive. To­day’s free mar­ket is part of the prob­lem, dis­tract­ing us frogs with shiny ob­jects while par­a­lyz­ing our sur­vival in­stinct. But with eth­i­cal, re­spon­si­ble govern­ment poli­cies, it could get us out of this pot. Says Rand: “Exxon is not go­ing to be re­placed; it must be forced to evolve.” As an ex­am­ple of how cost-ef­fec­tive “de-car­bon­ing” our economies can be, Rand show­cases one of his own en­tre­pre­neur­ial achieve­ments. The Planet Trav­eler hos­tel in down­town Toronto is, by his own es­ti­ma­tion, “North Amer­ica’s low­est-car­bon ho­tel.” In­vest­ing in largely Cana­dian-made geo­ther­mal heat­ing and cool­ing, so­lar-ther­mal wa­ter heat­ing, so­lar elec­tric­ity pan­els, su­per-ef­fi­cient LED light­ing and other green tech­nol­ogy, Rand and his part­ners lever­aged five per cent of the build­ing’s value to slash en­ergy use by 75 per cent. They wound up sav­ing money while tak­ing on what is prob­a­bly the sin­gle big­gest source of green­house gas emis­sions — build­ings. “If ev­ery build­ing did what we did — and most could — Canada would zoom past our aban­doned Ky­oto prom­ises! To hear Canada’s govern­ment talk about it, hit­ting those Ky­oto tar­gets would ren­der us un­com­pet­i­tive, poorer. Ab­so­lute non­sense,” Rand says. Rand is full of bright ideas — some ob­vi­ous. Oth­ers are more orig­i­nal: “green bonds” (na­tional and mu­nic­i­pal “war bonds for the en­vi­ron­ment”) and other in­no­va­tive fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments of mass de­car­boniza­tion are car­rots and sticks to help make the big­gest cli­mate dis­rupters re-de­ploy their tril­lions to save the cli­mate, not wreck it. It’s enough to make a sleep­ing frog perk up and smell the op­por­tu­ni­ties. Win­nipeg writer and edi­tor Syd Baumel blogs about cli­mate change and more at


Wak­ing the Frog: So­lu­tions for Our Cli­mate Change


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