Environmental concerns spill over into next century

By Cameron Baughen

The shelf life of "the millennium" is well past, but there is at least one issue that was lost in all the hoopla. Over the last 1,000 years the human race has advanced from a relatively non-industrial, though far from benign, existence, to one which affects every living organism on the planet. Whether you are an environmentalist or not, probably one of the only sure things in the next millennium is that in one way or another, you will be affected by it.

The environmental movement is no longer in the fringes of society and is poised to be a continuing social, economic and political presence well into the conceivable future. How this will affect you will come in many forms that are already in play.

First, the workplace will definitely be affected. Businesses will try and foster environmental initiatives either through their business practices or sponsorships. Those companies that don’t adapt will be labeled dinosaurs and will either be legislated into changing or be forced out of business. Jobs requiring environmental expertise will continue to grow in every sector. Even now, at this university, virtually every faculty, excluding maybe fine arts, offers courses on the environment and this trend will only increase. All work places of the future will require at least some basic environmental knowledge, even if it’s only knowing which container to use for a recyclable product.

Buying habits will be affected as well. Consumer groups, concerned with health issues over pesticides and genetically modified foods, will make more product information and environmentally friendly choices available. Composters and recycle bins will become common especially if, as in British Columbia, Albertans start paying for garbage pick up exceeding a one bag limit (the horror!).

Politically, the environment will be a forefront issue. In Europe, especially France and Germany, Green parties form large chunks of the government. In the US well funded environmental lobby groups, such as Green Peace, are active both nationally and locally. In Alberta, both the issues of greenhouse emissions and hormones in beef will be topics of concern. Internationally, as was seen at the WTO protests and the water protests recently held in Kananaskis, the environment and social issues will have a large affect on globalization efforts. Cities will continue looking at green initiatives and new cities will hopefully learn from past mistakes and build cities for people, not for cars.

The 20th century will not be forgotten soon as the environmental costs of the nuclear age will still be with us well into the future. In terms of nuclear power plants there is always the threat of another Chernobyl, especially in the cash-strapped former Soviet Union. The disposal of nuclear waste will still be an issue, as it is now over the transport and use of weapons grade plutonium in Ontario nuclear power plants. More worrying is the spread of nuclear weapons and the instability in some of the countries that already have them. Even if these worries never truly develop, the sure thing is that huge amounts of your tax money will continually be spent controlling or monitoring these problems.

Whether you like it or not, the environment will be one of the dominating and influential forces on the human race in the next 100 and probably 1,000 years. How this will truly affect how we think and act is all that remains to be seen.