Saturday, July 28, 2012
Stephen Harper Hears a Who - but Ignores it
I sat down to watch the movie, "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" with my three-year-old daughter the other day. The only Seuss books that I recall from my childhood are "Green Eggs n' Ham" and "Hop on Pop", but I was very impressed with this 2008 animated film from top to bottom. While my daughter was very entertained by the many jungle animals, I gradually became quite focused on the real world symbolism that is not so subtly embedded within it.
In a nutshell, an elephant named Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey) discovers a tiny speck on a flower, which is home to an entire civilization called Whoville. Horton the elephant has excellent hearing, and is thus able to communicate with the mayor of Whoville. The mayor considers "the giant elephant in the sky" to be a god-like figure (though he is embarrassed to share his discovery). The communication between Whoville and our world made me think of man's search for extra-terrestrial life.
Meanwhile, Horton shares the discovery of this tiny civilization with everyone, although no one believes him. In fact, a power hungry purple kangaroo becomes increasingly incensed at this discovery, and stops at nothing to make it 'go away'. She hires a Russian vulture mobster named Vlad to destroy the speck, and attempts to turn all of the other animals in the jungle against Horton.
Fellow Canadians who are paying attention to federal politics will no doubt see the embodiment of Stephen Harper in this bad-natured kangaroo due to his continuous ignorance of, among other things, man-made climate change.
Harper's conservative government has taken strides to minimize the role played by environmental scientists in Canada. By eliminating research positions in the environmental sciences and muzzling those that still have a job in this field, the current government is essentially telling Canadians and the rest of the world, that observing our natural world and attempting to model and predict its behaviour is not all that important. Dismissing results that you do not like is bad science, and it is also bad politics.
Last week, two thousand scientists (sporting white lab coats) marched in Ottawa in response to the apparent disregard for the environmental sciences held by Canada's political leaders. The movement was dubbed 'The Death of Evidence'; in front of the march, a black coffin was raised.
It would have been inconvenient for the purple kangaroo to approach Horton's remarkable discovery with inquisitiveness. It is always easier to dismiss the unknown - to ignore that which is foreign or unpopular. It is sadly unsurprising to see a political leader act in this fashion, placing short-term concerns far ahead of long-term ones.
It is true that Canada emits less than 2% of the total greenhouse gases spewed out by mankind. Still, this is no reason to turn our heads away from one of the grand scale issues that man will contend with throughout the twenty-first century. We are a part of the planet, and should be mindful of it, regardless of the proportion of the population that we compose.
In any case, there is a big difference between taking action against climate change, which would be good, and monitoring it, which is essential. Effectively turning a blind eye to an issue of this magnitude is nothing short of poor leadership.
I suppose the obvious question is when will politicians resemble Horton the elephant? When will our leaders be open-minded, strong-willed, and compassionate?
At the very end of the film (spoiler alert), the town of Whoville must band together to thwart off their destruction. They need to get the ear of the animal kingdom, and collectively send them a message that they are there. Fortunately for them, they succeed in doing so. Canadians, and citizens of all countries for that matter, also need to send a powerful message to their political leaders: we must be mindful of our home.
When the next federal elections take place in Canada, Canadians will have their opportunity to send such a message. The conservative government must be made aware that we will not tolerate ignorance.