HALIFAX - The Canadian branch of the International Ocean Institute (IOI-Canada) held its 8th Annual Elisabeth Mann Borgese lecture & panel/public discussion at Dalhousie University's Law School on May 8th 2012, mere weeks before Rio+20 Conference.
There has been international efforts to improve the state of the oceans against the assaults of man for at least 40 years - plenty of nice words spoken by government leaders - plenty of serious treaties written and signed.
But basically no action.
Admittably there has been little action on any environmental front, so why should the oceans be so different?
Well, it is our oceans - not our land - that makes the Earth uniquely the one planet in a trillion ,trillion, trillion planets that has intelligent life on it ---- that's why this stuff matters.
Kill the oceans, kill us.
You'd think sheer self-interest would motivate governments whether pure or nasty, but no.
I went to the meeting to report upon it for SVE and the only thing new that I heard, the only thing that really alarmed me, was an aside from my favorite Halifax MP.
Megan Leslie, now deputy leader of the New Democrats and their point person on the crucial environment front, mentioned reading "letters to the editor" as one way to gauge public opinion on issues of the day.
Well that really got to me - I admit I used to read those letters, I told the panel but not anymore - they were far too polite and far too civil.
They were like the equally polite and civil public government support for action on ocean problems.
But since those polite governments did nothing on oceans, despite getting polite support from letters to the editor, clearly something had gone wrong in the linkage between public opinion and government action.
So I asked how many of the distinguished panel also read the comments under newspaper news stories and columns, instead just the letters to the editor?
I told them I did and that I found a horrific subterranean world filled with people, ordinary voters, with a very different solution to our ocean problems.
These people - I estimate maybe 20% of our world's population, have, in effect, tuned out of all discussion on environmental problems.
They had bought fully into the commensalist (aka green) assessment that unless something happens soon, the Earth was depleted and doomed.
They just hadn't bought into the commensalist solution.
For this 20% of humanity, (SPACERS), the solution instead is to bugger off Earth and start up again on a terraformed Mars and then push on when that also got ruined - to the ends of our Milky Way and beyond.
They freely admit that scientific man may have caused our current problems but that scientific man was also up to correct them.
Modernist Utopianism, marked as DOA circa August 1945 among polite and civil people, in fact lives on in these peoples' febrile brains.
Perhaps they were the 'pushback' reason why governments held back on actually carrying out their ocean promises.
I looked around the audience as least as much as I eyeballed the panel and I saw only one man who didn't seem a NDP/Liberal/Green - judging solely by his discomfort when the audience cheered cliched attacks on PM Stephen Harper and his Conservative government inaction.
When organizations like the IOI advertise a public meeting widely, offering a highly distinguished panel - including a former Conservative government minister - and refreshments (free wine !) but fails to attract a single person from the opposing side, they are never going to learn of the reasons for, and the true depth of, opposition to action on the oceans.
By sheer chance ,I happened to meet this conservative-looking man out on the street later and I mentioned that the audience seemed almost entirely on the left hand side of life.
He said "I am C/conservative!" (conservative and Conservative) but even he seemed to share the audience concern about the oceans, if not perhaps all the solutions.
While Megan Leslie said she knew she should read the comments under news articles but she found many of them just too awful - the Honourable David MacDonald said he felt this Escapism (what I call 'Libertarians or Spacers') had only arisen in response to recent events : 9/11 , the Iraq War and the decline of the economy.
I feel, by contrast, this Escapism (Scientism) has never really left us - it was dominate in our cultural hegemony from about 1875 to 1965 , but since then has merely gone semi-underground.
All that the easy ability to post anonymous comments on the world wide web has done is to ensure that what these people used to say in private amongst themselves since 1965, they now say in public.
We can't ignore them - we must 'out them' and confront and challenge their koolaid-drinking level of thinking at every turn, if we are ever to save this planet.
The 'polite talking to the polite' will never do it - sorry IOI.
Next time, invite some of the nutters to be on your panel : let the libertarian Spacers try to defend their vision for our oceans - "find'em, frack'em and foreget'em" against the commensalist alternative : now that would produce a real debate* and expose why 40 years of nice talk remains just that - nice talk ...
* Real debates - not love-ins - are what brings the oldstream media out as well as bloggers - because what action on the oceans needs most is ther oxygen of public attention.