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GREENINGS: Moral cowardice fuels our failures (Dec. 2019)

December 9th, 2019 · No Comments

Silence on Hong Kong and climate crisis has parallels

On November 11, Canadian leaders extolled the virtues of soldiers who lost their lives defending the ideals of democracy. On that day, we might have told the story of the nearly 2,000 Canadian soldiers who fought to defend Hong Kong against Japanese invasion in 1941. Five hundred of those soldiers did not come back, and many others returned deeply scarred after living as prisoners of war. 

Hearing this story, we might wonder why our leaders seem so willing to stand by quietly as pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong are being crushed by the Chinese government. The answer, I believe, is the same reason our global future is in jeopardy.

It has been almost five months since the government of Canada issued a joint statement with the European Union condemning violence in Hong Kong. Day by day, the police, acting on behalf of the Chinese government, show their willingness to escalate that violence with the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and live bullets against pro-democracy protestors.

A Canadian caught in the mayhem in the city’s Polytechnic University, which is under siege by the police, reached out to the Canadian consulate for help. This young Canadian and others have found the consulate to be largely unresponsive.

Even for an ideal as foundational to our society as democracy, we are loathe to offend China and take a single risk to the economic growth of this nation. Perhaps instead of telling children that soldiers died for our freedom and democracy, we should tell them that they died for the economic growth of the one per cent. It seems, that’s all that matters.

If our leaders won’t  risk to the economy for something as fundamental to our society as democracy, as these brave young people are doing, can we really expect them to suppress economic growth in the name of environmental sustainability? 

Few economists believe that infinite growth and environmental protection is possible anymore. Stopping ourselves from running over the cliff of extinction will require a massive hit to, and the re-shaping of, our economy. There’s absolutely no sugar-coating it. Our leaders won’t do it though. We see their moral cowardice in the face of Hong Kong. They will shut up and let innocent lives be lost to protect their economic interests. The environmental movement should expect nothing but the same. 

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths. Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at


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