In the resort town of Cancun, Mexico “the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)” has opened against the backdrop of two rising global addictions: fossil fuels and drugs. The elites of the world’s nations are congregating to deal with the addiction to fossil fuels, while the rest of the Mexican population is disaggregating, caught up in drug addiction from the streets of Mexico City to New York City.
In the United States, as had happened in Europe, momentum is building to legalize addictive drugs. The advocates of legalization argue that it could perhaps reduce criminal behaviors associated with the black market for illegal narcotics. Both the United States and Europe at the same time want to penalize the extent of legal use of fossil fuels. Policies to deal with addiction cannot be any more backwards, especially if the meeting place is a developing country such as Mexico.
Both pollution and narcotics pose serious health risks. If emissions cause lung diseases similar to cigarettes, narcotics alter brain chemistry, physically disfiguring the brain, whether that be the marijuana in the backyards of California or the Coca in the backyards of Tijuana. Legalizing “pollution” whether that be tail pipe emissions of automotives, cigarette smoke, or the seepage of chemical poisons into the brain is a bad idea. However, all substances that cause the pollution, if tightly regulated for “pollution,” can be a good idea: cleanly used fossil fuels and medicinal uses of the narcotic plants. Doing both improves the cultural climate a great deal, though nothing much can be said about the real climate, which has always been changing for as long as the planet has been around, with or without fossil fuel use by human beings.
The rich countries do not want to consume less fossil fuels. The poor countries want to consume more to get rich. Both behaviors are causing both kinds of pollution, the tail pipe variety and the narco variety, making the legal oil companies and the illegal drug lords very wealthy around the world. And the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, wants to spend $3 million of British taxpayer money on research to understand happiness better. It seems as though the desire to get rich leads to addictive behaviors, of oil and drugs, in the pursuit of “happiness.”
The economists scratching their heads about the current global economic downturn can perhaps get a piece of the Cameron pie to run a few regressions to study the correlations between the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) and addictions. Of course, another variable would be addiction to debt, both at the personal level and the national level. It looks like it is about feeling rich, rather than being rich.
It would be nice if all the countries meeting in Mexico can say “yes, we can” in Cancun to actually bring about the “change we believe in” by committing to an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2030, in twenty years, whether they use fossil fuels or not. Up to each their own way, as long as they measure up every year, trending toward this common goal. Then, perhaps, the other “pollutions” will also turn for the better: selective and only unavoidable medicinal use of mind altering chemicals and lower debt burdens for all.
The other certainty, along with death and taxes, with or without fossil fuels, is climate change.