Everywhere you turn in London there’s a statue or monument commemorating an epic battle or a long dead sovereign. While interesting, none is as compelling as the Animals in War memorial. It reduced me to tears.
The Animals in War memorial consists of two mules struggling to approach a gap in a large thick wall. On the other side of the wall are a horse and dog who have passed through the gap. The dog looks back over his shoulder…at what? The weary mules? His master? The memorial is dedicated to all the animals that died alongside British and Allied troops. It bears the inscription “They had no choice.”
That got me thinking about “choice” and Desmond Tutu’s recent comments at a conference on climate change and the Alberta oilsands. U of C law professor Kathleen Mahoney provides an excellent analysis of Bishop Tutu’s position in her Ablawg post.*
Bishop Tutu views climate change as the greatest moral issue of our time, which is probably why Albertans who see the issue as nothing more than an economic decision consider anyone who disagrees with them “energy illiterate”. They’ve missed the point.
Desmond Tutu identified three moral imperatives that must be considered in the context of climate change. These are:
– responsibility for future generations whose rights are at the mercy of the present generation
– responsibility for different global populations, particularly those who will suffer the brunt of the impact of climate change (eg poorer populations living in semi-arid deserts, river deltas, coastal and island regions etc)
– responsibility to the natural world and the need to develop a stronger relationship with nature. To paraphrase Bishop Tutu; just because Man is at the top of the food chain doesn’t mean he has the right to abuse other sentient beings.
These are complex and difficult issues that require thoughtful deliberation. And while Bishop Tutu wasn’t about to tell Canadians what to do, he did make this insightful comment: “I think I can say, almost without contradiction, you do know what you should do.”**
Unlike the dogs and horses and mules that went to war, we have a choice.
We can choose to rein in politicians who have mismanaged our greatest natural resource, compromised our environment and gutted our social services while at the same time draining the Heritage Fund so that these environmental and social problems are passed down to our children.
Or we can choose to turn a blind eye and let the politicians lead us in any direction they and their Big Oil advisors deem expedient.
Dogs and horses and mules that die while serving alongside their masters deserve a memorial commemorating their selfless sacrifice. Albertans and Canadians who’ve had an opportunity to consider the consequences of their actions and choose to ignore them, do not.
*Professor Mahoney’s thorough review of Bishop Tutu’s position is well worth reading.
** Macleans, online, May 31, 2014