The folly of green economics

William Arsn

a van parked on the side of a road

© Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Among the many items that stimulate curiosity about how public officials think, there was a small story out of Toronto concerning the city’s plans for a post-COVID green economy. It is a story that is also pertinent to the federal government’s overall goal of leveraging the COVID-induced meltdown of the Canadian economy to pursue, with all the flamboyance that the cause can stimulate, its treasured ideal of fighting apocalyptic global warming.

The nub of the story is that Toronto’s ambulances are, thanks to federal funding, going to be outfitted with solar panels.

From one online resource, we read: “The City of Toronto is modifying its medical vehicles to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.… The Canadian government will release up to $1.1 million to help the city in this transformation.”

The report continues: “This funding comes from the ministry of environment and climate change.” To which I reply: where else?

I can think of many accoutrements to ambulances — diagnostic equipment, better pay for the staff, great tires, updated electronics — that would better fit with their actual purpose — saving lives — than solar panels.

But the ministry of climate change — I presume having passed on miniature windmills for the hood — was probably most joyous when the request came through. As for the need for such panels, or their utility for the service in question, who in the climate change bureau would ask such questions?

Toronto Mayor John Tory is very much in agreement with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it comes to the beautiful oxymoron, “green thought.” And Toronto is a city whose progressive credentials are easily equal to those of Portland or Seattle, both havens of advanced social thought, so Torontonians have a high tolerance for progressive schemes, and politicians.

It is therefore no surprise that so inventive, so original an initiative to stave off planetary oblivion as solar-panelling one city’s ambulance fleet occurred to him, or was passed on from some green confrere. Knowing that his city will be doing its bit surely made his fine civic heart thump a little more vigorously.

Let us agree that it will be very good for the residents of Toronto to know that any time one of them has to be carted off at high speed to the emergency department, as a smidgen of consolation for the personal crisis being endured, that person will have the knowledge that he or she is helping to save the rainforest. And probably giving an anorexic polar bear a few more minutes on a melting ice pan. Not to mention “offsetting,” however infinitesimally, the emissions from China’s ever-expanding fleet of coal-fired power plants.

Such consolation will not be available, of course, should 911 be called on a rainy day, or during the night. I think it was either Al Einstein or Al Gore who established the principle that you cannot gather the beams of the sun during the periods when it is not shining. And even on the brightest day, driving an ambulance through the shadowed canyons of Bay Street will foil any harvesting of the sun’s beams.

But there is still much to be said for the symbolism of the gesture. For symbolism, and nothing practical beyond pure symbolism, is what green economics is all about. To put it in bare language, the Liberal craze for being seen as warriors against global warming is all about showing other countries how sublimely climate-virtuous we are.

It’s a summons for applause and praise from the green “thinkers” of the world, and a humble “giving the knee” to the IPCC.

Providing over $1 million for solar panels (and hybrid motors) for Toronto ambulances is just a start. Obviously, the plan cannot be limited just to one city. So expect many more millions to be passed out to every other city and outsized town for rooftop sun-trapping accessories for every other ambulance service in Canada.

I take this folly as representative of what, in reality, is meant when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks so confidently about a green recovery and how all Canadians understand that it is what we must do.

Shut down the oilfields, yes. But we’re going to green the ambulances in Calgary to take up the slack. That’ll work. Alberta will drop all thoughts of Wexit.

There is nothing so unpromising in practical terms, so irrelevant to the real challenges of our time or so fruitful of strange and eccentric projects underwritten by the public purse as subservience to green politics.  Toronto’s future ambulance fleet is just a small illustration of what passes for green economics.

We shall see an exponential explosion of far larger, far most wasteful projects once the promised post-COVID recovery goes into full gear. Our only consolation on this front may be that it is unlikely that the Kielburger brothers will be invited to manage it.

As an addendum, may I add that in my home province of fog-enshrouded, snow-blinded Newfoundland, the idea of harvesting sunlight, for ambulances or any other thing, would be seen as a sign of psychological distress, and a pitifully thin relationship with the nature of things.

National Post

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