May 11, 2014

Pipeline issue has no simple answer

We lament for simpler times.

There was an era when we were oblivious to wars around the world, unseen dangers of new technologies, disease in other regions, or even the opportunity to cure disease. These are no longer simple times.

Our greater awareness came about for a number of reasons, from better education to mass communication that allows us to know just about anything from just about anywhere. This awareness distorts our reality because it gives the appearance airplane crashes or ferry sinkings are far more common than they really are. As a consequence, some of us fear to fly even though we are far more likely to be harmed while driving to the airport than on a domestic flight.

We also believe our children are now in harm’s way, so we now drive our kids to school. Gone are the carefree days many of us enjoyed when we were children and could walk a mile to school. We are safer now, but we feel less safe. Our kids are coddled and protected, deprived of skinned knees and those safer dangers we enjoyed when we were kids.

I don’t think we will ever return to a simpler world. There is just too much information, too much technology and too many interventions we can make to deny our fate for us to ever put that Genie back in the bottle.

Yet, we still maintain simplistic public dialogs. Decisions we make as an economy and society are now exceedingly complex, but the extent of the options are rarely presented that way.

The complexity quandary has come home to roost. Through our town run trains towing tanker cars filled with Dakota oil. The Port of Albany is proposing that they prepare their oil storage facilities to also handle Alberta heavy oil sands crude.

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