"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Beam me up, Scotty

Metro Vancouver, the regional government formerly known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District, is an restless beast. It has increasing aspirations to region-wide power but its decision-making body is composed of directors who are not directly elected by voters, but appointed from area councils.
And now they want us to dematerialize.
Say what?
According to a report brought to Coquitlam Council on Tuesday, Metro Vancouver reported this summer on the results of its 2011 Sustainability Congress, held in late June in Vancouver. The Congress reportedly confirmed that five issues, previously identified in conferences and through public engagement, are important to the people of the region. These five are food, climate change, energy, security and...wait for it...dematerialization.
Really? Dematerialization? I'd bet that fewer than 1,000 Metro Vancouver residents have even heard of the term, let alone have made it a priority issue for the good folks at Metro to tackle.
So what exactly does it mean? One's thoughts turn immediately to the Star Trek transporter, or to a blast from a laser beam. Or maybe that's disintegration. Whatever.
Metro explains that "dematerialization" is built upon the concept (belief? philosophy? wish?) that "there are finite limits to the amount of resources we can extract from our planet, and that a system built upon the premise of unlimited consumption of natural resources is unsustainable." Here's Metro's definition.And because of this, we have to embrace zero-waste programs and something called "cradle-to-cradle" manufacturing.
Reality check here folks: I'm a waste-not, want-not kind of guy, but I smell a big, stinking bureacracy at the heart of this thing whose ultimate aim is a command economy that's the opposite of free enterprise, consumer choice, and general freedom.
How many times have we seen handwringing do-gooders over the past four decades warn about the "limits to growth", the collapse of agriculture, the population bomb, etc, ad naseum? And how many times have they been wrong? Every time, that's how many.
The handwringers are the small thinkers who see everything as a zero-sum game. They don't understand human ingenuity. They don't understand wealth creation. And they fail to see how their policies can wreck our economy.
At least Metro Vancouver's not going to be doing all that much about the five priorities, including dematerialization, that they've identified. They've positioned themselves as a "convenor of key regional contributors, and a catalyst for the development of collaborative strategies that will ultimately help secure a more sustainable future for the region." Gotta love that bureaucratese.
The board of Metro Vancouver has voted to forward the results of the Congress to Premier Clark and area MLAs and MPs, business associations and NGOs, and has also directed staff to consider the implications of the Congress's outcomes in 2012 program planning and budgetting.
I have a suggestion. Dematerialize the whole program, and you'll save time, energy and money.

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