Skip to main content

Hollywood isn't alone in its anticipation of Armageddon. Writing in the summer issue of World Policy Journal, Maurice Strong - Canada's very own prophet of doom - unequivocally embraces the apocalypse. Straight-forwardly entitled "Facing Down Armageddon: Environment at a Crossroads," Mr. Strong's essay ends with a dire warning. "Human existence is at risk," he says. "We face an Armageddon that is both real and imminent." Yet he implicitly grasps for hope - choosing at any rate not to specify (as the new film 2012 does) the precise day, month and year of the catastrophe.

More so than most people who assert that The End Is Near, however, Mr. Strong gives humanity a provisional way out. Reform democracy, he says, by - more or less - getting rid of it. Although he doesn't say this as candidly as he could have, his exact words leave little doubt: "Our concepts of ballot-box democracy may need to be modified to produce strong governments capable of making difficult decisions." This is not a new argument. In one historic usage, it was deployed to celebrate fascism - because ballot-box democracy couldn't make trains run on time.

What precisely can our ballot-box democracies not deliver now? Essentially, Mr. Strong says, they can not deliver zero carbon emissions - which he defines as a prerequisite for human survival. Developed countries, he says, must reduce their emissions - measured against 1990 levels - by 95 per cent by 2050, an objective that Mr. Strong himself describes as "daunting." This goal, he says, can be achieved only by "put[ting]aside national considerations." This curious stipulation makes the rescue of the human race impossible. Ballot box or no ballot box, no government can put aside "national considerations" and survive.

Story continues below advertisement

If the goal itself is impossible, the financial commitment to reach it is improbable. Mr. Strong puts the minimum upfront cost, paid by the developed democracies, at $1-trillion (U.S.). "Such a level of funding," he says, requires "innovative" means. Mr. Strong proposes UN-levied fees "for the use of the global commons," such as the oceans, the atmosphere and outer space. He proposes, as well, UN-levied financial penalties on countries that fall behind in meeting their emission targets - in the same way, he says, that national governments tax alcohol and smoking.

Mr. Strong, now 80, is a long-time fan of coercive governments - as is, by its charter, the World Policy Journal. It is published by the New York-based World Policy Institute, which champions "innovative policies" that require "a progressive and global point of view." It is this parallel affinity for authoritarian governments that emerges as the dominant theme in Mr. Strong's essay.

On a personal level, Mr. Strong did very well in the ballot-box democracy of his birth. A high-school dropout, he became president of Power Corp. at age 29. He ran Petro-Canada. He ran Ontario Hydro. Briefly a Liberal candidate in the 1979 federal election, he has long held that Western democracies are too weak-kneed to take the decisive actions needed for survival. In an interview with the BBC in 1972, two decades before the emergence of global warming as a doomsday event, he asserted that "the prophets of doom" were correct and said humanity could avoid disaster only by subjecting itself "to discipline and control" - an expression that could be taken as a euphemistic repudiation of democracy.

In his BBC interview, he famously asserted that the Western democracies needed to consider "licences to have babies." Even Canada, with its relatively small population, needed to consider restrictions on "the right to have a child." In this, Mr. Strong was ahead of his time. China, a country he admires, adopted its one-baby policy seven years later. But then Mr. Strong admires China in ways that most people would find repulsive. ("However controversial his legacy," Mr. Strong writes in his World Policy Journal essay, Mao "restored the unity and dignity of China, making possible the dramatic progress of its economy [by his successor]") He doesn't mention Mao's crimes, or the millions who perished under Mao's "discipline and control."

Mr. Strong finds more than Mao, though, to admire in China: "In Beijing, the car that takes me to work each morning is banned, as are all others, for one day each week." The syntax here appears contrived. Perhaps he was trying to say that his chauffeur could drive him to his office only six days a week. Does this mean that Mr. Strong requires a different car on the seventh day - or a different chauffeur?

It's one thing to scare everybody with visions of apocalypse. That's entertainment. It's another thing to advocate the disfranchisement of democracy. Aside from the overt sedition, it's the astonishing stupidity of it. China quarantines cars on the seventh day because its citizens, bereft of ballots, are choking half to death from air pollution.

Report an error
About the Author
Neil Reynolds

Neil Reynolds is an Ottawa writer whose columns on national economic issues appear in Wednesday's and Friday's Globe and Mail. He is the former editor-in-chief of The Vancouver Sun and the Ottawa Citizen. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.