There is a crack going around about the 2010 Vancouver Olympics that it is "the greenest Winter Olympics ever".
The joke refers to the efforts to promote green tech and transportation at the event that has been more than offset by man-made global warming and pollution that has led to record-high temperatures and rain. This has forced organizers to ship in snow (thereby releasing more harmful emissions) to Cypress Mountain that overlooks Vancouver; Whistler, some 2 hours north where most of the outdoor venues are is mild but still in good shape.
My wife and I live in the Metro Vancouver. We park-and-rode into the downtown yesterday to get a feel of the crowds, the activities and the excitement just before the Opening Ceremonies on Friday. One of our stops was at the big downtown Hudson's Bay department store that had a half a floor dedicated to Olympics merchandise; 'The Bay' is a sponsor. I saw a Vancouver 2010 umbrella and cracked to my wife "you'll need this on Cypress" and she laughed. With even more rain and high temperatures forecast this weekend spectators and the athletes' retinues will need them.
The Orange County Register has called it right with a Feb.8/9 story 'Global warming a threat for the Olympics?'
"One morning last week, environmentalist David Suzuki looked across English Bay from his Vancouver home to Cypress Mountain, usually covered in snow this time of year but now left all but bare by a warm winter.
"I've watched in horror as the snow has just melted away from Cypress Mountain," Suzuki said, referring to the 2010 Olympic Games snowboarding and freestyle skiing venue.
"The view from Vancouver, Suzuki and others say, provides a glimpse into the future for the Winter Olympics.
"It's certainly an early warning sign and I think and a wake up call to the Olympic movement," said Ian Bruce,
"Global warming has placed the future of the Winter Olympics and winter sports from the Sierras to the Alps in peril, according to interviews with environmental scientists, Olympic officials, historians and athletes in recent weeks.
"As the 2010 Olympic Games open this week in Vancouver and Whistler, there is a growing concern within the Olympic and environmental movements that the Winter Games are in jeopardy of being significantly diminished if not eliminated all together by climate change.
"The tenuousness of the Winter Olympics has become increasingly more obvious with global warming," said Derick L. Hulme, an Olympic historian at Michigan's Alma College. "It (the International Olympic Committee) should be very concerned about the Winter Olympics. I think many people look out 20, 30 years from now and are concerned about whether the Winter Olympics will still be viable."
The culprits are in the mirrors. The SUVs, the monster homes, sprawling subdivisions, the office parks, big box stores, and expressways we drive and select and with this the destruction of farmland, forests, open space and wetlands and the air, water and land that we depend on. The treating of the environment as a free lunch whose price is now becoming due but no one wants to pay, and the amount owed is climbing rapidly.
Ultimately the human species, as well as that of every other life form is doomed, as is our planet and solar system and the universe. There is the fatalism that 'in the long run we're all dead' that has created greenlighted wanton materialist, environment-be-d**ned attitude as evidenced in the bumper sticker 'The one who dies with the most toys wins'. The Algeria-born French philosopher Albert Camus summed it up nicely: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide" and we're quickly collectively doing in ourselves before the sun going red giant, the collision between the Milky Way with Andromeda and heat death does us in.
So is there a reason to go green, to try and save the planet, when ultimately it is a futile exercise? The answer lies whether each of us has a reason to go on living, or to kill oneself, as Camus posits. We can decide not to look after ourselves and choose to ingest dangerous substances to oblivion too.
My attitude is that each of us are born without being asked into this world, a gift as it were, and we have an obligation to repay the givers if you like by making the best of it in the brief times we are here. Like Zen art just because life, like the planet and the cosmos is not permanent does not mean it is not worth while to create and maintain for it has a unique beauty that is to be cherished for that instant there is.
And that means looking after ourselves and our planet.